Attendees outside the Rockin’ R Barndimonium. When in-person scrapbooking retreats were cancelled this due to the pandemic, organizers had to get creative.
Photo courtesy of Rena Cotti
Most of us have felt the pain of not being able to attend craft events we were looking forward to due to Covid-19, but what happens when it’s your event you’re cancelling?
Kate Griswold, owner of Great Lakes Scrapbook Events knows all too well how that feels. She’s had to cancel two of the major craft shows she owns since the US first shut down in March.
The first was Friday, the 13th when Griswold realized she would have to cancel the Columbus Scrap & Stamp Show. The event was two weeks away. Then, on April 1, she cancelled the 21st Great Lakes Mega Meet, held annually in Novi, Michigan. Both events usually attract thousands of people.
Before officially cancelling the first show, Griswold took the weekend to decide what to do. She came up with the idea of running a virtual event on Facebook, in a newly created public group. This would also be a way to help her vendors recoup some of their costs. Two weeks later she pulled it off.
It was a crazy two weeks from an organizational standpoint. Vendors were given time slots to go live, offering demos, mini-classes, product intros, and store tours.
The vendors loved it and told her they would pay to do that type of event again. So, a few weeks later, Griswold took the Great Lakes Mega Meet online as well. Now she’s got more VOLUME (Virtual Online Learning Ultimate Mega Events) events scheduled, including two this summer and another in November.
“I also heard from customers who loved the virtual shows, people who wouldn’t have been able to attend in person due to things like health and mobility issues,” says Griswold.
Although being able to hold the virtual events has helped some, the shutdown has been a huge hit for Griswold’s company overall. “It’s been hard on me mentally. I’ve been producing events for 20 years and it’s pretty tough when it’s all pulled out from under you,” says Griswold.
Still, she suggests businesses stopped by the pandemic get creative and think outside of the box. She notes how vendors are now offering pre-sale craft-a-long kits for classes they’ll teach during the upcoming VOLUME events.
The Rockin’ R Retreat & Event Center in Temple Texas.
Photo courtesy of Rena Cotti
Not so easy for venues
Rena Cotti, owner of Rockin’ R Retreat & Event Center in Temple, Texas, says getting creative has not been so easy for her. Although she hosts events where she sells product and occasionally teaches, the effort and learning curve to teach online has not felt worth it.
Cotti had to cancel several events that were to take place at her facility including three of her own events plus several rentals. An event featuring mixed media artist Donna Downey has been rescheduled to October. All together, it’s been a big financial hit for the barndominium.
“We’re treading water right now. In July, it looks like we’ll clear $28 total, and it would normally be $2000,” Cotti says.
Amidst the grim situation, some things have worked in her favor. She deals with a great bank who offered an interest-free reprieve on loan payments for four months. In addition, online booking platform, Occasion, lowered payments during the shutdown.
“Occasion has also been offering webinars and information to support businesses dealing with Covid-19,” says Cotti. “Ultimately, if we don’t make it, their business doesn’t either. I think their company has gone above and beyond.”
Although Cotti is now able to hold events, the new health and safety rules make it difficult. The 83 person-capacity for her venue has been cut back due to social distancing rules. Masks, now mandatory, must be worn any time guests are not at their own table. While Cotti doesn’t provide meals for her renters, she must remind them that buffets are not allowed, and food must be dished up for attendees. Despite there being eight bedrooms that sleep up to 30 guests, those sharing a bedroom must be a family group, so rooms are not always full.
After Cotti offered credit to those concerned about attending upcoming events, she immediately received three cancellations. “It’s hard to know exactly what to do. We have guests who are angry. They don’t want things to change. There are others who want rules enforced to the extreme. We have to meet in the middle,” she says. “And if people want to rent the facility, we need the business.”
Paw print on the floor of Scrapendipity in Calgary.
Photo courtesy of Selena Cantafio.
In Canada, Scrapendipity, a Calgary, Alberta scrapbook store also closed when the country shut down in March. Shortly after, owner Selena Cantafio did a Facebook Live to reach out and let her customers know what was happening. The next day she went live again with another update. Soon after, those drop-ins turned into daily live shows where she would introduce and demonstrate products and even bring on guests.
When the city’s famous Calgary Stampede was cancelled, the store decided to run online cooking demos of Stampede food during the 10 days the festival would have run. “It was unrelated to scrapbooking, but it was a fun segment,” says Cantafio.
The store has since reopened, but with restrictions. Social distancing measures are in place—bear paws on the floor remind customers to keep their paws to themselves. Classes with up to 12 participants, are now limited to six. A weekend crop had to be postponed and several weekend events Cantafio was booked to attend with her mobile store, Scrapendipity on Wheels, have also been cancelled. Her online store has helped get the business through the shutdown.
Yet, Cantafio says some good has come out of the closure. “I am connected to my customers more through Facebook now. We were able to do curbside pickups and virtual and take-and-make classes,” she says. She’s also raised $3000 for the Calgary Zoo through a 24-hour virtual crop.
Until things return to normal again, Cantafio recommends connecting with customers however you can. “Connect through Facebook, hang in there and find ways to keep your scrapbooking community together while apart,” she says.
While connecting is something Griswold from Great Lakes Scrapbook Events would also recommend, she is still anxious for things to return to normal. “There’s too much interaction at live events to not have them,” she says. “People like to connect with friends, they like to touch product. I think in the future we’ll have to take the best of both worlds.”
Pauline Clark is a Canadian freelance writer and owner of a mobile scrapbook store, The Scrapbook Room. When Covid-19 hit, she started The Scrapbook PlayRoom, a gathering place for her scrapbook clientele.