So now as I sit here in the Smoky Mountains today, I can look back at March and see the benefits of working 3 back-to-back events, but when I was going through it, I was definitely evaluating my sanity. We traveled from Texas to Georgia and back to Kentucky all for 3 different RV events we were scheduled to attend. We book these events well in advance and usually do a much better job at giving ourselves plenty of time to travel, but someone (not naming any names here) dropped the ball. Last year, we only attended 6 shows since we spent a lot of the year in National Parks, but this year we committed to be the year of the show. We have 13 shows scheduled this year, and we have decided to put all the profits from these shows directly to the Jeep and RV. We are trying to pay them off as quickly as possible so we can start saving for a boat (another story for another time). With our schedule, the Jeep should be paid off by May, but the RV will take a bit longer. Our goal is to be completely debt free in 2 years, but that’s hard to estimate when you are self-employed. We are blessed to have the ability to increase our income if we are willing to work more (and decrease our income if we slack up), so it will all come down to how much we want to work above and beyond the norm for the next 2 years. I guess we will see, but we are excited to be working toward a goal together, even if it means working 3 events in one month.
So, we started the month in Texas for the RVers Boot Camp. We are instructors for Boot Camp and had 3 sessions to develop for the event. We had all the info, but had to make the presentations and figure out how presenting together was going to work. We normally present one at a time when we are shows since one of us has to stay back in the booth, but we didn’t have a booth at Boot Camp and were able to present together. Now if you have ever presented before, you know that adding an additional speaker to your presentation can be a challenge. Are you going to break the slides up and each cover certain ones? Maybe you could split the entire presentation into 2 parts and each cover a half. For me and Eric, we planned on Eric presenting the main facts while I added commentary through personal stories, additional facts, and an occasional heckle. These are things you can’t really plan, so preparing for the sessions made me a little nervous. You’d think after teaching for 17 years I’d be fine with presenting, right? Wrong. I still get super nervous and spend tons of time preparing. I want the session to be valuable for the participants and focus on what I want them to learn from it and the flow. I consider prior knowledge and all the ways I can make connections for them to better understand a concept. Eric? He focuses on jokes he can tell throughout the presentation! LOL He’s a great speaker and loves it. We balance each other out well and actually present well together. I guess that’s what living in tiny space together for 4 years can do. We can finish each other’s sentences and I can tell where he’s going when he presents and adjust accordingly. I hope we are able to present more together; it was actually fun and we got great feedback.
After Texas, we had to rush to Perry, GA for the FMCA Show. And by rush, I mean we actually left the Boot Camp a little early and made a mad dash to cover the 825 miles in 1.5 days. RV miles feel a lot longer than car miles, and since Eric is the only one who drives, when he gets tired – the day stops. In addition, he prefers to not drive at night since he has one eye that is blurry and the night lights do weird things on that huge windshield. Once we arrived in Perry, we would have to set up a booth to display our products which takes a better part of a day. We had one day to do that, and the show would start the next day.
Shows are all different, but the FMCA one lasted 4 days. That sounds like no big deal, but I am no longer accustomed to waking early, being on my feet all day, talking nonstop with no real breaks like I used to be when I taught. Rallies and shows are the only times I feel like I have a real job. We work all the time on the business (and I mean ALL the time), but it doesn’t feel like working used to when I worked for someone else. At shows, we do have to follow the show schedule and feel more like we are working for someone, and it’s not fun. It reminds us every time how much we love being self-employed and more in control of our schedule and time. After 4 long days of having to wake up and work 8 hour days, we were wearing down. (If you don’t believe me, check out my face in the picture below. I was DONE.) 🙂 After the show ended, we had to break the booth down which is never a fun time since we have to transport everything back to the RV using the Jeep and that takes 2 trips. We have gotten pretty good at it though and have a system. We can get it done and have everything packed back in the RV in about 3 hours. Then we have a drink, or two…or four. 🙂
Since we had another show in Louisville, we had to quickly leave Perry the next day and start the 550 mile trek. We pulled into Kentucky the next day and quickly got started on the booth setup for our next show: the Mid American Trucking Show (MATS). This was our first trucking show and we had no idea what to expect. One of our manufacturers asked us to attend, and they agreed to pay for the booth and front all the inventory if we agreed. We definitely agreed. Buying inventory for a show and the booth itself can cost quite a bit and if we don’t forecast the right amount of inventory, we can be left with a lot of inventory instead of a lot of profit. For example, the 10×10 FMCA booth was about $800, camping was another $200, and we bought about $18.5k in products. We were in for about $20k before we even showed up! That can be a bit scary since we have another $30k – $40k in the warehouse at any given point in time. Bringing the right amount of inventory is critical if you want to make any money at shows, and we have become pretty good at it. We do sell out at some shows, but as annoyed as customers get when this happens, that is better than bringing product back with us or shipping it back to the warehouse.
So back to MATS. Our manufacturer was going to cover the $1200 fee for the 10×10 booth and would be bringing over $30k in inventory to try to sell, so all we had to do is get a campground, show up, and sell. MATS is only a 3 day show, but it is huge! Over 70,000 people attend the show, and you are busy all 3 days. We did great and although we didn’t sell out, we didn’t care. We only had to pay for the inventory we sold, which was a pretty good amount for 3 days. It was a cold week, and we even had a night or two of snow, but overall it was well worth the stress and work. We were able to put a nice additional payment on the Jeep and can see an end to that payment altogether in the near future.
We ended the month hanging out in Louisville some just so we wouldn’t have to drive again so soon. We got a lot done in that week and were able to see Eric’s cousins Anne and Camille while we were there. We took a day trip to Mammoth Cave National Park too, which was great. If there is a National Park in the area, we’d pick that over doing anything else. We love to be outdoors and take drives in the Jeep in beautiful places. National Park always give us both. Mammoth Cave wasn’t the prettiest park we’ve been to, but it was very interesting. It is the longest cave system in the US, and has over 350 miles of cave passageways. You have to make reservations well in advance for some of the cave tours, but we were able to do a short self-guided tour that allowed us to see the inside of one of the cave areas. The weather was rainy, but it didn’t stop the crowds from visiting. I got another magnet to add to my collection, and we enjoyed walking a few trails in the drizzling rain.
April will be a very relaxing one compared to March. We will be in the Smoky Mountains for a couple of weeks and will be able to visit Ryley some later in the month. It’s also Birthday Month in the Johnson family! I will turn 45 on April 11th, Tyler will turn 25 on April 15th, and Ally will turn 20 on April 28th. Happy Birthday to us!
See you guys down the road! If you are working to pay off debt like we are, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. It’s always inspiring to us to hear the challenges and accomplishments of others!