We love the unique setup Roam has at craft fairs and markets; displaying her re-finished and vintage goods inside and outside her re-purposed 1960’s trailer.
We admire her stand on charging what you’re worth as well as her tenacity when it came to starting her business (check out her answer under our “biggest challenge” question; important lesson in there for all small business owners!)
Read about her business, the must have pieces for your home and the important lessons she shares for other small business owners.
Tell us about your company:
Roam is an Edmonton & area popup shop offering thoughtfully curated vintage home goods & refinished furniture from a classic 1966 trailer named Winnie.
Why did you start your business?
I first wanted to have my own business for the same reason many stay at home mom’s do, to be able to contribute to my family without having to send my children to day care and after school care. That sort of spiraled into the big deep question of: “Well then, what should I do?!” I knew I wanted to be able to find something I loved and turn that into some actual CASH! Upon further exploration & inspiration from good ol’ Instagram I realized that my ability for making the most with what was available to me, (which was often times nothing more than dumpster dive finds and thrift shop scores), was just the answer. My passion for thrifting and styling and creating, all sort of fell into place from there.
Who are your pieces for?
I am personally attracted to a wide range of styles/eras so I like to dabble in it all! But I absolutely agree with the fact that you need to sell to your target market once you have determined it. I can, for example, take 1960’s style bar-ware, kitschy wall prints & Mid Century Modern furniture to a market in downtown Edmonton and sell it all in 4 hours, but if I take that same stock to a country market I could spend 8 hours there and hardly make a sale, and vice versa. I try to organize myself in a way that I can change out my stock as my markets dictate. Although, I am very lucky in the fact that I have a lot of room with my trailer to use for display so I kind of have a little variety for everyone. I just make sure to create vignettes that focus on the different styles I’m selling to. Bright colors, bold prints & sleek lines for the modernist. Distressed finishes, worn patterns & rustic charm for the shabby chicist.
What makes your products different and exceptional?
Well I won’t focus on just Roam as a vendor for this question because I have to say that when it comes to choosing to buy vintage/refinished furniture from myself or anyone versus going to a big box store there is really no question! Not only are you helping recycle otherwise forgotten items but you are filling your home with character and stories and depth! I don’t pretend to not own anything from IKEA but I think that when it comes to statement pieces and the small details, vintage just makes a house a home. Oh aaand also I am really good at picking out just the right stuff you didn’t even know you needed;)
Which vintage or repurposed pieces are really popular for the home right now?
I have a really big demand for dressers turned TV consoles, everyone is loving the storage and presence they give. Many have also been asking for custom dressers to use for baby change tables which is so clever, wish I thought of that when I had my babes.
As for the smaller vintage items, people will always love the old kitchen/bar ware. Whether it’s linens, scales, canisters, glassware or bar carts, those are the details that make your everyday tasks just that much more delightful.
Where do you plan to sell your items once outdoor markets are over?
Now that my market season is coming to an end I plan to continue selling online. I will have items listed here on Made Urban in the next few weeks and also through my social media sites, Instagram & Facebook as of now. I currently consign some of my furniture items through Sacred Arts in Cochrane, AB and am hoping to add additional stores here in Edmonton shortly. I am also available to source and do custom work on anything you may have in mind! (Contact Mel through her Made Urban Storefront)
You’ve been featured in the News, can you tell us how that came about?
When I first started I thought I would send out a little press release to sort of announce my arrival haha! I thought why the hell not, and I was so happy when I was contacted by Dinner TV (Back then it was Breakfast TV) for a morning spotlight. That same release got me a write up in Metro News as well, so if you are starting a business and want some press I recommend strongly to do one up.
Can you share any success you’ve had through using Made Urban?
Well I had my first piece of furniture up on Made Urban for only days before I received an email from the shop that carries my furniture in Cochrane. Sacred Arts contacted me and said she had come across my work on Made Urban and asked if I’d like to consign. I have been there 3 months and have sold several items so it has been a very good avenue for me take, one that I wasn’t really even planning on doing, so I have to thank you for that MU!
You’ve got a busy family life. How do you manage to maintain and grow your business with the limited time you have to work on it?
I am pretty lucky in that my children are both in full day school now so I do have more time to focus on projects. I make sure to organize myself early in the week with my trusty list and also to hand out lists to the rest of the family too;)
When I’m doing big furniture projects or running around sourcing my smaller vintage items I make sure to always log my time and initial expenses. I think it’s SO important that you get paid for your time/investment as a small business owner! In the beginning of course you will put in all the sweat equity it takes but as you progress and move forward in a business you have to start paying yourself.
One of the key ways to do that is to not under value your products. That can be very hard, especially if your confidence is low at the start. You have to do the math and be true to the outcome. Yeah, sometimes I get tired of hauling around a piece of furniture and slash the price just to get it out of my hair but that rarely happens if the piece is marketed and priced correctly in the first place!
What has been the biggest challenge of running your business and how have you overcome it?
OK this is a LONG story, just warning you!
At the start of this whole venture, (3yrs ago), it was the City/permit process that was my biggest challenge. My type of business was not popular at all, they didn’t really have a clear idea of what I was going to do and neither did I probably. I had imagined myself on the streets downtown with the food trucks, I really thought it would bring such a cool vibe to have mobile vendors in Edmonton!
So upon further investigation I was told that I would need a street vending permit for this idea. That was totally fine, but for a street spot within the city I required a business licence, ok that’ll be $600/yr because they classified me as a thrift shop. WOW. And before the Business License I had to get a home development permit which would be $300/yr and to get that we had to change all of our insurances to add business coverage for both home and van and trailer. That was about $120 extra per month costs. THEN the street vending permit is $111 every month. And if I ever wanted a meter spot, it was $1100! I couldn’t imagine how I was supposed to pay all this and I hadn’t even started yet?
These costs, not to mention the other random little “fees” I’m forgetting to mention, combined with the mail outs to my neighbors asking if they objected to my home development permit, the surprise pop in visit from a city inspector to my home and the random month of surprise check in phone calls I got from the city trying to bust me for operating without a license were just all too much and I almost gave up the whole thing!
Instead of giving up I pretty much said screw it and abandoned my idea of being a street vendor. I operated under private markets or on private property for the longest time, which I totally thought was within the law, before being told that I still needed a license for that too…whoopsy!
After hearing that I recently did get my license ($250/yr) which was much cheaper than they originally quoted as they have since changed the category I was to be put in so thank goodness for small mercies. I totally do not require the home development permit anymore as I live on an acreage out of the grasp of the cities grabby hands;) I still had to get the proper insurance for my license but that I totally get. And regarding the street vending, I can apply for temporary street vending permits for $11/day if I ever want to set up on the streets.
At the time I was SO bombarded by a system that was disorganized, and kind of aggressive to be honest, that I almost quit. I am so happy that I kept with it and sorted all these costs out but I still feel there is room for the city to improve with regards to how they deal with my type of “micro” business, and really any type of new emerging business, but it sure is better than 3 yrs ago so that’s something!
What’s been the most important aspect to growing your business?
I relied on having a sort of “shtick” with the whole “vintage trailer who is too cute to not check out” thing in order to set myself apart. Then my branding sort of fell in place from there so that was incredibly helpful in my growth and confidence at the beginning. Now it’s up to me to get my self out there whether it’s on social media or at markets. A vendors ability to sell their product and interact with other people is imperative in my opinion. Good branding means nothing if there’s nobody behind it.
If you could go back in time, what’s one piece of advice you would give to yourself when you were just starting out?
Something that I was told years ago by a pretty successful guy: “Let the market perfect the business”. I didn’t quite get it at the time, as that venture didn’t work out, and I forgot about it until recently. When I first started I had all these preconceived notions of what Roam had to be and I had to have control in every aspect. I wish I would have realized what he meant sooner. Start with your vision and hard work but be open to where that vision takes you, your customers/clientele will certainly lead you in the right direction and your business can evolve into something even better!
For more details on Mel’s business, products and where to buy, visit her Made Urban Storefront or use the CONTACT SELLER button there to get in touch!