"Flea Style planted the seed," says Ashlyn Shadden. "Flea Style Summit kicked me into gear."
Those words are like music to our ears! When our longtime pal and vendor Paige Davidson told us about her friend Ashlyn launching makers market Boho Saint Jo after coming to our Summit last summer, we knew we had to get to know this lady. We live for these stories — stories that remind us why we exist and inspire others (and us!) to keep following their passions, take leaps of faith, and just go all out to create something beautiful and one of a kind.
Ashlyn, who lives in the tiny Texas town of Saint Jo (population approximately 1,000) and helps with purchasing for her mother's gift boutique, called Panache, gave her friends and neighbors a darling pop-up market to shop just in time for the holiday season last year, and she's doing it again this spring. On April 22, she'll host the second Boho Saint Jo, with fashion, food, art, home goods, drinks, music and more. Ashlyn plans to donate all proceeds from the event to Gainesville, Texas, charity Abigail’s Arms, a crises center for victims of domestic violence.
Here, she shares the story of how this awesome event came to be.
How did you learn about Flea Style and the Flea Style Summit?
I am constantly on Instagram looking for new, unique small businesses/merchants to carry in Panache, and I kept seeing Flea Style. I had also seen that my friend Paige Davidson with Cahoots Handbags had been a vendor at previous Flea Style shows. I couldn’t make the spring Flea Style show, and I regretted it so much that I made sure to attend whatever event was next — that happened to be the Summit. I was in Austin when I saw that there were only a few tickets left, so I called my mom and asked if she wanted to find somebody to cover the store so we could go. She said, “I think you absolutely need to go, but I think you need to do this on your own.” So I signed up!
What was your experience at the Flea Style Summit?
Amazing. Normally I am not a big fan of a panel setting, but I couldn’t get enough. Every aspect of the Summit was so well thought out, with such a creative flair, that it didn’t have the feel of a convention or something I have been to time and time again. Every minute detail, from the water bottles, the handmade notebooks, the amazing lunch, etc., was such a treat. There are absolutely no other words to describe Flea Style Summit than inspiring and empowering. I left in such a good mood. I truly felt like a fire was lit within me and for the first time in such a long time.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Summit?
The thing that most resonated with me was something that Jen Harrison of Flea Market Fab said. She said to take negativity from others and use it as fuel for your fire. I am surrounded by the most amazing support system — my family and our friends in our little town of Saint Jo — but at the Summit I learned that I was my own worst enemy. I get so busy with life and my full plate that I make excuses to flake out and give up. Not anymore. We are all busy with life, and the women associated with Flea Style (vendors, creators, makers, bloggers, marketers, etc.) are nonstop, just fire all the time. If you guys can do it with a smile on your faces, so can I. So many makers and the Flea Style gang have families, full-time jobs, illnesses, drama, heartache, etc. and STILL get it done.
When did you first have the idea for Boho Saint Jo?
The Monday morning after I got back from the Summit, I was sitting in the kitchen having coffee with my mom, filling her in about everything I saw, ate, heard and bought. My mom said, “You should have your own version of the Flea Style show in the flower shop.” I thought it was a good idea, but I was immediately flooded with doubts and excuses. Then I heard Jen’s voice in my head — “Don’t take no for an answer.” — and decided to let my negativity fuel my fire. It came together crazy quick. The idea was conceived right there in the kitchen, and in the pool that afternoon I sketched out the logo in the same notebook I took notes in at the Summit. It was a fast three months of preparation before Boho Saint Jo took flight October 29.
Tell us about the day. What were the biggest surprises? The challenges? What was the most fun?
Vendors arrived to set up that morning, so I just helped and tied up loose ends. That was a good depiction of my day, running all over the place. I loved every single minute of it. There was no way I could have planned for the crowd. I was so shocked! So, so, so many people. I wanted everybody to be greeted and feel welcome, so I stood at the door and talked to everybody. I wanted to know where everybody was from and how they heard about the event. (I was also getting their names and numbers for door prizes and raffles.)
We were crammed for space inside, but we had available spots on the front porch and out back. The back ended up being the hot spot, and the vendors outside got so much traffic being by the live music and the bar. It was a beautiful day too, so that helped. In a perfect world, all of the Boho Saint Jo vendors would have been all my most favorite of makers and small businesses, but that wasn’t the case.
With the vendors, I had a criteria of handmade or goods created by women, but I accepted most all vendors who inquired. However, for the spring show I have been more selective. Vendors had to apply. This way I can make sure I am staying true to myself and my vision. I hope for 40 vendors this go around.
Looking out on the square and seeing a packed parking lot was the most satisfying feeling of all. The exposure the vendors got warmed my heart. The looks on their faces when they saw the crowd and the constant traffic was worth sleepless nights and caffeine withdrawal. I was thankful for the crowd, but I wanted it to be worth it for the vendors as well. I talked to the majority of the vendors and they were all so pleased, and most of the vendors said it was their best sales day yet. Honestly, seeing the faces of the vendors speaking so passionately about their craft to crowds of people genuinely interested in unique, one-of-a-kind treasures can never be expressed accurately — it’s felt.
What were your key learnings?
Break your shoes in a time or two before you are running around in them all day long. And buy more wine. Shoppers like to drink!
What advice do you have for creatives thinking about launching a business?
Do what makes you happy. Just do it. Things have a way of working themselves out if you want to peddle your passion bad enough. I learned after going to the Summit, following Flea Style (and panelists and featured vendors, etc.) on social media, and listening to small business owners tell their behind-the-scenes stories that it is a lot of work. There are more bumps in the roads than smoothly paved trafficless toll roads. You will feel like there are simply not enough hours in a day, and you will run on Starbucks cold brew. If any of that scares you or makes you question yourself even the slightest bit, then maybe right now is not the right time. Having a small business is an “all in” kinda gig, and it is not for the half-assers. I have had ideas and grand schemes since I graduated from grad school, but I wasn’t ready. But when it’s time — and when you are passionate enough — not even you can stand in your way.