The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
Oriana | One of a Kind Show
The One of a Kind Show
has become this nucleus in my life. It is the 2 biggest events in my Copious year and prep is started months in advance to ensure a successful show. On my end a lot of time and money is spent to get to this show, on their end it’s the same story. The OOAK Team is working towards the same goal as each maker and the support they provide us along the way is invaluable. I have come to know these women as some of the hardest working, most helpful and friendliest people I know. The fact that so many of them know my name when I am 1 of 600-850 makers is a testament to how much they care about their makers. For this interview I talked with Oriana who is head of Recruitment and Creative Content Coordinator, she was nothing but candid and honest about how this has affected their team and what they are doing to prepare for the future of OOAK.
Going back to March, with information changing daily, how did the team deal with this?
We were very aware of the coronavirus, it was in the news, we were following all the information. We had revised and updated our health and safety plan, we were buying SO much hand sanitizer and the recommendation was, events could move forward, you just had to be safe. I definitely don’t want to call it denial, because really at that point, we were moving forward and invested in the shows’ success; we were all very hopeful it would happen.
The week of March 9th totally changed everything. I felt like I worked at a news network, every couple of minutes someone had new information and we were in meetings all day long trying to figure out a way to keep everyone happy. Mind you this is during our busiest time leading up to the show. We were very torn on what to do and we realized, we needed to hear from our vendors, so that is when we sent out the survey to get a consensus of what the group wanted.
OOAK has always been a company that cares about the mental health of its employees and makers, how did you ladies deal with the stress?
Everyone was having a hard time, I am the most outwardly emotional team member, so there were a lot of tears, but also as a team we knew that the makers and our customers were relying on us. Although this has been an awful experience to go through, as a team it was one of the most incredible experiences, because you really saw everyone leave any extra baggage at the door and just be there for the team.
When the email finally went out with our decision to postpone the show, we were in the office so late that night, we all kind of gave each other a minute. We had stayed strong for each other and we were wanting to be efficient for you guys, but we were also exhausted.
When you are leading up to such a big event everything else gets quieter and that one thing you are working towards gets so loud. Even though we didn’t get to put the show on, that whole week was so insane we all took the weekend to ourselves to mentally regroup.
You did such a great job of keeping makers in the loop and asking our opinions, and I know it is hard to please everyone, but do you feel like you moved forward with the consensus?
Yes, I really believe in my gut, but I also love numbers, and based on the hard data we got from the makers, we moved forward with the right decision. Something I have learned in this job is that there will always be a difference of opinion, when you are working with 600+ people/personalities, everyone won’t 100% agree. I absolutely welcome the discussion though, as long as it is done with respect, I am always open to talking about it. Once that dialogue happens I think that makers see that we really are trying to do our very best to make everyone happy, but also to keep their businesses alive.
Even with the postponement, there were a lot of makers who thought we should have cancelled right away. At the time though, we didn’t know that it was going to go until June, we wanted to give makers a chance to sell their products. Everyone had been working so hard for the show and we know how much needs to be produced for it, we wanted our makers to have a chance to salvage the season.
Logistically, what did you guys have to go through to reschedule/cancel such a major event?
Janice took this project on as our director, it was a lot of communication with Enercare to choose a new date and figure out what hall we could be in. From a logistical point of view, Val would have had to redo the entire floor plan. As a group we were going back to the beginning, reworking sponsors, partners and guest speakers. Thankfully we didn’t get too far into the replanning process before the City of Toronto said no events in June. Obviously, we would have done it happily, but from an efficiency point of view, we were able to focus our efforts elsewhere.
The Virtual Show has been a success for a lot of vendors, did you guys know right away you had to do something to keep the shows presence in customers minds?
We knew we had to something, but we didn’t know that exact idea right away. Once we started talking and decided that we wanted to one stay in touch with customers, two show off our makers and three connect those two groups, we knew Instagram was the best way to do this. So, it became a matter of getting all our stories organized to set up our virtual market.
What other apps have you used to keep in touch while working from home?
Every Tuesday and Thursday we do a group meeting through Microsoft Teams, even though we are working on our own a lot right now, we are a team so these group meetings are super helpful to stay connected. We also used Later to help schedule all our stories for the Virtual Market.
Were there any 2020 business plans for OOAK that have had to be put on hold?
Maker Day was something we had all been working towards for the Spring Show. It was inspired by the Camp OOAK we did, where we got to bring like-minded creatives together. We had been working on this idea for a year and were all really excited for it. We had wanted this to be something special for just the Spring Show, so we probably won’t get to see it come to fruition until 2021. We have also been working on a blog project forever. It has two streams, one being a way for customers to get to know the makers more and the second stream where we can offer more resources and ideas to the maker community. We want it to be a space where we can share all the connections we have made with you guys, community over competition always!
To be honest, this whole landscape has either accelerated or changed a lot of plans, just based on what life is like and what life will look like moving forward. This event has really catapulted everyone into the digital space in a big way and that will continue to be a goal for us. We have always been focused on our digital space at OOAK, but because of the current times we see the need for it even more.
With things being so up in the air, what does planning for the Holiday Show look like?
Even in a perfect scenario, where we go back to having this event like we normally would, there would still be changes. This whole experience has changed human behaviour and we have to modify our event for that, basically we are planning for every scenario. We are not pretending like everything will be perfect, we are laying out multiple situations to be prepared for A, B and/or C. There is a lot of research happening right now to ensure that with any scenario that comes up we have a plan in place.
After Oriana had answered all my questions, I wanted her to know how much I appreciated them. I can’t imagine what it is like to put this show on, let alone have it postponed 2 weeks before opening day and then cancelled. OOAK is a huge part of my yearly salary, as it is with many vendors who participate. I did not envy them having to make these decisions that held a lot of our fates, but every step of the way they kept us informed, asked our opinion and really like she said before, put our interests first. Doing this show requires a lot of sacrifice on both sides and these women always show up for us. I could hear the emotion in her voice the whole time, how draining this had been to put all the work in and get no real reward.
“Our reward is the show, coming together for a cultural moment that OOAK staff, makers and customers adore.”
We will get that reward again, hopefully soon, until then I highly recommend following this amazing team on social media (Instagram || Facebook) so you can see what they have planned for the future, I know it will be brilliant and done with nothing but heart, because this team has that in spades!