Creating the Leslieville Flea, a flea market in Toronto selling vintage and salvaged items, art, furnishings, antiques, and the like.
Why did you feel it was important for you to do this
I was stalled in my own progress as a creator of pieces using salvaged material. I was building and making things but not able to sell them. I knew I needed to do something big to push my business and myself in a forward direction.
What was the risk(s) for you – what worried you about going forward
I was worried it wouldn’t succeed…then worried it would succeed and I’d have to actually be accountable for it. I’ve realized that fear of success is just as large as fear of failure. If I never tried then I couldn’t fail or succeed, so for a long time I just stayed stuck.
When I understood that I’d regret not doing it more than I’d regret failing at it, I was ready to do it.
How did you overcome the worry (emotionally)
As most things I overcome fears but talking about it; if I keep things inside I start to obsess. Sharing ideas with my husband, colleagues and girlfriends is the best way I find to get the advice and reassurance I need. And I find jumping into things head first for me is the best. If I’m given the chance to consider how high the jump is and the wind direction etc I wouldn’t do it. But a glass of red and then a quick jump makes it much easier!
Running is my therapy, as are sanding and cutting and building. While running I would work out the details and while building I would just start making things that I loved. That gave me the confidence that it would succeed. Each run or piece I built made me stronger and more confident.
For the Leslieville Flea, my business partner and I just kept moving forward, doing all the little stuff that needed to get done to make it real. Every time we did something and it got a positive response it killed a bit of fear.
How did you physically mitigate the risk (as opposed to overcoming it emotionally)
Once I felt I could actually have enough things to sell I started to realize that there must be a lot of people like me going through the same thing, people who needed a place to sell their own pieces. A kinder, friendlier place to interact with customers and succeed in selling their art/design.
I found a business partner to do the Flea with. She wasn’t a friend at the time but a mutual acquaintance introduced us. It was very useful for talking things through, finding new approaches, and balancing each others’ strengths.
The planning we did was the simple, boring stuff. Getting insurance, looking into permits, getting the space, setting up a bank account…basically laying the groundwork for the business and researching other markets completely. We did a lot of work thinking things through, with an open mind to changes on the fly if things didn’t work. We looked at things from every angle and considered every possibility.
We went from idea to the first flea in 3 months so we couldn’t afford to second-guess our decisions. We had to trust our guts. Having this fast a goal date, which was based on wanting to catch the summer season since it started as an outdoor flea, was really important to making it happen.
What did you gain from the experience
I have gained joy and confidence from creating the Leslieville Flea. The joy of being able to sell my items and seeing other artists doing the same is amazing. To be able to do something you love and succeed at it is the best feeling. To be able to provide this for others has been very rewarding. I love to see our vendors succeed; it makes me proud that the Flea has been part of their success and lives.
Interacting with the amazing people who visit the Leslieville Flea has been a great experience. You get to talk to people (I love this!!) and bond with people who share your ideas and style. The personal one-on-one interaction for me is really important and great. I love to sell a piece to someone when I see how happy it makes them. To know that something I made will be in their home, bringing them happiness, is incredible.
By starting the Flea (my business partner Brigid and I) we’ve not only done this for ourselves but for others. It’s a great experience to help others move forward with their businesses and be part of their positive movement.
What was the actual risk outcome (ie. Did the thing you worried about happen?)
It poured with rain the very first Flea. Being an outside event we worried the rain would spoil the day. I woke up and it was pouring. We set up and it was pouring. But finally the skies parted and the sun came out….and people came. So even though our worst fear was realized, it was still a success. This was a great lesson that showed me you can’t possibly control everything (hard for me, a control freak) but if you prepare and work really hard to make something a success you can let go some of the control and it will be okay.
Was there a downside (it might not be the thing you worried about)
The downside is how much extra work the Flea is. It can consume me if I’m not careful. It’s taken me away from my family quite a bit this summer so I’ve missed time with the kids and my husband but like anything that is successful, the hard work put into it is all worth it in the end.
What should you have done differently
Prepared slightly more. Learn more about the techniques of marketing. We are learning on the fly – by the seat of our pants sometime – but the process from conception to opening day was so quick that we just had to jump in. It’s been a huge success but I feel slightly like I’m constantly playing catch up with the technology aspect of things.
Would you do it again
Absolutely. It has helped me so much to realize I can actually do this! Trying something new is terrifying but so rewarding. It’s always the hard things we try that help us most…succeed or fail. You don’t really learn anything from trying something safe
Not really. I don’t like the feeling of regret. Whether it be something I did, an item I bought or didn’t buy, something I said. I try to realize that once I’ve done something it’s done. I can apologize or try to make it right if I’ve done wrong. But really once it’s done you just need to learn from it and move on.
Did it inspire any further adventures, accomplished or planned for future
It’s made me feel like I can do more and not be scared. I’ve started experimenting with some new designs and concepts for furniture and other pieces.
Business-wise, we hope to expand the Leslieville Flea and bring it indoors for the upcoming season.
What are the 3 most important pieces of advice you’d give someone else interested in doing this
- Do the work. You are the only one who can do it. And it needs to be done. There are no shortcuts. Just get busy and do the work that needs to be done.
- Research, learn and make sure you know what you need to know to make your move. Try to make sure you have everything set up to succeed. Educate yourself and you will feel more confident in actually doing this.
- Once you have done the work and set up yourself to succeed, just jump in with confidence that you can do this. Life really is too short to keep putting this off. Time is now. Right now. And if you don’t succeed at it…at least it’s better than regretting never doing it.