Folsom Chili Cook-Off

Folsom Chili Cook-Off

Been thinking about getting home and writing this blog all day! It’s funny how a trip down memory lane once a week can be so enjoyable! 
Last Tuesday, I was telling you about the Rhyme Charts and how they came to be, and we touched on P for Price, remember? Well this week, I wanted to talk to you about P for Placement. Because let’s face it, you may have created the loveliest hand-knitted scarves and gloves in the world, but if you are trying to sell them in July, outside a swimming pool in Florida, don’t hold your breath. I learned about P for Placement the hard way…
So as I was telling you last month, I was living the dream – or so it seemed – in Monterey. The kids were beautiful, 
and my brother Steve and I were selling our Rhyme Charts and Stamps in Northern California mostly. 
Now you may or may not have heard of Folsom? Johnny Cash put it on the map with his Folsom Prison Blues, but Folsom will remain forever etched in my mind as the Business lesson to learn about Placement. Many of you who do Table-top sales will totally understand this, but what possessed me to book the Folsom Chili Cook-off as a venue I will never know.
We found our spot on the boardwalk, and set up our lovely stand. It was a bit daunting when we noticed that as far as we could see, to the left and to the right, all we could see was camp stoves and huge vats of chili. Yes, you heard right, spicy, hot, steaming Chili. And then there was Steve and myself with our lovely, laminated Victorian Rhyme Charts. 
For us Brits, this was a pretty unique experience. People were pouring through the street, going from stall to stall, from vat to vat, tasting all the chilli as they went. When they got to us, they would look at us quizzically, and check out the rhyme charts, put them down and walk on to the next chilli vat. Anybody who has had even a little taste of this soul destroying, embarrassing, frustrating, rejecting, depressing and downright humiliating experience, will love what happened next. 
I was trying to keep smiling, because that’s what it said in the Handbook, under “What to do when in Folsom at a Chili Cook-Off when you haven’t sold a single Rhyme Chart’. And all the time, my brother was sitting behind me in the shade, watching this debacle. (It must have been 100 degrees!). So a couple waddled up and asked me, “What are these?”, and suddenly my Brother jumped up and answered, “They’re Funnels; English Chili funnels.” He proceeded to show them how you could hang them on your arm, roll them up and wipe them clean! And he sold one!! He actually sold one!! I don’t know whether the mad glint in his eye persuaded them, or the fact that he was 6ft 4” in his socks when he stood up, but who cares! A sale’s a sale!
Sometimes we got the placement right! I remember doing an open day at a really fabulous Children’s Toy Store in Sacramento; it was uplifting and successful – and as we know, days like these give us hope. 
Can I tell you about another dire P for Placement I got myself into? Sometimes, you may be in a good position at a show, but then you get the neighbour from hell! I remember a Street festival in San José. The sun was beating down, I had set up my Rhyme Charts, and stamps and bits n bobs, when this old couple turned up in a pick-up truck, pitched their gazebo next to me, and started unloading their gear. Their main products were old cowboy boots converted into birdhouses. You know, cut a hole out of the side for the door, and stick a little plywood roof on it. Fair enough. (and I cannot believe I still have a photo to mark the spot!!!). Go on, get your magnifying glass out..
But they also had these really primitive stakes lashed up to look like crosses, and on the crosses someone had written with a black marker pen, “Here lies the body of the last cat that sh*t in my Yard”. And they sold like hotcakes! He was making them up as fast as the wife could take the money! And I sat in the shade of my little gazebo, with my lovely, educational Rhymecharts and stamps, watching this, and it was actually then that I had another moment of Clarity. 
So farewell America, and hello Blighty! 
Next week maybe we can talk about P for Perseverance!
One thing’s for certain: I was not an overnight sensation! 
I definitely took the scenic route! 

51 thoughts on “Folsom Chili Cook-Off

  1. Great blog today Barbara and I very much know where your coming from. We sell hand knitting at our local woollen mill shop. There we are every Saturday at our table in the shop with mostly knitted Aran hoodies which don't really sell in the warm summer months which we very quickly found out ! Can't knit them fast enough just now! People buy very much for the moment I find . So looking forward to the next installment on the clarity trail xx

  2. Well good morning Barbara! I love this time of the day…all dressed and ready for work but enough time to sit with my coffee and read your blog! Sets me up well for the day!
    I had a little chuckle to myself as your P for Placement stories reminded me of several times I have had similar experiences showing bonsai with Colin.
    Looking forward to tomorrows blog. Hugs xxx

  3. Another great tale, totally enjoyable and I understand as I lived in the US for sometime also. Loved seeing the stamps on your stall and recognising some. Thanks for the insight into your background and if I see someone selling old cowboy boot birdhouses I'll know they have been reading your blog!

  4. Hi Barb, what a great read this morning, really made me smile, and obviously your lessons learnt have paid off. Love the way you share experiences with us all, and I am sure that everyone can learn from them. Bx

  5. We'll this was yet another interesting one, I can imagine you and your bro sitting under the shade watching things play out at the cook off.. Watched those on the cooking channels and thought 'only in America' even though I love the states. But…… Thank goodness for your moment of Clarity…our gain and their loss! Don't you think the scenic route is best though Barb… It teaches you so much…I remember at our workshop this year you mentioned knowing which shows to go to and which ones not to and that was just in this fair land! Lovely set up for the day… I'm with Jane…your blogs are my fav time of the day and much of what you talk about sticks! I look forward to the next instalment of memory lane x

  6. That's another wonderful blog post. Thank goodness you didn't give up and just learnt from those lessons. You know what? Your fab trips down memory lane are as educational as your step-by-step instructions. Thanks for passing on your wisdom. xx

  7. Cup of tea in front of me, need to come here and read your next step in your experience. It is another stunning story, and the part with your brother really makes me smile…..
    Thanks for your experience, it helps me growing in our approach of business.
    Laurence x

  8. Hi Barbara,
    What a brilliant colourful life you have are living. The experiences have developed and made you into you. You have a great way of telling, can I see a book being made now……. X

  9. Fabulous trip down memory lane Barbara I'm still smiling think the cowboy boots did it for me lol!!
    Our experiences are what make us……..I believe, thanks for sharing can't wait for tomorrow 🙂


  10. Morning Barbara. I really look forward to Tuesday's blogs and all your stories about starting out. They always make me smile.. a little ray of Clarity sunshine to brighten the day. Thank you for sharing them xxx

  11. Just loving the stories Barbara. I'm storing all these lessons up for when I eventually decide to take the plunge as I know at some point I will it's just not the right time for me yet. xx

  12. Another great read Barbara thanks. I am really enjoying this Autobiography! You know where my very last P for Placement was!! Inside a marque right next door to the Pig roast – and it wasn't a very old Pig either much to my Hannah's dismay. They placed it on a slight angle at the corner stall so that we got the best possible view up its backside for 5 hours!!!!!! Sam xx

  13. What a great story! Really made me chuckle. Sometimes the scenic route is not only beautiful, it also teaches us much we may have missed going direct. Looking forward to next week's instalment. xx

  14. You are a fabulous racounter Barbara – I really love popping over to see what little gems you are going to share each day. America's lost was our gain in more than one way. Keep up the good work lol! xx

  15. Great story so far. You certainly know how to tell em and you almost make the 'failures' sound positive. Unlike me who also learned the hard way e.g not to site a shop selling large tents in Devon, otherwise known as tent peg country! Keep the stories coming. Carol x

  16. Hi look to reading your blog everyday. At last I have successfully learnt how to put pictures and gadget things on the blog I just started, so I have put your button on tonight. Hurray!

  17. America's loss was definitely our gain. Glad you decided to come back here and develop your craft. Your beautiful nursery rhymes poster is part of the Christmas present for my youngest two granddaughters. Fortunately, they are being "brung up proper" with proper nursery rhymes, Beatrice Potter, the Flower Fairies (the original ones with the pretty faces). Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us. You make us feel like real friends and not just customers, a real gift. xx Maggie

  18. Just goes to show us, you can't Buy Class lol, oh dear Barb what an awful pitch to get put next to, as they say " only in America" true back then, but we have some tasteless tat on sale here now, some folk will buy any old junk, but next to your lovely Stamps ooh that's a step too far. I'd have gone home too, Better days were a comin.!! Xx

  19. Just catching up! Interesting post and I made the pic bigger for an in depth look! What poor little bird would want to live in a boot? Glad you came home. I'm looking forward to my fix on Saturday! Xx

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