Link to PLY Away

Fair Fiber Wage, a look from the other side

You can’t pay people what they’ll take, you have to pay them what they’re worth. This simple premise becomes difficult for a myriad of reasons. The first and most confusing for some is that often people don’t know what they’re worth. That not knowing comes from a culture of silence, a lack of transparency, and as usual, the relentless pursuit of the almighty buck by people in power.

This is a huge issue in all areas of creation, and it’s hard for anybody to get a fair shake (or even to know what a fair shake is, what with all the shushing that goes on about money), but where it concerns craft, artists, fiber-work, and women is the one I’m most familiar with and the one I’m specifically talking about here. Those are a lot of areas that historically don’t get a lot of respect, right? Craft. Artists. Fiber-work. Women. Geez, it’s like a stacked deck, and I’m thrilled that Mary Beth and Abby are willing to show their cards, if you will, and get the conversation rolling.

I taught for 10 years before I started PLY Magazine and then PLY Away. I supported a family of 3, then 4, then 5 with teaching and writing, and it wasn’t easy. I could talk about that, but the truth is, I don’t teach very often now, so that’s no longer my reality and there are people with strong voices who can (and are) speaking to that. What I can speak to is the position I’m in now, which is overwhelmingly informed by my previous position as a teacher trying to eke a living out of the thing I was good at and loved doing. Now I run a magazine and put on an annual fiber retreat, and I try to do it fairly and with transparency.

I want to talk about the financials of a retreat, of a big retreat. I want to assure you that anyone who says it’s just not financially viable to pay teachers fairly (they wouldn’t use that word, of course; they’d say “pay teachers more than the industry standard” or something that makes it easier to swallow) is wrong. The key is not expecting a huge profit. Why should that be my (the organizer, underwriter, parent company, corporation) right? I believe that. The first thing you have to be willing to do is pay people what they are worth, and shockingly, that must include yourself (what I mean here is that I should get paid fairly and not expect huge profits and large salaries).

Before I get into the actual nitty-gritty numbers of PLY Away, let me give you the bottom line, in case financials bore you like they bore me (unless they’re my own). With all the outgoing and incoming money, the bottom line is it can be done. When I started this retreat, I told myself that if I could run a first-time retreat the way I wanted it to be run, treat everyone fairly, have it be enjoyable for teachers, vendors, and students alike, and break even, then I’d do it again.

I did and I am. It wasn’t hugely profitable, but that’s okay, I don’t need it to be. I don’t know when we started needing things to bring in huge profits to be worth our while. We don’t need to be rich to be happy, and this industry is not about getting rich, right? It’s about making things with our hands, about community, about who we are and who we want to be. If any aspect of this industry suffers (the farmers, the shepherds, the dyers, the teachers, the designers, the writers), the community is less. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t need PLY Away to make a million; I just needed it to be sustainable and good. It is both those things.

Here’s our bottom line. If we sell all of our classes ¾ of the way out, there is a profit of $12k. If we sell all of the classes all the way out, there is a profit of $42k. And if we only fill the classes half full, we’ll lose about $17k. The truth is we’ll probably hit around the ¾ mark. That’s the hope anyway. And if we don’t, if we can’t do this, do it well and fairly, we shouldn’t be doing it. That’s that. You don’t sacrifice people and their livelihoods for profit. I won’t ever do that, and that’s not just for them, it’s for me.

So if you’re interested, let’s run through the numbers of what PLY Away’s actual debits and credits are, shall we?

Money Out

First, the venue. And it’s a nice venue. Really nice. You’ve gotta have a nice venue because as much as people say that they’d travel to a shack in the middle of nowhere to take a class with X, you can’t really expect them to, at least not more than once. So you pay for a venue in a nice location with good rooms, well-lit and roomy classes, and lots of food choices that is walkable to interesting things and is generally nice to be in. For me, there’s only one such place within 2 hours and that’s the Westin at Crown Center. Next year a new venue is opening, and that may give me some bargaining room, but for now, this is what I have. I tell you all this so you don’t get it in your head that I must get off cheap and other retreats surely pay more.

Here’s what I pay for the venue: $20,000 (that’s for the classrooms and marketplace for 5 days)

Then there’s food. No venue will rent to you if you don’t sign a food and beverage guarantee. And it’s a lot. I have to agree to use $10,000 worth of food and beverages. At first I thought that’d be easy because it’d include what our attendees use – wrong. It’s just what I order for the event. Things that can and are included in that 10k: the coffee and tea cart open to all in the marketplace, the coffee and tea cart in the spinners’ lobby, the break time snacks in the spinners’ lobby, and the banquet.

And about the banquet, I chose the most inexpensive meal available, which is $50/plate, but because there is a 25% tax on top of it, it’s really about $65, which is what I charged for each banquet ticket. A straight wash, the banquet, but it’s worth it because it adds to the experience, gets everyone together, and is fun!

So that’s the main venue costs. But wait! It’s 20k and 10k, but like I said, there’s a 25% tax on each of those (and annoyingly, the tax doesn’t count towards the 10k food and beverage agreement; it’s added after I reach 10k). So that means the venue’s total cost to me is $37,500. About 50 people bought tickets to the banquet (the other 60 people booked a full schedule of classes, so I paid for their banquet), so that means you can take $3250 off that total. So my new check to the Westin is more like $34,250.

The next major expense is the teachers. Here’s what I pay (and here’s a link if you want to see more about this).

  • $650 per full day of teaching, $325 per half day of teaching, paid before departure for first-time teachers.
  • $700 per full day of teaching, $350 per half day of teaching, paid before departure for returning teachers.
  • $40 per diem for food, personal expenses, etc. (keep in mind we do cover at least 2 dinners too)
  • $25 per day for shipping expenses (no receipts needed)
  • travel (airfare or current IRS rate for car mileage up to price of airfare)
  • single room at PLY Away venue from the night before teaching begins until morning after teaching ends
  • optional teachers’ dinner
  • optional banquet ticket
  • optional last night dinner and teacher wind-down

When I break that down for the teachers we have, it looks like this:

15 teachers (9 new teachers, 6 returning teachers) teaching a total of 5 days (some teach 1, 2, 3, or 4 days; anyone with 3 days or more gets a half or full day break in the middle if they want it) for a total of:

New teachers total: $17,000

Returning teachers total: $15,500

Total teacher salaries: $32,500

But that’s not all it takes to bring a teacher. There’s the per diem, which for 15 at $40 each day they’re here comes out to $2000. There’s shipping at $25 per day for each teaching day, which equals $1300. There’s airfare and travel, which comes out to about $6700. All of those things together come to another 10k even. And of course we have hotel rooms, which come to $15,000 if you include my own room too.

So far that’s

$34,250 for the venue

$32,500 for teacher salary

$10,000 for per diems, shipping, and travel

$15,000 for hotel rooms

$91,750: total

But that’s not really all it costs. There’s the teachers’ dinner: $600.

I like to buy each teacher a pretty good assortment of snacks for their rooms because I know how sick I get of eating out each meal and it’s sometimes hard to find good, healthy stuff. I find out which teachers are GF, Veg, Vegan, etc. and I hit Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and each teacher gets a goodie bag that I hope will last them the entire time they’re at PLY Away: a bunch of bananas, apples, oranges, muffins, trail mix, granola and cereal bars, nuts, chocolate, and a large bag of popcorn or something like it. This doesn’t cost a lot, but I can tell you it’s really appreciated. $300.

I also want the vendors to be happy and taken care of so I hire a couple of people to help unload their goods: $1600.

We also do a big $500 giveaway to one spinner who fills up his/her punch card in the marketplace. In an attempt to support the vendors, we run a contest; anyone who purchases from 10 different vendors in the marketplace is entered and the winner gets $500 to be spent in the marketplace. There’s also a *no purchase option, but to be honest, it’s super annoying and nobody did it last year, but we had over 100 cards in the drawing: $500.

Then there are the little things like banners, shirts, programs, buttons, goodie bags, advertising, website stuff, etc.: $2000.

So the total for those extra things is $5000.

Which brings our grand total outgoing money to $96,750.


Money In

Okay, now what about what we bring in? Here’s hoping it’s more than that, right?

I struggled with class fees. I want them to be fair, but they also have to cover that huge number up there, right? I looked at lots of different retreats and festivals, and in the end, what we needed to bring in to make it all work falls just below the the middle of retreat class prices, which I’m okay with. It’s a good chunk of change, for sure, but there’s a range and I feel like each class is worth it.

Here are the classes we offer and the money each brings in if it sells ½, ¾, or 100% out. The number is () is the cost and the other number is how many we’re holding of that type of class.

Class length                       ½ sold              ¾ sold                   sold out

3-day classes ($380): 3        $9,120            $13,680                      $18,240

2-day classes ($275): 6         $13,200          $19,800                      $26,400

1-day classes ($165): 17        $22,440          $33,660                      $44,880

1/2-day  ($90): 26                   $18,720         $28,080                      $37,440


Total class intake                   $63,480          $95,220                      $126,960


Of course, the event registration company takes a percentage of that so we have to adjust those numbers down a bit.

Total intake after reg fees  $60,306          $90,459               $120,612

But that’s not all we take in. We’d be in trouble if it was, right?

We have sponsors who help immensely and when I say we couldn’t do it without them, I truly mean it (to check out our sponsors, go here), to the tune of about $12,000.

We have vendors, and each booth space is $350 so that brings in about $7,000.

T-shirts are a wash because we sell them at cost, and we give away the goodie bags and the buttons.

So, here’s where we are:

Total intake if we sell all of our classes ¾ out, which I feel is a reasonable goal:

$90,459 class intake after fees

$12,000 from sponsors

$7,000 from marketplace booth sales

$109,459 total income with classes 3/4 filled

And with our output at $96,750, that stands to make PLY Away about $12,000 profit.

If we sell only half out, it’s a total intake of $60,306 plus sponsors and marketplace (total $79,306) and minus the total output for a total loss of  $17,453. Yes, that’s a loss. Scary stuff, but that won’t happen.

Of course, the ideal situation is that every class sells out totally and PLY Away makes a huge profit of 42k! But that’s a little much to ask, isn’t it? All I want is to keep going, make and pay a fair wage, and be and spread happiness. It’s what I got into this to do, and when I can’t do that anymore, either via the magazine or the event, it’ll be time to do something else. I don’t see that time around any corner though.

I want to note here that I could make more. I don’t have to have the extras like the give-a-ways, the vendor help, the teacher snack bags, and the teacher dinner. I could charge more for classes — if you look around at like-retreats, we’re a little below the middle. But I like the choices I’ve made and will keep making them as long as it works for PLY Away. I mostly want to point this out to point out that this type of model is viable even if you need to make more than I do. There’s a higher profit margin possible without paying people unfairly, you just have to want to make it work.

So that’s it. If you made it this far, I applaud your stick-to-it-ness and perhaps you’d like a job. Someday we’ll be hiring. You’re not going to get rich, but you will be treated fairly.

49 replies
  1. Bex
    Bex says:

    Thank you for your honesty and your fairness to all involved, it is admirable.
    It goes to prove it can be done and perhaps some other events will take a leaf from your book.

  2. Dana
    Dana says:

    Truly a great discussion of the real-world economics of hosting an event like this. Thank you for the extremely informative article.

  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    I’ve organized conferences and knowmtheynare a tremendous amount of work (and worry). The countless details and decisions to be made, the paperwork and bookkeeping, the sheer magnitude of the organizational skills you must have to do a conference sick as Ply Away–they all take time away from other aspects of your business; why shouldn’t you make a profit? I wasn’t able to attend last year but it’s on my calendar (and in my budget) to attend this next one, and I appreciate all the work you put into creating a fun, comfortable learning experience for everyone. THANK YOU. I hope you make a good,,healthy profit!

  4. Leigh
    Leigh says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I knew it was expensive to put one of those on, but didn’t know it was $100k. Good to know. I agree that everyone should be paid fairly and that the goal should not be pure profit at the expense of everyone else. My husband plays in a band and everyone thinks that band should play for free, when even gas to get there costs actual money.

  5. Alison Pacuska
    Alison Pacuska says:

    Well done! I can tell you that for my company’s last global CFO conference for 170 people the grand total was 107K in costs.

    An excellent illustration of 1.) why I will drive for 2 days to vend at PLY Away, and 2.) why I burn a full 7 days of vacation time to do it – sacrificing yet another holiday season with my family to support people who want to create a community I not only believe in, but support. A community I can feel proud to be included among. My family can drive to visit me for a change right? 😉

  6. Janine
    Janine says:

    Thank you for sharing this in such detail! I never want anyone to sacrifice for me–I want to pay a fair price for workshops I take, and that includes a profit for the organizer and decent treatment of the teachers. Your post has made me even happier that I plan to return to PlyAway for a second year!

  7. Judi
    Judi says:

    Very interesting and I really appreciate having actual numbers instead of vague concepts like “fair wage” and “reasonable costs”.

  8. Liz
    Liz says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I’m sure it’s an enjoyable event. I agree that everyone should be paid fairly. I go to Vogue Live when it comes to Pasadena and I don’t know what there profit is from that event but it’s well attended. Love your magazine. The articles are great whether or not they’re of a particular thing/craft of interest at the time. They’re a great resource. Going to look and see what back issues I need to order to complete my set.

  9. Judy Jackson
    Judy Jackson says:

    As a student I think this is totally doable. I have been on the board of a much smaller event and think you have worked it out to be more than fair. And as a teacher you are doing s more than fair job. I am so impressed!!

  10. Linda
    Linda says:

    Thank you for posting this. I honestly had no idea how much it cost to put on. You’ve strengthened my plan to load up this year, and reminded me again how very fortunate I am to be able to do so.

  11. John M. Sherman
    John M. Sherman says:

    Good explanation on Plyaway expenses, and costs to attendees, Jacey. I have planned and ran large scale not-for-profit organization events. The venue costs, both upfront, and “additional”, can be challenging. Everyone would like to make a profit, usually at the event/retreats expense. So any profit in these cases are rewarding. It is refreshing to see that you are considering the instructors, and compensating them.

  12. Jacey
    Jacey says:

    A response to a couple of questions and comments here and on facebook:

    I’ve seen a couple of times that 12k doesn’t sound like much and that I’m not paying myself enough.

    Truth is, as an organizer of an event, I get to decide what compensation is worth (especially for a first time event). Sure, it’s some work, a great deal of work, but Levi (who ran the entire marketplace) and I do get a salary from the magazine and so does Kitten (the other big worker on the event) and we are buoyed by a local group of volunteers that is happy, thrilled even, to help out in exchange for spots in the remain open classes. The same is true for some of the higher-up work (organizing, web, etc.) and that’s not “taking subpar work in exchange for classes”, I assure you. It’s people working in the field they specialize in that also happen to be fiber lovers, and that are willing to trade their professional skill for something they want. This can and should happen and I’m happy to use it when I can.

    But back to the 12k. When did that not become a good chunk of change? That’s 12k, my friends! For a first time event, that’s pretty awesome! And if I was willing, it could have been more. We charge far less for vending booths than other festivals (half of what some other festivals charge) and that’s a choice I make to try to do my part to help vendors make a living. We could charge more for classes, and that’s a choice I make to try to make it easier for more spinners to get to attend. I could cut out the extras, but those are choices I make because I want to.

    Point is, the event could make more but I’m not in this business to get rich. If I get rich doing what is fair and what I love, then I’ll take it, but I don’t want to be rich and ashamed.

    And the truth is, I’m in the spinning community business. Any and everything I do to build this community benefits it, which benefits me. I once had a big advertiser tell me something that struck with me. I was telling him how unlike the other magazines that have 50%-75% advertising, PLY is always capped at 15% so his ad is sure to be seen etc. etc. He replied “I will advertise in your magazine, not because I expect it to get me anymore sales than I already get, that’s not why I advertise anywhere, I advertise because your magazine is about building the spinning community and the more I support that, the stronger that community is and the more likely people will purchase my spinning tools.” I feel like that to a large degree about PLY Away. It supports our community and with a strong, informed, and excited community, we are all supported and that “all” includes me and the magazine.

    So you see, I could make more money on this. And I’m sure as it goes on, I will. But I won’t stop doing it the way I want to do it, the way that I’m not ashamed of.

    Ps. that 12k didn’t even go in my pocket, y’all. Half of it went to the magazine and Kitten and Levi/I split the other half and we were happy for it. This year I’m sure it’ll be more (did you see how, under my plan, over 40k is possible?, wow) and I’ll be happy for that, but it won’t be more for me at the expense of anyone else.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      I really appreciate this look into the financials of a retreat. I’m building a business with a fairly successful pre-Rhinebeck marketplace, which I’m finally making a profit on, but only by selling things myself. $12k is an amazing return, but when you break it down hourly, based on the work that goes into organizing even a small event, it’s not something you can live on.

      I’m mostly OK with that — like you, I do the work because I love it, not because I expected to get rich. But it’s a tough balance between working hard on event and also doing work (in my case, writing) that supports me.

    • Lisa Souza
      Lisa Souza says:

      I love you long time. Seriously, as I told Abby, I am not surprised that you chimed in this way and I know that your success relies on way more than talent and that big ingredient is INTEGRITY. I was bummed about the timing for me, to be part of Ply Away, having been an advertiser from day one, but I was also SO happy for and envious of all of those attendees, vendors and teachers who had a collective BLAST. You deserve every success because of how you run your life and business, and take it from someone who has paid her dues, coming up through and weathering so many economic bumps while still keeping prices Fair, I understand your way of thinking. Thank you, Jacey.

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      Brava! Well done! I think you’re my new hero and I’m wishing I had your guts and know how…. Also I find myself wishing I was a spinner Thank you from a newbie knitwear designer.

  13. Jaye Whorton
    Jaye Whorton says:

    Your honesty and ability to “cut to the chase” is admirable. Thanks for this disclosure. Its clear to me why you are such a success as an instructor, magazine publisher and event planner.
    I served on the Board for HGA and Convergence for a short time and as a wife and daughter of successful businessmen, I was not surprised at the amount of money it took to present an event such as this. What did amaze me was the constant complaining that event planners such as you, are forced to put up with from attendees and others involved. I used to say that they couldn’t pay me enough to deal with this.
    You are on the right track in your clarity and honesty, keep it up.

    • Jacey
      Jacey says:

      You’re right, there is some complaining, but I really think that comes from not knowing anything about how things work or how much they actually cost. For instance, I has somebody tell me that for the price of the banquet ($65) they would have expected me to include an open bar and some trays of appetizers before (during the speech). If he/she had known that the price they paid was the actual price I paid, I doubt she would have said that. It’s all about education, you know? I think the more transparent you are, the fewer complaints you get and the ones you do get are more grounded in reality and can actually teach you something. It’s tricky to figure out the right balance but I try to error on the side of too much information. Clearly, lol.

  14. Debbie Baskerville
    Debbie Baskerville says:

    This is an extremely valuable resource for all concerned. Thanks for taking the time to share it! The problem I’m seeing with this model is that I believe “profit” should be seen as the amount AFTER everyone has been paid a fair wage, so really, your salary should be included in the calculation of the cost, and the profit is the remaining amount. Profits can then be used to reinvest, pay debts, expand, pay shareholders, give raises etc. I totally appreciate that you are approaching this project as something you aren’t necessarily counting on as a source of income, and that is certainly your prerogative. I also understand that the point of the article is to show that an event can be held with everyone being paid fairly, but if we don’t look at you getting paid a fair wage, then that is essentially the same as asking you to do it for free, which is the crux of the problem being discussed for the teachers. Whether or not you are aiming to get paid fairly for your time, it should be assumed that you will and calculated into the cost. In my opinion :-).

    • Jacey
      Jacey says:

      I totally agree with you, I should be getting paid a salary, which is why I do. I get paid monthly by the magazine and while it didn’t start out fair, it gets closer and closer all the time. And that is how small businesses start, or should, in my opinion, fair to everyone else and fair to the owner at the end. The profit from PLY Away *is profit* as the work I do for it is part of building the community and building the magazine. Like I said, that profit could be more but I’ve chosen to make other decisions and not maximize the profits right now. Just like I could get 50k more in advertising per issue of the magazine but I’ve made other decisions and one of them it to make it work with far less advertising in each issue.

      When the corp (magazine and ply away) can afford to raise my salary, it will, but for now my salary doesn’t leave me struggling to survive and puts me in a place where I can make the decisions that I do. In fact, not too long ago I could have taken a raise and instead I hired a personal assistant and it was a fantastic decision that I thank myself for everyday.

      Thanks for looking out for me but I do get a fair wage, promise!

      • Debbie
        Debbie says:

        Thanks for the response :-). In retrospect I think I should have said “the organizer” rather than “you”, since I was thinking about it in more theoretical terms and less in terms of this specific situation. I was also thinking in terms of the event as a stand-alone business venture in which everyone’s pay comes out before “profits” are counted, but I guess it works differently when thinking about the event as an extension of the magazine, and the running of it as a responsibility of a salaried employee.

        I definitely agree that a new small business or venture owner can’t expect to be making much profit or even getting paid fully for their time in the beginning, and I am completely on board with your approach that profit isn’t everything! Can we make you CEO of the world?

        P.S. I also appreciate that you don’t make me log in with a corporate entity in order to post to your blog!

  15. honeybee33
    honeybee33 says:

    Yet another thank you for revealing “the seamy underbelly” of events production! I had a boss once who said every event should be like a duck – all smooth and sleek from the front, party in the back, and us event planners paddling like crazy under the water where nobody sees it. Sounds like you definitely do that!

    Also glad to see the reveal of how much and in how many ways venues cost. So often ours have been called “classist” because they’re so expensive to attend – if only they had any idea how very expensive the price structure for venues is! It’s a constant balancing act for us to make our events financially accessible but also break even.

  16. Kim Depp
    Kim Depp says:

    Was very interesting to see all the break downs of putting on such an event. Thank you for writing. I’d love to take you up on the job offer in the future, wink.

  17. grace tully
    grace tully says:

    PlyAway was the best of the best conference I have been to in a bazillion year–not since I was a starry-eyed beginner. I appreciate all that you did for the students and vendors (I was minion for one) and the teachers looked like they enjoyed it as much as we students did. We were all dragging by the last day but I would not want to miss a single minute! Thanks for all the information. I knew things were fair, I just did not realize how much so!!

  18. Mary Egbert
    Mary Egbert says:

    It’s interesting to see the numbers behind such an event. One could have only imagined the big dollar signs needed to bring in such teaching and fiber artist talent, ie. vendors. You deserve every profit dollar you can and it’s nice to see you treat everyone fairly across the board, whether they are a new or seasoned teacher. My first teaching gig was at a well known, big fiber venue and I only got paid $150 and did not get paid for airfare, food, nothing. While the “larger named” teachers were paid much more and I suspect their airfare, food, etc were also compensated.

    I have supported Ply from day one, as they have supported me for which I am so very grateful. Ply has that grass roots feel that is an integral part of the community and the support is reciprocal between magazine and the fiber community. Running a fiber business is an everyday, nose to the grindstone sort of endeavor and we never make what we are worth. Even though “we” need to make house payments, buy food, etc., we do it because we love doing it. And making a profit is icing on the cake.

    I run a monthly fiber “thing” and the amount of hours I put into it to make it unique and special for the customer and for the fiber artists involved is quite staggering. I don’t have to do that, but I want to! I want to support the fiber community that I love so much. Just like you, Jacey, putting in the little touches for your teachers to make them feel special and appreciated. Those types of things go a long way.

    Thank you for your transparency and never apologize for making a profit…or wanting to make a profit. After all, it is a business and you need to eat! Here’s to a sold out event!

  19. Danaë
    Danaë says:

    This is really fascinating. I admire the integrity of your business practices and appreciate the thought that went into your post. Even though I don’t teach and I’ve never taken a class, I still find the discussion interesting, both because I am part of the fiber community, and because I have a huge amount of respect for those who put in the hard work to make a living with their creativity. Such people deserve the dignity of being paid fairly for their dedication and skill, without having to haggle or sell themselves short.

    I will admit to some sticker shock in the past when looking into festivals or retreats. Now I have a better understanding of what exactly that price tag includes, which gives me a better sense of value.

    I think there are several intersecting underlying issues at play: the incessant need to get a “good deal,” and the way work seen as “women’s” tends to be undervalued (and how we undervalue ourselves). I think a lot of times we as a society are trying to get the most for the least–in other words, as much as we can for as little as we can get away with paying for it. I know all about that mindset, as I was once a hardcore couponer. (True story: I once had a stash of a dozen boxes of Pop Tarts for no reason other than they cost a quarter each. Ugh.) The fortunate thing there is that those who attend fiber events and purchase the goods and classes, are typically in a good financial position to pay the kind of prices that ensure you (teachers, designers, fiber artists) are fairly compensated.

    The issue of women being undervalued is a much huger mountain to climb. I could go on for hours about that, but probably not as eloquently as you, Abby, and several others have already. I think recognizing one other as skilled artists/business owners (rather than demeaning one another as “divas” and such) is a good start.

  20. Michelle Kaston
    Michelle Kaston says:

    I love that you wrote this article – but about a billion times more than that, I love your ethic on running Ply Away. It was something I could see at the last event, even without knowing the scary $$ behind it all. About 18 months ago I quit my full time job at the time (IT Project Manager in the health care industry) to pursue my dyeing business full time. I joke that my dye business is my “get rich quick” scheme. While monetarily, our life has been substantially slimmer, I went from a job that was emotionally draining and slowly killing me, to one where I get to wake up every day excited to do what I am passionate about. I, too, struggle with what to charge for my products and it’s a delicate balancing act between making a living wage and what the industry charges “on average” for what I produce. When I grow up, I hope to be just like you – able to pay an actual salary out of my business 🙂

  21. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    Thank you for your transparency. I realize everyone does the math and justifies/rationalizes as they see fit. The payments as a student typically comes from the family budget and nowadays no one I know is bragging about how much they are putting away for retirement. Based on the amount I learned and having access to all of the best teachers in the world in one venue was worth every penny. This event is the best I have ever attended and I have attended a few. Even the other students were nice! (Tee hee.)

    I did have a bit of an issue with food vendors and would have liked to see a listing of those in the area. Without the availability of a microwave in the room my food expenses ran a bit higher than expected. I guess I could have used my phone, duh, but having recomdations would have been handy too.

    Thanks for all that you and your family does to make this a terrific event. I can’t wait for next year’s. There are about only two classes I’m not interested in taking just trying to figure out how to make that work. ; )

  22. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Thank you for the transparency! This is pretty fascinating stuff and it just proves that if the little guy can pay teachers fairly, the big guy can do it too!!

    Thankfully I have a full-time job and don’t have to rely on teaching. With few events around that are as fair as yours, I feel I would be in big trouble!

  23. Kurt Siegel
    Kurt Siegel says:

    I very much loved the article. My wife and I spent years working at non-profit Conventions with 5-9,000 attendees, where all of the committee and staff were volunteers and had to pay the membership fee to attend – with the proviso that if the convention made money, we would have a portion of our membership fee reimbursed. We know how much it takes to run an event – and you left out little things like Security, Permits, Decorator Fees, Insurance, vendor parking, and Tips for housekeeping and food function workers. $100K is a wonderfully manageable budget for a 4-5 day event – that was just the Decorator budget for several of the World Science Fiction Convention events I was involved in.

    thanks for shining a light on what these things cost – it is usually transparent to the Average Attendee.

    (We hope to be able to attend PLY Away one of these days – untill then, we read and re-read the magazine!)

  24. Gaille Smith
    Gaille Smith says:

    So great to have someone share exactly what it costs to run events.
    I own my own event business running farm to yarn tours and yarn roadshows in Australia.

    And more recently have also become the editor of Yarn Magazine here. So I’m wearing your shoes too. It’s about bringing the community together,having fun and hopefully breaking even or making a little…

    Take care

  25. Janette
    Janette says:

    You have always been transparent with the “user community” I like that. And you are right when you say if we know the backstory then our comments, opinions and conversation will be more directly beneficial and thought out. I have enjoyed two of the three events and have been very impressed.

    Thank you for bringing this event to KC!


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