Now that the 2016 Tiny House Jamboree has drawn to a close I am able to really sit back (not just for a few minutes) digest all the photos, review all the business cards I picked up, have a look at my notes, recall my conversations, and do some Internet homework. Over the course of the weekend I spoke to no less than 20 vendors who were set up at various levels of presentation, hawking items and services that in some way pertained to the tiny house lifestyle. Upon reflection what I have learned most is that at the heart of a successful event is a team of reliable vendors. It simply can’t be said enough. An event will be tarnished by even one bad vendor. Attendees will walk away, not remembering all the wonderful speakers and the exciting new products, but rather the one rude or unprepared vendor who, like a bad apple, spoiled the bunch!
From composting toilets to solar panel distributors to essential oil representatives, tiny house festivals, conferences, and jamborees, typically have a wide variety of purveyors, ready to share with you a product or service that before today you didn’t realize you couldn’t live without. But what is wrong with that? Isn’t the idea of merchant vendors to bring about cottage industry and old-fashioned capitalism to even the most obscure of niche gatherings? Face it. There are always going to be external partners that you work with on a project. They are the folks that help you with all the things that you don’t, and can’t, do on your own. Here is an example of where a vendor came to my aid.
In 2011 we were in search of an exterior product for our tiny house on wheels. Obviously the going trend was cedar lap siding. In fact, it became an industry standard almost for companies like Tumbleweed and Tiny Home Builders. It wasn’t what we wanted though. It simply wasn’t our style. Not to mention we didn’t want a product that was going to need a sheathing layer, and underlayment, and then a topical treatment. One very romantic date night, my wife and I were waltzing through the Lowe’s when we came across an LP SmartSide display that was manned by a very knowledgeable salesperson. Over the next 20 minutes or so they talked to us about lifespan, installation, price point, applications, etc. Ultimately, their attention to detail, knowledge of competitor products, and – more importantly – knowledge of their own product, led us to purchasing and applying LP SmartSide to our tiny house. After almost 6 years now the siding is still in beautiful condition and still living up to the promises made us that night.
It has come to my attention that much of the time, our interactions with vendors are pretty unremarkable. But sometimes (especially at short term events, I find) a vendor will stand out for being just plain awesome! But that is their job and one that we often overlook. They aren’t just there to sell snake oil or to be commonplace barkers. Vendors at the faire help make our lives, our businesses, and our builds, truly something special.
Did you encounter a particular vendor recently that stood out for being awesome? How was your opinion formed because of that experience?