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Wholesale Accounts - An Early Lesson

One of our first paying wholesale accounts was with the Festival of Trees back in 1996 (maybe 1995? Can’t find this documentation!) At that time, they had a volunteer crew of housewives that made decisions about the signature ornament style and colors, cost to buy them, and who the year’s artist would be.

I don’t remember how, but we did get our samples in front of the committee and we were selected for that year! These ornaments were a version of a goblet stem I had learned the previous summer. I was working on fine tuning them in my own studio after my work day The Henry Ford.  I decided, why not add a loop to the top and voila...a new version on a holiday favorite!

The ornament was pink and gold, optically twisted with a rounded bump on the top portion and a skinny drawn out body that came to a point on the end.

To my family, peers, and society, this contract would solidify the idea, that yes, we could make a living being glass artists. And this contract would be that proof that we are on the path to being a professional business.

We set up the appointment to meet the clients in our home, which to me, was really awkward. This is the start of our career remember, and coffee shops didn’t exist in those days, ha, ha, ha.  Honestly, it just never occurred to us to meet them anywhere else as our current studio was in Southwest Detroit, and very few people wanted to meet us there.  We provided samples and they carefully chose the ornament they liked best, color and shape, and we all signed a contract with price and quantity.

I recall the order was for 500, but Chris says 200 and somewhere in all of that is the reality.  Now we had just a few weeks to make and deliver the product in time for their event.  Both excitement and fear set in.  Chris and I rallied to get them done in the evening hours after our day jobs.  Carefully delivered, we await the final payment for the job when we got a phone call.

There is a problem with our ornaments.  Over half of the shipment was rejected and we were devastated.  What just happened?

Turns out they were just too varied in consistency and our young business wasn’t skilled enough to know any better.  We made the commitment to produce a quality ornament, but our sizing in the finished product was too varied for their tastes. We sat down and discussed how to move forward.  In the end, we remade many of those ornaments to fulfill the contract and we did receive final payment.  And thus was born, our high quality standard of glassmaking.

Over the years, we were able to sell the extra ornaments at our Holiday shows and truthfully, it was a crucial lesson for us to understand in the start of our careers as small business owners.  Get the contract in writing, be clear on expectations, make a spec sheet to match, and be sure that everyone signs off on requirements.  And everyone keeps a copy.

I’m learning every day, and these Inside the Oven blogs help us reflect back through the years and realize just how far we’ve come from those early days.  I am very appreciative of the journey!

Side note:  This year, our company was chosen for the feature ornament at the Festival of Trees.  Chris Nordin created a beautiful clear tree ornament that was sold for this signature fundraising event held at the Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.