Three months and a few weeks ago, no one planned to be unemployed or have their hours cut.
A little over three months ago the year was off to a great start but all of that would change.
During the downfall of the economy due to Covid-19, all of our clients planning to marry an inmate were roadblocked when visitation was revoked.
Our traditional bookings were cancelled by their venues.
Both groups faced economic setbacks in the midst of this pandemic. Clients from TDCJ Officiant and Texas Twins Events contacted me to barter their event.
This “switch” was unprecedented. After all a very small margin of our bookings are bartered. The option exists though and has for five years now.
Five years ago, Cindy and I decided to merge Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create The Pawning Planners. We literally opened a window in the events industry that had never before been a consideration in this industry. By doing so, we were able to address any economic level. From people with money who could easily pay for services through Texas Twins Events to people with no money opting to barter through The Pawning Planners, we effectively addressed a wide and varied client base of people regardless of their background.
Since I’m always asked, Cindy and I flip refurbished trades or quick flips (items that don’t require refurbishing) at Texas Twins Treasures.
Since 2003, Cindy and I have been flipping items on eBay. In 2007, I was selling on Craigslist. By 2009, I opened a storefront on eBay because I had a worldwide buyers market on EBay.
My furniture designs ship worldwide. Buyers pay freight and packaging. I use the finest upholstery and foam and don’t skimp on quality. Refurbishing furniture is expensive. From labor to materials the cost to refurbish a furniture item can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
I’m very selective regarding furniture barters for a number of reasons. First there has to be a unique and valuable trade that grabs my interest. Large items require a box truck and storage prior to the expense of upholstery, foam and labor.
What am I looking for? Antique pieces. Good bones. Structure. Durability.
Cindy refuses to consider a furniture flip because she’s well aware of the expenses on our end. My twin prefers quick flips. Small items that can be listed and sold immediately. Cindy is the quick flip Queen. She never leaves the house without a magnet and a loop.
My twin is always on the lookout for a treasure among the trash. One year Cindy found a platinum set diamond ring in a box of junk that she sold for $3500. She probably could have fetched a higher price but went to one place rather than three to sell it. We’ve both learned to get three bids and in rare situations we will pay for an appraisal. It depends on the item. Appraisals are expensive.
Last week we took a very large bronze statue of two lion fish in trade. This trade required a dolly due to the weight of the item. Because it was patina and hadn’t been cleaned in many years, I assumed it to be from the 60’s or 70’s but couldn’t find anything like it anywhere on the internet. Because I couldn’t find a similar item, I paid for an appraisal and didn’t polish the brass statue. Occasionally, it’s best not to clean a vintage piece. Why? Buyers want original condition items. I’m still waiting on the appraisal.
A few years ago, we took a burled walnut trunk in trade. You wouldn’t believe what a buyer in New York paid for that item. We couldn’t and the buyer paid freight and packaging too.
Yesterday, I took a trade of not one but two burled walnut end tables. They are massive and in excellent vintage condition. I haven’t had time to list them and unlike the trunk and a “guesstimate” of their current value, I ordered an appraisal.
From canoes, to pocketknife collections to corkscrew collections to coin collections to everything in between, Cindy and I have found some really unique trades over the years.
Last night I was sent a photo of a krugerrand. It has a clasp to be worn as a necklace and a decorative gold braiding around it. I’ve never seen one in person and I’m excited to go view this unique trade today.
The prospective client wants to barter the krugerrand in exchange for a prison wedding in Iowa. The range of prices for these pieces varies widely. Because of the fluctuating prices, I’m getting an appraisal.
Our contracts regarding barters are specific regarding exactly what is being bartered.
Here’s a link for Pawning Planners prospective clients considering bartering- Pawning Planners Contract Cindy and I require at least a month because flipping items takes time and because between selling at Texas Twins Treasures, client meetings and bookings for Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners and TDCJ Officiant as well as bookings from venues I’m on staff at time is the one thing we have very little of and because flipping an item to cover our expense doesn’t always occur within a certain timeline. Just because we list it doesn’t mean we will sell it. Nobody hits a lick every time and we don’t either.
“I want to start bartering. What can you tell me regarding the risks and rewards?” Well friend you need to have money to start a bartering business. Why? Because you must build your client base. You must be able to support yourself while flipping items. You must assume all risk. If an item doesn’t sell you will need to discount it. You need to know the market. You need to research. You need to learn about appraising. The expense of moving and storing items. The expense of refurbishing items. You must have something to barter in the ways of services or products in exchange for the flip. Bartering is risky business. You are gambling on your ability to flip whatever you’ve taken in trade. What experience do you have in selling? Do you have a strong social media? Do you put any effort into your social media campaign? Do you have a selling outlet? These are all things anyone asking Cindy or I need to consider. If it looks easy you haven’t done it. Success isn’t easy for anyone. It’s trial and error. It’s hit and miss. It’s risk and reward.
“I’ve decided after visiting your sites that I want to go into the events business. What advice can you give me? What you do looks like something I can do.” I hear this a lot. In fact it’s not uncommon for someone “trying to do what we do” to contact me and ask me to send them leads from our client bases.
Sorry friend but we aren’t in the business of referring clients coming to us to someone else. They are coming to us because we do events differently. What do I mean by that? Are you willing to spend the money to create a massive inventory to LOAN to clients? Are you willing to spend the time to do free photo shoots with an suv full of bouquets, furs, fascinators, tiaras, signs and more on location as a courtesy and then edit and pay for double prints to send to your clients as a courtesy? I didn’t think so. We do what no one else will. We treat each and every unique clients event like it’s the only event we have. Our stellar reputation was earned and our organic growth the past ten years includes rebranding and expanding not once but twice.
When I decided to start a people over profit based events business to give others the Dream Event I didn’t have myself, Cindy and I sat down and went over all of the things we would have wanted. What was important to us? How could we make services affordable? Why would people choose us over other vendors? Texas Twins Events was a low cost option from the start but what we offered was far more than bothering to show up on wedding day. What we offered at an affordable cost was what we would have wanted ourselves.
We took risks. We were LBGT Friendly from the conception of Texas Twins Events. We welcomed diversity. We set no limits on client requests. We were open to anything someone wanted help with.
From graduation pictures for a young senior that was the first in his family to graduate high school to a widow that wanted to barter a two headed fox that was missing an eyeball to a father that made his own moonshine to just about any crazy and unexpected situation you could imagine, Cindy and I have loaded up and headed off to hilarious appraisal appointments with prospective clients that have in truth been a real adventure.
“What is a week in your life like?” Well buddy prior to Covid-19, I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays on the road to Prisons. Prison weddings are scheduled during the week and rarely on Mondays or Fridays and never on the weekends. Why? In order not to interfere with visitation. My schedule has changed over the years as has Cindy’s. In the beginning we were refurbishing and flipping items or creating inventory for Texas Twins Events during the week and working events on weekends. After creating the barter option of The Pawning Planners, our weekdays in season were spent on location at appraisal appointments.
The popularity of State, Federal, ICE and County Jail weddings over the years literally changed all client bookings to predominantly inmate weddings the past three plus years. Cindy and I as well as her daughter, Leigh Ann and my son all perform inmate weddings in numerous states. This shocks everyone researching Texas Twins Events or Wendy Wortham as I officiate far more Inmate weddings than anyone else.
“Why would you choose to walk into a prison and officiate a ceremony? What prompted that?” A creative request for an inmate Marriage. I have never limited creative requests. Ever. I’m open to just about any type of request. People come to me for help with an event, insight or assistance. These people know when they come to me for help that I will help them. They know I care. That Cindy cares. That our entire family is committed to making Dream Events a reality one family at a time. We are resilient. Passionate. Determined. Dedicated.
“So you work during the week at detention centers and weekends at exclusive venues. Which do you prefer?” I’m asked this a lot. I prefer detention facilities. Sit down. Settle in and listen to why. For ten years I’ve been on location with Bridezillas, Groomzillas, Guestzillas, drunks, guests that weren’t invited and more. I’ve seen it all. I’ve been through it all. Cindy and I have been smack dab in the middle of chaos over and over and over. There is no chaos at a Unit Wedding. There is structure. Predictability. A love story. It isn’t about having a flashy wedding. The perfect dress. The perfect cake. The music. The guests. Inmate weddings are intimate. No one is going to jump up and try to object. No one is going to get drunk or get into an argument.
“You say that with conviction. How many times have you encountered conflict at a wedding?” More than I could ever count.
“Best and worst moments at your big events?” Let’s start with the craziest. A California wedding perfectly planned. Months into the planning, the mother of the bride is arguing openly with the mother of the groom. The mother of the bride is paying for everything. The mother of the groom wants the wedding to honor her Hispanic Heritage. The mother of the bride doesn’t. This battle went on for months. On wedding day against my suggestions, open bars were at three locations. There was no security. There was chaos. Open bars are the single worst idea every client wants and always has been. You cannot take a group of people who may or may not get along and throw a free flowing booze buffet at them and expect good results.
The best moment on location at a traditional event? The DJ didn’t have the brides entrance music in Burleson. I asked for the song title. Here Comes The Sun. I knew the song but I’m not a singer. I announced the issue to a confused group of guests waiting on the bride. I enlisted them to sing with me so the bride would know to enter. It was an amazing moment of people who had issues at the rehearsal coming together. The mother who had argued with the father for two hours at the rehearsal forgot her long held anger. She sung her lungs out.
My blogs are a diary of my adventures. Texas Twins Events was my first blog. Texas Twins Treasures, The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins TV and TDCJ Officiant all came after Texas Twins Events.
Cindy and I as well as our adult children and grandchildren have met amazing people across the U.S. that we never would have if we hadn’t seen that the need for affordable options existed. We wanted to change all of that. We wanted to give others an event they would treasure for years to come. We have and continue to make Dream Events a Reality one family or barter at a time from Fort Worth, Texas…