What do I do in the winter time?

                                    One of the last East Lansing Farmers Market of the year.

                                   One of the last East Lansing Farmers Market of the year.

 I hope you are enjoying this behind-the-scene look at what I do during my off season. Let me know in the comment section below any new ideas for me during my off season. Thanks!

As the season dwindles down and I see my customers and market friends for the last time until 2018 the ever-present question comes up. “So, what do you do in the winter?”. I love and hate this question. 

I love the question because I find the people that ask are genuinely interested in my business, my products and me. That feels great

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I hate the question because I feel bad for telling them that I have down time and travel and spend time with family because although I am sure most of them are very happy for me and see me hustling in the May spring showers and the August heat I know there area a few that probably secretly envy me. They want to do that. They want to spend more time with their family and travel. And so I feel bad.

This year was different, something clicked in my brain. I am not sure if it was all the failures this season (and there were lots) or seeing other good people struggling as new vendors or a maturity of myself in my business but I didn’t feel that way. I work hard, really hard, and I will not be ashamed of being able to do what I love and have some time off. 

I made a hard choice to leave a comfortable living, pay for health care myself, make a business out of an idea and learning a steep learning curve with a smile and some tears. I decided to start my business for three main reasons. 

 This was our view over the Ganges in Rishikesh, India

This was our view over the Ganges in Rishikesh, India

I wanted to spend more time with my man. He is by far the most gentle and loving man I have the honor to love and I am so lucky that he decided to join my food club, come to a food share at my house and be as authentic and funny as we was and is. Our world is nothing I could have imagined in my past. He is secure enough to live and walk next to a determined women, he is a strong foundation for me to thrive and grow in my personal and work life and he provides a sounding board for all my new and crazy ideas. Why wouldn’t I want to spend time with him? 

I wanted to spend more time traveling. I love traveling and no matter how much money I have made or saved in the past, I have always travelled, I have always found a way. I remember traveling to Jamaica during Spring Break on a student special. Which was a little weird. I wasn’t a student, I was thirty years old! I didn’t care I was surrounded by drunk students. I just wanted to see the country on the cheap. Having an off season has given me the ability to walk from Porto, Portugal to Santiago De Compostela, Spain last year. And it will allow me to travel to Rome this March.

I also wanted to take time to learn about new things. This could mean a makers conference in Greenville, South Carolina, a creative conference in Columbus, Ohio or working as an intern at a great business. I love learning and developing new products. I love taking time to learn more about yoga, more about payroll, more about sourcing ingredients or anything else that interests me. 

I work everyday on my business and from April to November I work seven days a week, 70-80 hours a week, EVERY WEEK. I am bruised from setting up markets seven times a week. My head aches from thinking about all the details that go into getting to the market. I wonder when I will pick up all the ingredients and how I will schedule employees. 

And on market day I set-up, calm myself and become the type of business person I enjoy - the person that just wants to talk with you and your kids about their projects and lives. The vendor who doesn’t care if you buy my products because I am going to say hello to you anyways. The type of business person who is silly, approachable and honest. The person that I am in life.

From November to March I work at home, everyday, equaling about 40-50 hours a week. Meeting with other creatives, spending time looking back on the season, refining skills and learning new ones and generally taking a breath from the season and working for others that are great in their fields, trying to learn from them. 

I have to tell you I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

One night, thinking about worse case scenarios about dying freezers, bad kitchens and hot summers, I was thinking about a plan. Where would I bring my popsicles? What happens if the freezer don’t get fixed? How would I continue my markets? Anxiety ridden questions with no answers. But one night I thought about them and knew I needed to have a plan. 

And you know what? It happened this year! 

I had to finish some of my markets with the drinks instead of popsicles because I had three freezers break on me. Not one, not two, but three fucking walk in freezers. But I had a plan and I had thought about it in February instead of in June. The season was saved by my February plan. There are so many times that by taking time and breathing in the off season has saved me. 

So, here on the blog I am going to take you with me during my off season. I will detail what I do and more importantly WHY I do it. 

I don’t know if I will be able to get pics of everything I do but I will try my best to give you a behind-the-scenes of what I do to make my market season a success during my off time. 


November/December Off Season Happenings:

Man oh man am I getting all three of my reasons to be self-employed check off. It has been a great two months.  

First up - I was able to go and help Kimberly Lavon at her studio in East Lansing. I didn’t do much - I hung prints to dry. But what was more important was that we talked about new projects in the works for both us, the stresses we have as small business owners, dreamed of being somewhere else and a lot of other girly things that I swore I would never talk about. 

Now you might think I “know” Kimberly well? But, I really didn’t. I have been a fan of her printmaking since I found her on Instagram and was surprised that she lived and worked in Lansing. I met her at a show. I invited her to my tasting party that I have last March because she unveiled a new print of a popsicle. And she was nice enough to come and set up a table with her art. After that I hadn’t seen much of her. 

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SO how did I get an invite to her studio? Facebook! She put a call out to anyone who wanted to help her at the studio to DM her and I did. It was that simple. And that hard. Most people would never do that. “I don’t really know her.”. “I don’t know anything about printmaking.”. “She would never say yes and then I will feel stupid putting myself out there.” Those are thoughts that might go through your head, right?

Well, screw that. I commented on the FB post and we set it up. I learned so much and had so much fun. It was great to see someone else’s work space, to feel supported by another strong women that is also a solopreneur and to be able to shoot the shit with someone who is genuine. 

The great thing was that we didn’t want anything from each other, really. I mean technically she didn’t need me to hang prints and I didn’t need to either but we both just wanted to spend time with someone who was real. 

Secondly - Each year I schedule a get away for close friends. It’s usually six to eight people and weirdly my man and I are the only couple so it takes some time on Airbnb to find a place with enough beds, bathrooms and other things that everyone wants. We have a small window of time too. And we need to find a weekend that works for everyone so scheduling it almost six months in advance isn’t abnormal. 

This year one of my friends and I went up on Wednesday, my man and a couple more friends followed on Thursday and the last friend was up there by Friday night. 

It’s a motley crew of friends and we would have never met if not for the food club I started years ago. Two are IT specialists, one a professor, one an author and writer, one a scientist and me. And there are only two expectations - that we have breakfast together and one activity is scheduled as a group. Other than that we sat and binged watched Great British Baking Show, napped, read, put a puzzle together and generally chilled. 

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Our one outing this year was an chocolate tasting and truffle making class at Grocer’s Daughters in Empire, MI. We tasted our way through all kinds of chocolate and then went to town making our own personalize truffles. We asked more questions that they are usually accustomed to and had so much fun. At the end we had to walk off the extra calories in Traverse City before we dined at the large communal table at Trattoria Stella (We did, after all meet each others in a food club!).  

My time spent with friends gives me a support that is unexplainable. The laughing, the honesty, the commitment to each other is overwhelming. No one expects anything. Well maybe we expect one of our friend will want to hike in the woods in 20 degree weather for that perfect photograph and we expect that my man will use fuck about 200 times while ranting about how high schools aren’t preparing students for college math. But other than that nothing is expected. 

Fourthly (Is that a word?) - I am so excited to annouce that I will be a seasonal 5-week employee at ZINGERMAN’S!!!!!!  This is checking off the part of me “learning new things”. 

I have loved the business webnairs from Zingermans. They are a leader in how to make a solid business through embracing their employees, growing new ideas and giving their customers that best possible products. Why wouldn’t I want to learn from them? And having a seasonal business I can join their team for a short period of time and glean as much as I can. 

I will be in the mail order cheese department {inset “Who cut the cheese?” joke here} in the warehouse and I couldn’t be more excited. They gave me a list of jobs and of course I saw that they had openings in the gelato and frozen items arena but I want to learn more about something else. I want to broaden my skill set and when I saw cheese cutter I gasped out loud. I giggled like a child as she described what I would be doing. Giggling so much that she might have been giving second thoughts to their option of hiring me. 

My first day was filled with orientations by one of the owners, Paul Saginaw, meeting my co workers and opening up a Cabot cloth bound cheddar straight from the Vermont creamery. My second day continued with orientations - scheduling, payroll, direct deposit paperwork. As the next six weeks continues I will update you (hopefully with a pic or two) and detail what I have learned that can be applied to my own business in my future posts.  I will also write about what it was like to work at Zingermans and what a great place it is. I will also write about how the warehouse is like a casino (I know, how? But it really does seem like one).

I have to say November and December flew by. Have a great New Year and I hope you spend it with people that you love and support you. 

Love,

Danielle