The Evolution of the TYPO Truck

Well, it’s safe to say that my hare-brained idea of adding a mobile boutique to my business was a good gamble. After debuting the TYPO truck last fall, with just a few months left in the selling season, I quickly realized that that truck was worth its weight in gold!

My friend and fellow creative Jennifer Allwood recently wrote a blog about the paint-chip dress she created as eye candy to draw crowds at events. Having something unique that catches people’s attention and gets them to stop is brilliant. Enter BIG, GREEN TRUCK. It’s definitely a show-stopper anywhere it goes. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving down the interstate, parked with food trucks or set up inside of Bartle Hall convention center for the Home Show. People stop and stare. They smile with a look of wonderment and curiosity. And then I hook ‘em with the uniqueness of my TYPOGRFX artwork, which is usually followed up with comments like, “Oh wow, this art is pretty cool!”

The TYPO Truck mobile boutique set up at a Food Truck brunch hosted by the Roasterie in Kansas City

Since it was already so late in the show season after the truck was finished, I quickly filled my calendar with any and all events I could get into with the truck. My first couple events were small and learning experiences.

Lesson 1: I needed handrail for the stairs. While I certainly didn’t expect people with mobility issues to be able to come into the truck, I found that the average person reached for the door frame as they stepped up into the truck. And a couple people even rudely complained. Easy fix though.

Lesson 2: I needed lights for outside of the truck. My first outing ran until after dark at a place that didn’t have any outside lighting. Minor fail. I found carnival style “patio” string lights on clearance at Target as they were getting ready to put out their identical lights labeled “Christmas”. Score!

Lesson 3: All you can do is ask. As fate would have it, on November 5th (the day before first Fridays – a big deal in the Crossroads Art District) I saw a guy on the morning news talking about his new brewery and how great first Fridays were for them. So I took a chance and messaged him asking if he knew of a place I could set up. The owner Eric offered to let me park in his parking lot off the street between him and a neighboring brewery. He even used his own vehicle to keep the spot saved for me, helped me get backed in and let me use his power for my lights (I hadn’t purchased a generator yet). What a great guy! Show them some love at Border Brewing Company!

Lesson 4: I definitely need help at larger events! During my first big event, Holiday Mart, there was a line outside of the truck for 4 days straight of people who just wanted to come in and see what it was all about. Hours went by without me ever stepping foot outside of the truck. My friends who graciously worked with me saved me by greeting shoppers, handing out business cards, answering questions and even selling items as best as they could with no cash box or credit card swiper outside the truck. It was a good problem to have!

fordisplay

 

 Lesson 5: People want to buy everything. This was perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me and in hindsight, one of my biggest oversights. Many people would come in the truck, look around and say baffling things like “So, uh, do you sell clocks?” (and point to the little clock I had painted) or “Can I buy this globe?” (another décor piece I worked so hard to find to complete interior). I would chuckle and say things like, “Well, it’s not really for sale. But you can buy this artwork!” Then I would go into my sales spiel. This happened often enough that something finally clicked in my head, “What IF they could buy the clock or the pillows on the couch or the faux plants that decorated the truck?” It was a crazy idea and in the midst of being buried in holiday orders, I dismissed it.

Flash forward to January that was spent sleeping (almost kidding) and February that was spent planning out my year’s marketing strategy and my show calendar, I started pondering how to utilize the truck more to grow my business. I put together “truck show” hostess packages and explored new business partnerships and venues to take the truck to. But I couldn’t help but think of those lingering, and at the time annoying, questions I kept getting from people about buying my display pieces. I consulted with a few friends and my ever-wise mother-in-law.. Does selling items that I didn’t personally make dilute my brand? Does it take away from what I actually do? Will people get it? And more importantly, would they buy it?

My mother-in-law raised several valid points. People often ask me home decorating and interior design questions anyways. Wouldn’t it be great if I had something right on the spot to sell them that would compliment the personalized artwork I was already recommending to them? I could maintain the living room feeling of the interior while having décor pieces that were actually for sale.

It seemed too easy. But then again, eight years ago, designing artwork out of people’s words seemed easy, but no one was doing it back then and I capitalized on that and created a thriving business! So I decided to start researching home décor suppliers and tried finding pieces that fit both my own personal tastes in home décor and also the ever-changing trends. I placed my first order in March and it arrived about the same time I got the truck out of winter storage. I dusted her off and decorated her with all of the new, sale-able décor. What a novel idea – a boutique truck filled with stuff people can actually buy! And personalized samples of artwork they can order. Brilliant. (like I said before – it was a minor oversight)

With a little bit of brainstorming, I decided to call my new line of home décor my “curated collection” since they were items I personally selected to be included in my truck and to compliment TYPOGRFX art. I also decided to rename my cash-n-carry items to be called the “designer collection” since those are all things personally designed by me. I also made another as-for-now choice to make the curated collection exclusive to the truck – or “trucksclusive” as I came up with – mostly so I don’t have to manage inventory between the truck and my website. This may change in the future, but for now, these items are great sellers in the truck.

TYPOGRFX curated collection of home decor accessories - pillows, faux-real plants, frames, candles and more!

People are intrigued by the truck itself, impressed with the artwork, and love the satisfaction of walking away with a newly purchased item on the spot.

So ultimately, I guess the moral of this story is to always be willing to adapt and to change to what your customers want. Over the course of eight years, my business model has evolved dramatically while the basic concept and product of personalized art has stayed the same. This has allowed me to not only survive, but to thrive, and I wish the same to you and your business!

TYPO Truck Debut!

Yesterday, the TYPO truck to made its big debut with a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce in downtown Excelsior Springs. I was so honored to have my family, friends and many members of the Chamber come out and see the truck. The weather was phenomenal and everyone on Broadway stared as they drove by. A few even pulled in just to check out what I had going on with my “little green truck”. And I sold some artwork too!

 

Interior Build Out

With the exterior finally done, I immediately got to work on the interior build out. I knew that the help from my husband had all but run out, so I would (mostly) be on my own for this part of the truck renovation.. But I wasn’t really worried, painting and interior work is my thang. I thought to myself, I got this! So I drafted an aggressive schedule for the finish work:

Monday – primer
Tuesday – paint
Wednesday – pallet wall
Thursday/Friday – bookcase (I knew this was going to be a project and a half and I honestly had NO idea how I was going to bring it to life!)
(Saturday – outing with my family)
Sunday – flooring
Then the fun part – decorating!

interior_beforepaintMonday morning, I was so fortunate that the weather forecast had taken a drastic plunge towards cooler temperatures! (Oh how bad I feel that all of Jackson’s work was in the scorching heat!) I primered every inch of the interior surface except the floor. I forgot or apparently wasn’t aware how difficult and neck-breaking it is to paint directly over one’s head. Luckily I could easily reach the ceilings without a step stool, but my neck and shoulders paid the price dearly the next few days.

Painting on Tuesday went much faster than the primer had the day before, so I decided to start installing the pallet wall a day early. Me running ahead of schedule, how could this be?! I had already done the majority of the work a month before, so all of the cutting, staining and layout was already completed. (See tutorial here.) All I had to do was glue those babies to the wall with liquid nails (one of my new favorite building materials)!

palletwall_progress_TYPOGRFX

It was actually pretty easy!

This right here? It's called Tosha-riggin'.

This right here? It’s called Tosha-riggin’.

With both pallet walls completed a day early, I decided to start trying to figure out how to convert a metal cabinet that once housed police tactical gear and that was dented, scratched and banged up inside into a book case with crown molding and an extra shelf (keep in mind I knew Jackson wouldn’t want to weld a metal shelf in place – he was done. Period). I have a ton of scrap trim thanks to a neighbor who let remodelers toss all of their waste into a burn pile on the corner of our property, so I dug through my stash to figure out what pieces I had the right lengths of. I figured I had enough trim, but didn’t have enough scrap anything to cover the back of the cabinet. I toyed with the idea of beadboard, covering it with the same pine paneling I made the pallet wall out of… heck, I even considered cardboard, because Lord knows I have a TON of that!

Wednesday morning I headed off to Lowes with measurements in hand to see what I could come up with for the least amount of money. An hour or so of walking around gathering ideas and I was finally ready to purchase two sheets of 1/4″ paintable smooth paneling, only to be told that their cutting machine was ‘out of order’ (for the second time in 2 months!) and I wouldn’t be able to fit the whole sheets in my SUV. Frustrated, I drove across the highway to Home Depot and searched out the same kind of panels. Finding someone to cut them proved to be difficult since their lumber guy “didn’t show up for work” that day, but they finally found me someone who could cut them down into the sections I needed. Why are these things so hard!?

During this excursion, I also had to figure out what kind of sub-floor to use under the sheet vinyl. I didn’t want the extra cost or weight of plywood, so I came up with what I thought was a pretty genius idea: anti-fatigue mat. In my mind, I thought it would be perfect to level out the ridges, while providing a nice cushy floor to stand on during long show days. I consulted with the flooring “expert” at Lowes and she said, “You can’t do that!” while looking at me like I had three heads. I said, “Why not?” And she quipped, “The vinyl won’t stick to that, you HAVE to glue it down!” I tried explaining that it was going in a truck and that I was going to secure the edges with metal trim and screw that directly into the floor, and that the space was only 5′ wide, but the more I explained the more she seemed irritated. So I walked off and loaded up enough anti-fatigue mat and floor trim to get the job done. What does she know about flooring in a mobile boutique anyways?

Back in the shed, I began the audacious task of adding paneling and trim to the cabinet. It’s pretty complicated what I actually did, and I am very confident that no one else will EVER have a project quite like this, so I didn’t take but one picture of the process. Basically, I cut paneling to fit along the back and sides of the cabinet. Then I cut 1×2 boards to the exact length needed to wedge them in tightly with a rubber mallet. (See below the bottom of the top shelf) I used liquid nails behind the boards and nothing else but sheer tightness to hold them in place, which in turn held the panels in place. I also repeated the same wedge-the-boards in there process to create the middle shelf where there previously was not one and I topped with paneling (therefore this shelf will hold less weight than the top or bottom). Using liquid nails again, I glued baseboard trim to the fronts of the shelves. Not knowing what to do with the corners, I made a trip to the local lumber place and grabbed quarter round to hide the small gaps between the paneling. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough to do all of the seems and I had vowed NOT to make another trip to the city, so I decided I would caulk the rest of the seams. By the way, I have never caulked anything in my life, but at this point, I was willing to try anything to get. it. done.

bookshelf_typogrfx

Two more days of frustrating trial and error and I finally achieved what I was going for! So I primed and painted it! Because of the quarter round and caulk seams and since I thought it would be too dark, I decided to paint the entire thing white instead of having the green panel in the back. Another note: caulk is my second new favorite building material!

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

I laid out the puzzle format of the anti-fatigue mat and layered the sheet vinyl over top of it. It felt like heaven to walk on! Just like I had planned, I screwed the trim down along the edges and it was done! I did learn from a friend who had done something similar in their house that high heels will poke through the flooring since the ‘sub-floor’ has so much give. As someone who doesn’t wear high heels, I decided that I was okay with it. And I made a small note on my “WATCH YOUR STEP” sign about no high heels. Problem solved.

flooring_typogrfx

It was exactly one week from the day I began the interior buildout until it was done and decorating could begin! Before I started piling in my stuff, I took a quick video of the interior. And that’s the last view of the truck until it’s BIG REVEAL! :)

 

Truck Paint Day

August 22, 2015. PAINT DAY. After what seemed like eons since I bought the truck and countless hours of down and dirty hard work, it was finally paint day. Ryker was sent off to Paw’s for the weekend, so Jackson could concentrate on getting the paint job done and I could document the process. Let’s be real, I wasn’t any help with the actual paint job itself. Jackson had decided that building out a plastic paint booth in our shed (attached to our barn house) would be easiest since his tools, compressor, electricity and lights were all ready there. He rigged up a truly marvelous structure using extension ladders, staples, duct tape and every ratchet strap he owed (and trust me, that’s a lot!). When it was done, it looked like something out of a Dexter episode – an eerie, glowy plastic room with lights and a big, gray, primered truck sitting right in the middle… waiting for its ‘procedure’.

paintbooth2

paintbooth

truck_scary

Doesn’t this look like some scene out of a scary-truck-gonna-eat-you-alive horror movie?!

I fashioned a camera box out of a cardboard box, a piece of glass and a lot of duct tape to protect my professional SLR from paint and affixed it to the top of my tripod just outside the plastic booth. I cut a small window in the plastic and sealed it with tape, so I could safely take pictures of the entire painting process.

Very high tech

Very high tech

"I always feel like somebody's watching me"

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me”

And so it began. Jackson worked methodically, back and forth, side to side, top to bottom, all the while I stood outside the booth and snapped a picture every few seconds. Over the course of 4 hours, I took approximately 300 pictures (I skipped taking pictures when he was working on the side of the truck I couldn’t see). After it was all said and done, I put the still images together in a video. (see below)

 

typogrfx_greenpaint

I think it’s ironic that after seven years of having this hard-to-describe, olive meets lime green color for my brand and logo, I never quite realized that it is the color of pea soup…. and now I have an entire truck painted this color. And I’m okay with that.

Within 24 hours of the paint fumes settling, we tore down the plastic paint booth, ripped off the masking and began reassembling the parts and pieces of the truck. It was surreal seeing the finished exterior come together as each piece was bolted back on. I could hardly believe how awesome and how very green the truck was!

truck_photobomb_typogrfx

 

TYPO Truck Progress

You might have noticed that I haven’t updated the blog in a few weeks. That doesn’t mean that progress on the truck hasn’t been happening, it just means it’s been a lot of work. And a lot of time. And energy. And sweat. And money. Don’t get me started on money! I’m reminded of a quote from the movie “Tiny” that I keep on a post-it note in my office:

“There’s a point in every project where the excitement of the original idea wears off… and you’re still left with a lot to do.”

To be honest, I’m still excited about this project – just frustrated with how overwhelming the work has been and how all of the parts and pieces are nickel and diming me to death. I have always ran my business debt-free and I have no intention of changing that, so hopefully we can get this thing finished and bringing IN money soon!

So here’s what we’ve been up to the past few weeks:

Sanding

Jackson sanding on the roof of the truck.

Jackson sanding on the roof of the truck.

Oh lordy! When my husband said every square inch of the truck had to be sanded, it didn’t seem like that big of deal. It’s unfathomable how much surface area there is on a truck this size. I helped where I could (mostly small areas around the windows, seals, etc) but Jackson did the majority of the sanding, and all of the dent repairs. When this is all said and done with, I am going to owe this man BIG time. I’m thinking of surprising him with a weekend of four wheeling with his buddies this fall.. Shhhh!! Don’t tell!

Sanding the individual letters on the grill - one of my favorite features of the whole truck

Sanding the individual letters on the grill – one of my favorite features of the whole truck

Here’s a photo of the truck sanded that I posted on my facebook page. One of my loyal followers asked if all of the spots were bullet holes since the truck used to be used in Kansas City Police Department missions. I literally laughed out loud when I read her question. No, they aren’t bullet holes, just spots where the paint needed sanded down to the metal or areas where there were dents fixed with bondo.

Sanded and dent repairs

Sanded and dent repairs

Taping

This is the kind of picture you get when a 5-year old has your phone

This is the kind of picture you get when a 5-year old has your phone

 Everything that didn’t need paint on it needed taped off, and I mean EVERYTHING. While not overly labor intensive, it was quite tedious getting the tape to go around the gaskets on the windows and other small details. Ryker frequently got in on the action creating tape mustaches and beards and proclaiming himself “Labe Lincoln” and he would stand on a tire and say in a husky voice, “Ladies and gentleman! I am Labe Lincoln the president!” It was good entertainment while working!

My favorite guy "helping"

My favorite guy “helping”

Primer!

After all of the hours and hours of prep work, the truck was finally ready to primer last weekend. Jackson declared that he needed Ryker and me “out of his hair” so we spent the afternoon enjoying a “mommy and Ryker” date at his favorite Tasty Thai restaurant and the movies to see “Shaun the Sheep” (which was hilarious by the way). When we returned, the truck was almost completely gray – sans a few spots where the green etching primer was showing through since Jackson ran out of primer. I was overjoyed!

The next day, Jackson started in wet sanding the truck. Oh man, I thought that regular sanding was terrible and dry and dusty. Wet sanding is worse! Water and primery gray slime slinging everywhere. We all got in on the “truck washing” action as Jackson sanded and Ryker and I washed away the residue with rags and water. I’m not sure if the 90 degree heat made the process better or worse, but none of us minded getting “accidentally” sprayed with the garden hose. Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of this process because I didn’t want to ruin my phone with water (or sweat), we were just trying to get it done, and I was wearing a cami with no bra (don’t judge – it was HOT outside!).

The truck is gray! The truck is gray!

The truck is gray! The truck is gray!

Next Step………. Paint!

I spent what seemed like hours in O’Reilly’s going through paint books trying to find the perfect paint color to match my signature TYPOGRFX green, which is half way between olive and lime green. During this process, I learned that their paint is $191 per gallon, and I need around 2 gallons to complete the truck. I nearly fainted.

After I finally chose a paint color, I learned that EVERY SINGLE LIME/OLIVE GREEN paint contained metallic or pearl. Jackson said that we couldn’t have any metallic or pearl because it’s extremely difficult to get even on large flat surfaces (unless you’re a professional autopainter who does it everyday). Just when I was sure I was going to have to give up and pick something boring like white or gray, he found a guy on eBay that sold custom mixed paint. I was quite skeptical since the guy didn’t have his own website, but I called him anyways (I hate dealing with ordering stuff on the phone!). I talked to “Tim” and explained my situation, and he assured me that he could match anything as long as he had a sample (business card, brochure, etc). Oh and his paint was $50 a gallon. 75% less than the auto store!! I was elated! We ended up getting 3 gallons of green (just to be on the safe side since it was custom mixed), 1 gallon of Ford white (for the top of the truck, bumper, grill, mirrors, etc.), and all of the reducer, hardener, mixing cups, and more for less than 2 gallons from the other store.

This weekend we will build out a paint booth using plastic and lumber bought off of craigslist for way cheaper than retail. And hopefully the truck will be green this time next week! Then comes the interior buildout! This dream is getting closer to reality every day!

Pic the paint guy sent me of the paint with my brochure

Pic the paint guy sent me of the paint with my brochure

It's even named after me!

It’s even named after me!