It's hard not to be inspired by the artists and makers of the Cleveland Flea. Brilliant, talented, creative. They're tough as bleepin' nails on their ways to making their dreams come true. We began The Maker Series to take a look — behind the scenes, beyond the booth — to see what drives our makers to do what they love and love what they do.
Q + A with Megan Baechle of Wizard of Oddz
When you have the opportunity to interview the self-proclaimed "queen of blow molds", you listen up. Megan Baechle, owner of Wizard of Oddz, brings the strangest, most campy parts of our childhood memories back to life with her collection of cool and kitsch. From TV trays to piles upon piles of Pyrex, Megan really knows how to nail-down nostalgia! She has an eye for retro gold, and her heart's in the right place, too. For Megan, vintage is a way of life. Get a glimpse of her collection and a taste of her good intentions in our Maker Series interview below.
Cleveland Flea: What was your path to beginning your business?
Megan Baechle: Wizard of Oddz was originally created as a creative outlet for owner, Megan Baechle, to follow her passion of rescuing amazing treasures from the past so they did not end up in the local landfill. As a kid, Megan spent practically every weekend perusing local flea markets with her dad, in search of their next treasure. She’s spent most of her life finding and fixing things that needed some TLC. After five years working in marketing and event planning, she came to realize that it was feasible to turn her passion into a career and thus, Wizard of Oddz was created.
CF: Why do you love what you do?
MB: Honestly, it's the thrill of the hunt! It's hard to explain the feeling I get when I am out at a flea market or an estate sale and I see something I've never seen before. My heart starts to race, my palms get sweaty and it's like the world slows down for just a few seconds until I come to and find myself actually running toward it! Call me an addict, but I don't think I'll ever get sick of chasing that feeling.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
MB: Cleveland is a forward thinking city full of people who love this town. It's full of creative individuals who thrive on thinking outside of the box. Wizard of Oddz shares the same values and we love our town and want to preserve its history while at the same time, want to support forward thinking. Buying vintage is not only a way of life for creative people who want to stand out in the crowd, but it also supports a forward way of thinking in environmental conservation. Buying used versus new is a form of recycling and allows Clevelanders to support the effort of reducing their environmental footprint.
CF: Why is Cleveland a great place to launch and run a creative business?
MB: Cleveland is chalked full of some of the most creative people I've ever known. It's where east coast meets midwest. We are a city full of creative minds and yet, we all share a sense of community. Through participating in the Flea, I've formed great friendships with other vintage vendors. They are always willing to lend a hand and help whether I need input on staging my booth or texting them a photo of something I've found to ask "have you ever seen ANYTHING like this before?!". I am so inspired by the other small business owners in this city. They inspire and push me to try new things and make my business the best it can be.
CF: What's the best part of running your own business?
MB: I guess I've always been an independent person who wasn't always good at taking directions from other people. Call it a fault, call it a benefit but either way, it's made me a prime candidate for running my own business. I love spending my days doing what I love. Although the hours are long, it never feels like "work". And no longer dreading Mondays is probably the best part.
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
MB: When you start a business, particularly when it's just you, you have to be everything - marketing, accounting, HR, curator, sales, etc. It's simply not possible for one person to be good at all of these things. I think the biggest struggle is knowing when to call for reinforcement and acknowledge that you need help. Once you do and begin to align yourself with people who can help fill in the gaps, you'll find that your business will strengthen and grow.
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
MB: My goal is to work with others who have been successful in marketing their business to learn how I can do a better job of getting my name out there. I'd like to grow my social media following and learn how to better curate my content.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to be a creative vendor?
MB: At first thought, I always think the answer to this question is no. I always thought of myself as being very A type and as a rule follower. But when I really think back to the smaller details of my life, I think there were always signs that I was destined to do what I'm doing now. That feeling I get when I find something cool at a flea market is the same feeling I've always had. And while I was always a rule follower, when I found a rule that I thought didn't make sense, I would work to change it instead of working to break it. Some people have called my brave, but honestly, I'm probably just a foolish dreamer who has grown up to be someone that needs to pave their own way in life. Perhaps that's the true spirit of an entrepreneur.
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
MB: Last year, I went through the Bad Girl Ventures program which forced me to sit down and put my business plan on paper. While it was a scary, tedious and exhausting process, by the time I was done, I knew this was something I could actually make happen. I think it was at our graduation ceremony when I had to pitch my business in front of a room full of a couple hundred people that I thought "I can do this". I got such great feedback from everyone in that room that I felt like I could fly if I wanted to. In entrepreneurship, believing in yourself is more than half the battle.
CF: Who inspires you?
MB: I grew up with a mom who was and still is very career oriented. This is not to say that she wasn't a good mom, because she was. In fact, she inspired me so much more because she was willing to say that while she enjoyed being a mother, that wasn't the only thing she wanted out of life at a time when it was unconventional to think that way. She found a way to make it work and grew a strong career for herself that she truly enjoys and still managed to always be there for every one of my events. She reminds me every day that you can do whatever you set your mind to, even if it goes against the conventional norms. Aside from her, I am inspired every single time I come to the Flea. It is an incubator for like minded people who are creative, strong, smart and driven. If you don't leave the Flea feeling inspired, you better check your pulse!
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
MB: I've learned tons!! Mostly, I've learned what people want. To see a group of 20,000-30,000 people come through in one day, you get exposed to a lot in a short period of time. Sometimes I think I know exactly what shoppers will like and what will speak to them only to find that I was way off! But along with that, I think I've also learned patience and to not let myself get defeated. Sometimes, certain things just take a certain buyer. I had to go on a lot of bad dates before I met my husband, and the same can be said for finding the right match for some of my far out pieces.
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
MB: Don't be afraid to dream! Three years ago, I spent most of my time daydreaming about what my business could be until it finally got the point where I had to tell myself "just do it already!". I am certainly not going to say it was easy quitting my job and leaving behind my comfortable life, but I knew that if I didn't push myself to dream and to actually take steps toward trying to make those dreams a reality, I would always wonder what could have been.
CF: How would you hope to hear your business described by your dream customers?
MB: If my customers tell me that they've seen at least one thing in my shop that they've never seen before, I feel like I've done my job. I hope that my items spark interest, conversation, memories and creativity. I always love to hear from my customers after they get my pieces home and find ways to creatively implement them into their homes. And hopefully, it sparks up a conversation the next time they have company over.
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
MB: I am actually the daughter of two pretty conservative parents who weren't really artistic, wild or the creative type. Not to say that's wrong! We need both the yin people and the yang people to make the world go round. But sometimes my parents see some of the pieces I make and wonder if I was switched at birth! I'm not sure where the inspiration for my love of all things bizarre and head turning comes from exactly. Sometimes my family thinks I'm crazy but they support me and my business anyway.
CF: What's your favorite booth at the flea?
MB: This is too hard to answer! I rarely get to actually go shop at the Flea because it's so crazy (in a good way!), but when I do, I LOVE to go check out the other vintage vendors. Some of my favorites are Great Lakes Outfitters, Articles, All Things for You, Cosmic Girl Goes Home, Sis Style, Betty's Retro and Suzy Q's Redos. And of course, I have to stop and get a treat from Brewnuts and Lala Custom Cakes!