Wednesday, July 13, 2011

San Francisco: In Words

Renegade SF

Since SF was a new place to visit for us, we flew in three days early so we could make a mini-vacation out of it. We stayed for a total of 5 nights and 6 days.

Here's the breakdown of the pros, cons and lessons learned from Chicago that I applied to our trip to San Francisco.

Lessons Learned 

1. Overweight luggage sucks. Last year traveling to Chicago from Austin, I faced overage fees because I vacuum-packed my merchandise, making it impossible to redistribute the weight. This year, we weighed each suitcase before zipping it closed.

Extras: Continental/United allowed us TWO check-in bags each for free! I had three suit cases of merchandise (2 large, 1 good for overhead) and one overhead bag for our clothing/toiletries. Heck yes I checked in all my merchandise. All I had to carry was my Mini Ruche with a book which I never read on the plane because I was too busy sleeping.

Extra Extra: Because this was an indoor event, we decided not to take the canopy (which feels like a 50lb rigid body bag on wheels), so that gave me that extra 50lbs for merchandise. Which I gladly used. Which paid off at the show.

2. Parking in [San Francisco] is expensive. Last year in Chicago, I paid nearly $200 in JUST PARKING because our hotel (in the financial district) didn't have free parking (I am from Texas...we have lots of land) and we rented a car, which added even more to our travel expenses.  Talk about cutting into profits...

This year, we skipped the car rental and chose a hotel walking distance to the venue. We took a taxi to and from the airport.  Totally worth it.  Carrying 200 lbs of luggage onto crowded buses for an hour to get to the hotel did not appeal to either of us.

Total ground transportation in San Francisco
$100 in cab rides (including tip) + $12 in Muni rides for both of us = Better investment than renting a car and paying for parking everywhere you go.


1. San Francisco is colder than Pittsburgh.  Oops. We did not learn our lesson from Chicago (from "Chicago is colder than Texas"). We've been living in Pittsburgh since November, where we experienced snow until March. It's been hot lately here and we just assumed California's got nicer weather. Nope. Not SF.  In our defense, we did check the weather for that week and some residents in our apartment used to live in SF and recommended that we take a light jacket. I figured that they were cold-weather wussies and that we could survive off of really thin cardigans. Plus, I already vacuum-packed ALL our jackets and stored them away. Jackets = more weight. More weight = less merchandise. I was gonna risk it.

We arrived and a lot of people were wearing winter jackets. Like, wool jackets. So yeah, we were pretty cold but we still looked summer-stylish!

2. San Francisco is really hilly ridiculously mountainy.  Too bad our map did not have street incline. "Yeah, let's just walk down Lombard to Fisherman's Wharf!" After two climbs up Mt. Everest, you make it there all tired and winded and realize you're not setting your elliptical to a high enough resistance and incline at the gym to prepare for moments like this.

3. Vacation time before show time makes you really stingy.  Because I pre-paid a good fee to travel and lodge in San Francisco, spending three days on vacation before making any sales at the show was pretty tough. Pair stinginess with being a lazy traveler and you get 4 hours of watching Hoarders in the hotel, followed by a strong desire to clean your apartment when you get home, followed by a full night's sleep.

This is why we don't have cable TV in our apartment.


1. Sales were good! Even better since we were so frugal with the vacation section of our trip.

I didn't realize that Baby Ruche/Mini Ruche bags and Travelers would do so well compared to Chicago. In Chicago, Briefcases won. Hands down.  In SF, Travelers pretty much sold out. Compare to two Traveler sales in Chicago.

I do try to look through my historical sales to see what bag types appeal to which cities, but you can never be 100% prepared for the turnout.  Insight comes with experience, so next time will be better.

2. San Francisco loves Pittsburgh. I mentioned last year that Chicago loves Austin, so maybe every city loves every other city?

We actually met a LOT of ex-Pittsburghers, which was really nice! We love Pittsburgh, and it's so great to meet others who share the love. I can see why people end up living here for ever once they move here.

3. San Francisco is a great place to make connections.  I've never met so many people wanting to help my business/be a part of my business/have my products in their shop. Software developers, shop owners, marketing people, PR people, other small business owners who have been in your shoes. Lots of people want to find a way to help.

We got lots of advice, stories and tips for my shop. Of course, most of this I already know, but I don't have the time or manpower (by myself) to implement it all.  That may be the bottleneck of my business: I am the only one running it. But I'm a bit of a micro manager and perfectionist, and I'm not ready to deal with employees who hate me yet.

4. I Love Chinatown.  $0.79/lb ginger?? Lychee! Peking duck! Oh my god. I must move to Chinatown. The first day in SF, we did some touristy stuff and ate at touristy places which turned out to be a big tourists' disappointment. Once we discovered Chinatown, we were set. We ate Vietnamese food every day thereafter. No lie.

Overall, we had such a fun experience!
See pictures in yesterday's post, San Francisco: In Pictures.
You can see more pictures from our trip on my Flickr.

Now to prepare for Chicago in September.
Then for my wedding in October!
Oh dear.


  1. hi, i'm a new follower, and i live in sf. i'm so glad you had a good time!

    your pictures on yesterday's post were really pretty!

  2. Glad this was better than Chicago! I love hearing all about the inside look of the business. Thanks for sharing, Jenny!

  3. I love SF, and I can totally see SF loving Pittsburgh, and Chicago loving Austin!

    I am getting the feeling that the vacuum-packing is your enemy. ;)

    Glad it was a successful and fun fair.

  4. Karen, it's so true. I should probably not vacuum pack stuff!