Marlo Johnson Productions
Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Shows
An interview with Marlo Johnson, Owner of Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Show and participant in the Yavapai College SBDC’s Small Business Makeover Program.
Years in Business: 9
Location: Current shows run most months throughout the year and are set up at the Sedona Vista Village and Bell Rock Plaza in Village of Oak Creek, Los Rosales West Sedona, and soon to be in Fountain Hills.
Products/Services – Different from a gallery where you are met by a single sales person, Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Shows offer fun, festive, outdoor events ongoing throughout the year where you can speak directly to the local artists that make their wares. From pottery and photography, to American Indian jewelry, home décor, and glassware, the shows founder and director Marlo Johnson creates an interactive experience not just sales and retail – “The face to face interaction at these art shows is different than what we are experiencing in the digital world,” Marlo said, “People are craving the social aspect of my shows and meeting the people behind the products.” In addition to fine arts and crafts, the shows are spattered with food vendors, tarot card reading, live music, palmistry, and self-care products. These shows are more like festivals not simply art shows!
What makes your business special? The locations themselves are special. She has found key locations right on the main highways in and out of beautiful Sedona. With 5 million visitors each year, many of whom pass right by, the shows offer visitors and locals a peek at some of the top area artists in an outdoor setting. “People enjoy these unexpected events.” Marlo said. “Visitors feel like they just happened upon something special and unique, and they have!” These shows are truly a fun, festive atmosphere, all outdoors, with live music, and food vendors.
What’s the biggest challenge you have today? The biggest challenge right now is trying to make the art shows a destination not just a drive by attraction. Marlo wants to be more of a destination art show with repeat customers and to diversify her customer base with not just those that happened upon the shows, but that are visiting Sedona to attend her shows.
Why do you love this work? All the artists are amazing and Marlo likes knowing she is making a difference in their lives by offering the opportunity for them to sell their amazing art and products in this setting. Many of the artists make their sole income from these shows. Serving over 100 artists, she feels like she contributes to their livelihood and the livelihood of their families. She creates a positive working environment with repeat artists that show up consistently.
What are you hoping to get out of this program? Marlo is interested in becoming more educated in the world of business – She is looking forward to the information provided through the intensive trainings and just wants to be a better business person. She hopes to diversify her sales channels and have a stronger online presence. Marlo is also interested in expanding sponsorships for her shows and starting more pop up type shows in the lobbies of hotels.
Have you always dreamed of doing this? Marlo started Oak Creek Arts and Crafts Shows 9 years ago. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her family had businesses in the outlet mall. She originally started with 8 shows locally and now does 38 shows a year, with two shows in Fountain Hills and 36 in the Verde Valley.
What’s your secret sauce? Marlo works hard to build strong relationships with her artists. She believes because she has so much respect for them and truly cares about them, they come back and they refer other artists. These are juried shows and each location has different criteria. Bell Rock Plaza shows includes 80% handmade items. Sedona Vista Village includes 80-90% local artists that are committed to return each month. Los Rosales shows are predominantly fine art and much more exclusive, so not everyone that applies is eligible to showcase there. The new Fountain Hills shows will be exclusively American Indian Art. By offering a range of options, Marlo has created a diversified experience that meets a variety of consumer demands. Because the shows are primarily art, the product is always fresh and new.
Marlo relies heavily on the existing Sedona market. With so many visitors coming to Sedona already, the shows see new people and a new audience every week. This is a huge advantage to her business.
What advice would you give to aspiring small business owners? Build relationships.