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The Life of a Vendor

On the road with Louise van Broekhuizen

Most of the time I don’t mind going to bed after midnight to finish last-minute packing and getting up earlier than the sun that morning to catch a flight for my next show. I mean, the way I figure it, when I run out of hours in the day to accomplish what needs to be done I just find the extra hours when I would normally sleep.

And then I do without the sleep.
Living life the way I live it, it’s crucial to be flexible.

If I don’t get to start my day in solitude and quiet because I’m rooming with three other vendors, I find that time in my car on the way to pick up my morning coffee. When I don’t shower in the morning because the bathroom is being occupied by those other three vendors, I shower at night.

At times I don’t have time to sleep a full 8 hours at night, I make up for it on my next flight or wait until I get home. Flexible is my middle name.

Going on the road from show to show takes a lot out of you. Whether it’s driving for 9-12 hours at a stretch to reach your next destination or setting up all day before a Preview Night or working the last day of the show only to still have to tear down and pack up afterwards, the show life is not a glamorous one. You can talk to any vendor on any given day at any given show and they will tell you: it’s a lot of work. And the payoff is farther down the road.

I get a kick out of it when customers actually stop to realize how much work it is for a vendor on the road. “I’ll bet it takes you a lot of time to set up your booth!” or “You must be exhausted, standing on your feet all day” or “Wow! You still have to pack up everything before you go to your next show.” Yes. To all of the above. And then it starts all over again. People usually don’t give it a lot of thought. It’s refreshing when someone does.

To find people who will buy what you’re selling is somewhat of an art. You’re there. And you either have something they want or you don’t. That’s just the way it is. I happen to sell a beautiful Laga Handbags handmade product with a beautiful story and purpose. I personally consider receiving an “open door” to tell my story as a gift. A beautiful gift that I am giving them. One that, once it’s revealed, will change the way they look at life, make their heart melt and fill them with compassion. The way it happened for me when I first began this journey.

Of course, that is always my hope. Obviously it doesn’t always happen. I try to tell the story to as many as come by my booth but sometimes there just isn’t enough time. And I’m not an aggressive sales person. As a matter of fact, I don’t sell. I give information that will or will not compel someone to come alongside in support.

I receive a lot of different reactions from passers by. There are always several at every show who give the roll of the eyes when they see the price tag. I get it. Not everyone can afford a Laga Bag. And the ones who mumble under their breath, as if I don’t hear them, “they’ve been on Oprah, must be expensive.” If they lingered long enough I could tell them that they are not as expensive as they might think. But for the most part I just chalk it up to ignorance on their part. They don’t understand. What a shame that they’ll never know the real story. But the one that really kills me is the one who doesn’t care who hears when they say something like “those must be made in a sweat shop.”

Yep. That’s the one that gets a reaction from me. As they attempt to quickly walk by, I say loudly but with a kind voice, “Oh, honey, you don’t understand! The ladies who make our bags lost everything in the 2004 tsunami. You remember, the one that wiped out over 285,000 people in Southeast Asia? We are helping them rebuild their lives! And every cent goes to providing them with income and education and a hope for the future!” Sometimes, to my delight, they will stop and apologize and ask me to tell them more details. What a blessing! More times than not, they just keep walking. It just breaks my heart. But I can’t lose hope. If I lose hope, I lose everything. And that’s just not what I’m about. Hope is the reason my company exists in the first place.

So, yea, I’m not a hard sell. I desire for people to “want” to be a part of the opportunity I am offering them. Each time I tell my story, I relive it. Over and over again. Every wave. Every tear. Every life lost. Whether or not it will compel others to come alongside and feel the compassion that I feel, it fulfills me to tell that story. Because I know in the end, what I do is for the greater good. The greater good of a people who suffered excruciatingly and in a way that even I will never be able to fully comprehend.

I hope you understand that my work as a vendor is more than just running around the country selling handmade handbags and accessories and getting tired. Making a difference around the world, from the people in Indonesia who benefit from my hard work to those who hear my story and sustain this work. This is what I do. You may see me standing all day as a vendor but the reality is, I’m standing for a very important cause: changing lives, one handbag at a time. To those who have come alongside of Laga Handbags, let me shout out a Big Thank You! on behalf of all the tsunami survivors in Indonesia that we serve.

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