We caught up with Alyssa in preparation for her participation in the panel Ready, Set, Sell!, a 1:15 pm session moderated by David Harmon of Native Maps. We asked a few questions about her journey in creating Retropolitan and what it's like to be responsible not only for her own sales but providing an atmosphere of profitable sales for her vendors.
Alyssa Maddox, Retropolitan
When you first started Retropolitan, what were your biggest barriers to “selling”?
The hardest thing by far for us to figure out was the Knoxville Market. This isn’t Nashville & this isn’t Atlanta, so what works for craft fairs in those cities won’t necessarily work here. And when I say “work” I mean “draws us a large buying crowd.” The word “buying” is important in that sentence. I can draw a large crowd for a summer market, but will they be willing to buy anything? For Knoxville, we’ve found the answer is no. Our attendees seem to need a “reason” to buy. So through trial and error, we learned that putting our fairs before Mother’s Day and the start of the holiday works best for us.
What’s the best advice you’ve received since starting Retropolitan?
The best advice I’ve received since starting the fair is to not take things too personally. I have sat in my car and bawled my eyes out because a vendor said their goods didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped at a summer fair. I’ve agonized for months over a facebook comment saying the music was too loud. I’ve felt an intense sense of guilt having to send a rejection letter to an applicant who was my friend. I’m a people pleaser by nature, but you simply cannot please everyone. I just have to do what is best for myself, my team, & my brand.
How do you see the Knoxville Maker Community growing in recent years, and where do you see it headed?
Running Retro puts me at a cool vantage point to watch makers grow. We’ve been the first craft fair for several vendors who have then gone on to sell wholesale, show at the biggest fairs in the country, and even start brick and mortar stores. I think as Knoxville continues to embrace and support our makers, we’ll see more and more of our vendors making these leaps.
Thank you for spending a bit of time with us, Alyssa!
You can see Alyssa Maddox alongside fellow local makers:
- Bentley Brackett, Elemental Design Co.
- James Ray, Little Seed Farm
- Angela Robbins, Southern Market
- Paris Woodhull, Rala
at the Ready, Set, Sell! panel at The Maker City Summit, Sept 19, 2017 at The Mill & Mine in Knoxville.