A QUICK INTRO FROM JEN:
We are so excited to finally be launching our BUH-LOGGG! And we couldn't be more honored to partner with fellow local enthusiast, freelance writer, and friend Casey Hatcher! Casey is the owner of Winter Project Co., a creative firm located in Abilene, Tx and will be the the voice of the APPP blog ya'll! In 2015 she began an endeavor of photographing the faces in her life, which she showcases on the Winter Project Instagram account. For questions or more information, check out her website at www.winterprojectcompany.com and definitely follow her incredible portrait project on Instagram where you might see some familiar faces @winterprojectco. Stay tuned as we go behind the scenes with some of our favorite local entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, or basically any person, place, or thing we choose to spotlight!
As our first entry Casey will be interviewing Forrest and myself as owners and curators of A People Party Productions.
How did A People Party Productions (APPP) come about?
Jen: Originally it started with me being just a singer songwriter, needing a platform to play. The idea was to have an event, where I invited a bunch of friends to come and play whenever I booked at Mezamiz. Forrest came up with the idea of calling it APPP. It was just celebrating people. It came from an artist wanting to give other artists an opportunity to share their talent.
So because it developed such a following, it grew from there?
Jen: The first official craft fair was in the fall and we had about 20 vendors. It was one of the smallest, but one of the most memorable experiences. It really gave vendors in Abilene a whole new experience from what they’ve had in the past compared to like the standard 10x10 Civic Center booth. I was proud of how it brought a street market feel to Abilene that we haven’t really had.
Forrest: I think Abilene is in a great position to grow. I feel like the arts are really important to the community, even though it might not be as widespread as others would hope. But I do feel like the arts are promoted and appreciated. Maybe that’s why APPP has been received so well, because it’s helped to further that.
Jen: What I’ve noticed is that because we now have exposure to artists through social media and Etsy shops, there are more and more creators popping up around the area. I believe our community has a huge appreciation for the “shop local” experience and prefers buying locally or handcrafted. I’ve seen our vendors do really well at our craft fairs because there is a demand for handcrafted or custom-made in our area now more than ever.
You’ve been doing craft fairs twice a year for the past three years. What is your overall goal for the future of APPP?
Jen: In many ways we are still in the developmental stages of finding what our goal should be. We are recognizing that in order to bring a better product to the community of Abilene, we need to reach more within our area rather than just our town, so part of our goal is to reach Texas hand-makers who are looking for a quality event to apply for as a vendor. We want to bring those kind of things to our local consumers. The other idea is to partner with other communities and have APPP go mobile.
Forrest: I don’t think APPP is limited just to the craft fairs, even though those are the main events at this point. As far as goals, I feel like what Jen is really gifted at is making APPP an umbrella for all things promotion. The craft fair is about promoting local, handmade. But I feel like APPP is also about promoting music, culture, and everything local.
Jen: When we started APPP we said “local business, organizations, artists and musicians”. It’s not limiting, but we focus on local. Our definition of local doesn’t mean just Abilene, it just means not a chain. We are also seeing that we have become a “launchpad” for many of our local artist entrepreneurs who have been vendors at our craft fairs. We hope to further the development of our branding consultation and possibly offer workshops in the near future.
Do you have a stipulation on who is a vendor?
Jen: We want to. We are looking for unique, handmade items. What we’ve found is that from year to year we’ve had to change things. With each event, we cater to the vendors on our list. But we really try to refrain from vendors who represent a product line that isn’t their own. Although we appreciate their entrepreneurial spirit, our priority is giving unique, handmade items first dibs!
Are we going to see the same vendors every year?
Jen: One of the things that I recognize needs to be apart of my responsibility, is to look for the next best thing. For us, it’s bringing people something new but also continuing to service the vendors who return each year and who have been great to work with. One of the cool things about our events is that every single business who is representing themselves takes a lot of pride in what they do. So they are going to bring their best!
What are some new things happening this year?
Jen: This is our first year we’re going to be venturing into commission. It’s a full time job and a business. Right now we feel like the best option is to keep our rates lower, with a commission of 10%, and work off the honor system. We’ll have some simple tools for vendors to keep track of their sales. We are also looking for commercial sponsors. What we’ve learned is that in order to host music and fuel culture, we really need the financial backing from that.
You have been married for 5 years. Describe what the two of you do.
Jen: This is my first time to be completely self-employed, I guess I would call myself a promoter. I want to help businesses that have a great product, but need help with pulling their brand together.
Forrest: Well Jen is also full time wife, a full time mom, and she’s also a musician. But I work for a non-profit called the Palm House. We have several mentoring programs for kids and do neighborhood outreach. We also feed the homeless. I guess we’re basically a neighborhood ministry. Since I’m the only full-time employee I wear a lot of hats. And then I’m crafty too!
I’ve heard you’re quite the craftsman! Tell me about the tables you’ve been making.
Forrest: Well part of the model for the mentoring programs we have is to have it be like family. Part of what we do is we eat a meal with these kids. I wanted for it to feel like we were all sitting around one big table. At the time we had three small tables in this dining room, so I decided to build a 12 foot table we could all sit around. I ended up building a table for the Palm House and I just put a picture of it on Facebook, then all of these people were like “I want one! I want one!” So I started taking orders. I build them all from reclaimed wood.
Is that something you would like to continue doing? Or is it just a side deal?
Forrest: I don’t know, Jen has been good at promoting me, but with what I feel God wants my priorities to be, it’s just a side thing. I really enjoy it, but I feel like Palm House is my main priority and this is just kind’ve a side project.
Maybe this is just in the circles I run in, but I feel like when people stumble upon really talented individuals, they want to support and buy from them. It sounds like that’s happened for you.
Forrest: Yeah, that was surprising to me! I had no expectations. I just did it for my job and it happened!
Let’s talk about the Food Truck Courtyard. Where did the idea come from?
Jen: One night in May we were kind’ve needing some inspiration and Forrest suggested we just drive around and look for a lot. We'd been talking about this idea for a while now. This was probably back around May or so.
Forrest: We drove around and narrowed it down to three prospects and pretty quickly figured out where we wanted it to be.
Jen: I think we saw that there was sustainability here for the food trucks. So we spoke to the city and got everything fully approved. At this point we have everything ready to go, we just need start-up costs. However, we may just run with what we have once we get our general insurance and contracts in place. We can start now with less, or wait till later to launch with more of what we're going for...but we can't bear missing out on this fall weather! One of the most exciting parts to me is incorporating our vendors into a monthly outdoor market experience and bring more live entertainment to the downtown area.
Awesome! Well it sounds like you guys have a lot going on, but are loving every minute of it. Is there anything else you'd like to share about APPP or you guys?
Forrest: I would say these things pretty much sum up me and Jen. We always enjoy hosting and connecting people—whether it’s at our house with parties in the backyard or whatever. I think our ideas get birthed out of wanting to create space that people can come and enjoy. Whether it’s at our home, our craft fairs, or downtown. In my mind, that’s the heart behind APPP, the food truck courtyard, and us as a family. We loving hosting, we love hospitality, we love creating a space where people can come and connect.
Jen: APPP is a natural passion of mine - to promote others! I feel like our community is embracing our local businesses, organizations, artists, and musicians more than ever, and we are happy we get to be a part of it!
Our second People Party Craft Fair at The Cloisters once we got vision to reach out to the vendors to join in on the live music line-up.
Our Spring 2015 Craft Fair after three years from our first event. My how we've grown!