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 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!

 

Faux Pallet Wall Tutorial

Ryker spent most of last week at my parents’ house, so I spent every waking minute working on things for the truck, especially knowing that I had to have surgery on Friday to remove skin cancer from my arm and would be unable to work on the truck for a while after that. I managed to knock out 2 major projects as well as tackle many other odds and ends, like ordering flooring and sanding on the exterior.

One of my most anticipated projects for the TYPO truck has been the faux pallet wall that I included on my dream board, because I had been dying to do something like this, but had never found a space in my home that I could test it out. After lots of research on Pinterest, I was certain that the truck would be the perfect space to do an accent wall like this. Plus, I wanted to incorporate a rustic vibe to offset the modern, clean feel of the bright white metal walls. I knew from my research that I didn’t want to mess with using actual pallets because they are A) hard to come by any more B) even harder to disassemble and C) who knows what kinds of chemicals they could have on them?! (Scary stuff!) I found a really great blog post about how to create a faux pallet wall, so I used it as a starting point, but of course I tweaked it to work for my needs.

Blogger Wendy James accomplished what I’m sure would have taken me forever – she found the perfect, affordable and easy to work with material to use for the pallet boards, and best of all, it is available at my local Lowes store (she had to order it online from Lowes). After taking measurements and doing the math, I estimated that I had around 30 square feet to cover, so I picked up 3 packages that each covered 9.33 square feet for around $11. I have to be as cheap frugal as possible with this truck project! (I did end up being short by two rows, so I had to go back and get another package. Darn!)

EverTrue Edge V-Groove unfinished pine paneling

EverTrue Edge V-Groove unfinished pine paneling

So here’s the biggest difference between the way I did my pallet wall and every other tutorial I saw on Pinterest….. I cut my boards first, then applied stain. Let me explain. I knew I had to be super efficient with my boards to minimize waste. I also knew that I would be super picky about the pattern of the various colors of stain I intended to use. So I set up two folding tables that happen to be almost the same width of the accent walls I needed to create 35.25″ wide (boy that number will be forever stuck in my head after doing the math on the calculator so many times).

The whole boards were 32″ long, so not quite long enough to reach end to end, which was fine, because I wanted a more “reclaimed” look anyways. I arbitrarily cut the first board to a length that would reach approximately half way across the width – let’s say 17″ for the sake of this tutorial. Then I took 35.25 – 17 = 18.25, so I measured out 18.25 on a whole new board and cut it. Then I laid the two pieces together face down (I also did all of my pencil marks on the backside so I wouldn’t have to worry about them showing up.) Row one was complete. And now I had two other shorter pieces to work with. I basically moved the cut pieces around until I liked where they lined up with the row above them, then I would cut a piece to the right length if there was any shortage. If two pieces together were much longer than 35.25, I saved one of them for the next row instead of cutting it down and wasting any. I continued working my way down row by row, and I randomly varied between two and three pieces per row. After every thing was said and done, I ended up with three scrap pieces each less than 1″ wide (and 3/4 of a whole package that can be used for another project) so I’d say I did great on minimizing waste.

palletwall_TYPOGRFX_1

Laying out the cut boards in their rows

All of the cut boards arranged.

All of the cut boards arranged.

When I finally had enough rows to fill the space top to bottom, I labeled each one with a sharpie. I started at the top right corner with P1A – which meant passenger side (because I’m doing an accent wall on each side of the truck and their heights are different), row 1, piece A. The next piece was labeled P1B (passenger, row 1, piece B). Now I did the ABC labeling from right to left because this is the back side of the whole thing so it will be reversed when looking at it from the front. The other side was labeled D1A, D1B, etc (for driver’s side). But feel free to use whatever labeling system works for you, but I would HIGHLY recommend doing some kind of labeling since every piece has a specific place it needs to fit so the line spacing all works out right. Another note, I had originally thought that I wanted to have this side face outwards because it was more rough looking like a true pallet board, but after a quick test on one board, I realized that the rough side did not stain well at all, so I nixed that idea.

Pallet boards labeled

Pallet boards labeled

After I labeled every board, I flipped each row over, making sure that each piece stayed in the same spot it was supposed to be in (so that it would go up like A, B, C). Then came the fun part of staining the boards! I’m still relatively new to using stain – I’m more of a paint everything gal – so I was going purely on Pinterest advice and luck. I started with three colors of stain: english chestnut, natural and weathered gray (which was the only one I had to purchase since I already had the other two on hand). I cut up an old t-shirt into 5 different rags, one for each color of stain, one for blending and one just in case. Working with rubber gloves on, I started on the top row with the dark stain. Dab the rag in the stain and rub, rub, rub into the board! I did make sure to lightly stain the end of the board that would be exposed, but I didn’t take too much care to get into the v-groove completely because it wouldn’t show when the panels were together. I noticed right away that the dark stain was not nearly dark enough for the darkest dark I had in mind, so I hit it another time with the stain, still not dark enough, but I moved on. The next board I used the weathered gray, which at first went on almost as opaque as paint and freaked me out! So I quickly grabbed one of the clean rags and wiped and wiped and the wood grain showed through as anticipated. I also noted that the gray was much bluer than I was going for, but I figured I could fix that later if needed.

Using the natural stain was completely new for me. Having read Wendy’s tutorial, she suggested layering the natural with the dark stain or the gray or both for a completely new color, so I did just that, experimenting and blending as I went. I discovered that the stains blended a lot like oil paints do when painting a picture. As long as one layer is still wet, the next layer will blend into it with a bit of work.

Deciding what color would come next was a process almost identical to the way I pick colors for words on a TYPOGRFX. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just a process that exists in my head. Not an exact pattern, but not exactly random either. These stain colors are almost exactly like the colors of the ever-popular Ward color scheme.

I decided to see just how dark I could get since the board in the top row was not nearly dark enough, so I laid down the dark stain thick and I left it sit for a few minutes. I wiped it down with the extra rag, then did it again. Finally, it was getting dark enough. Ultimately, the boards I did that to ended up having a slight sheen to them, but I don’t mind.

Stained panels

Stained panels

After all of the boards were cut and stained for both walls, I brought out one of my greige slipcovered chairs for color comparison. As I had previously thought, the gray was a bit too blue, so I went back to my stain stash and pulled out the dreaded “golden oak” (gasp! the horror! I guess I should be honest here, this really is my husband’s stash of stain so he can be blamed for this atrocity). So I grabbed up one of the shorter blue/gray boards and lightly layered the golden oak over it (you can close your eyes for this part if it’s too scary) and it actually did the trick! It toned down the blue just enough to greige up the gray to just the right amount. Whew! Crisis averted! Unfortunately, I did not get a pic of this very last step of adding the golden oak layer because I had to gather up all of the boards because the shed roof was leaking/dripping during a very heavy rainstorm and I didn’t want any of the boards to get wet, so here’s what they looked like pre-golden oak layer:

All boards cut and stained

All boards cut and stained

And of course, I was so proud of my two pallet walls that I had to take a selfie! Stay tuned for the final reveal when the pallet wall gets installed in the truck, which will be AFTER all of the exterior work and paint is done.

palletwall_TYPOGRFX_6_small

Although the doctor said I can’t be sanding or painting on the truck (or anything for that matter) for at least two weeks, Jackson is picking up the slack and working tirelessly on the exterior body work as well as the mechanical things that needed fixed (no more oil pressure issues – yay!). This project would be a complete loss if it weren’t for his help and expertise!

Update – September 2015!

The truck is now completely done! You can see how I installed the pallet wall boards here and you can see the full reveal here! The pallet wall is probably my favorite part of the whole truck!

TYPO Truck Dream Board

On demo day the bench seat and cabinet were removed from the truck, meaning I could take more precise measurements and make exact plans for finishing out the interior of the truck. Building on the plans I laid out earlier this week, I put together scale drawings of each side. Overall, I am pleased with the plan. The feel will be modern and clean, yet inviting. The pallet wall will be the perfect rustic accent to compliment the barn wood and burlap samples. Plus, my shopping list is relatively short:

• one can of Rust-oleum gloss sand (already purchased for $10 to make the perfect greige using paint I already had on hand)
• 3-4 packages of pine planking to make the pallet wall (Lowes – $10 each)
• one small can of gray stain (I already have every other color of stain imaginable)
• 5 linear feet of vinyl flooring (probably Home Depot – around $144)
• greige fabric for cushions
• free/cheap couch cushions that can be recovered
• curtain material (maybe a drop cloth, repurposed sheet, etc) to separate cab from the back of the truck – at least until I can save up enough to revamp the front interior of the truck

The only thing I have to build from scratch is the table, and I already have many of the materials on hand to do so. I also have tons of scrap trim that came out of our neighbor’s burn pile that can be used to finish out the cabinet bookcase. I already have most of the other decor and accent items I will use from my TYPOGRFX show booth. Also, it will be great to keep all of my samples in the truck now, instead stored of my office!

dreamboard_TYPOGRFXtruck

dreamboard_TYPOGRFXtruck2trucklayout_TYPOGRFX

Demo Day!

I’m now a full week and half into this truck project, and it’s a wonder I have made it this far with all of the hurdles and hoops I have had to jump through just to get this project going. Inspections, insurance, licensing – all of the noncreative, no-fun stuff that has to be done before moving forward with my creative vision. I think we’re on the home stretch with the boring stuff, so now comes more fun things – like demo! Jackson got rained out from work this week and since it was unusually cold for July, I figured it would be a good day to work on the interior of the truck. So after some begging persuasion, Jackson drug out the grinder, sawzall, sledge hammer and pry bars and got to work removing the driver side bench and cabinet. I helped when I could, but really I was just supervising most of the time.

Safety first

Safety first

Jackson assessing the situation

Jackson assessing the situation

Finally loose!

Finally loose!

 

All clear!

All clear!

The next step will be sanding all of the wall surface so it can be primed and painted. Speaking of paint, I recently discovered that you cannot have Rust-oleum oil based paint tinted like you can regular interior paint. Not being one to let that stop me, I set about experimenting with mixing my own paint using the standard colors available and most importantly using up the multiple gallons of “gloss white” and “smoke gray” I already had on hand (because, hey, we’re on a tight budget here!). I picked up one $10 can of “gloss sand” at Westlake which proved to be the key ingredient for making the perfect warmer shade of white and greige. I did a test patch on the cabinet that came out of the truck and it covered well. Unfortunately, before I can begin painting the interior, the exterior  has to be painted first, and I’m still debating on how that will get done (DIY vs paid professional). So wish me luck with figuring that out!

A successful experiment!

A successful experiment!