Katrina Morris-Pacheco hands an orb-shaped plant hanger, made from a whiskey barrel, to a pair of women approaching her booth at Saturday’s Boutique Pop Up at the Pasadena Convention Center.
“That’s so cool,” one of the women tells her, “I cannot wait to hang it from the tree.”
Morris-Pacheco, along with her wife and three teenage sons, run the company Third Coast Barrels. They make all sorts of things out of whiskey barrels: plant hangers, tables, games, bookcases, frames for dog beds, and “literally anything we can think of,” she said.
The family-run business showcased its creations Saturday at the Boutique Pop Up just outside Houston. The event hosted hundreds of small Texas businesses selling everything from clothes to candles to casseroles.
While this weekend’s event is at the Pasadena Convention Center, the location changes. The next is on Aug. 6 in Waxahachie, then more events return to the Houston-area around the winter holidays.
In Pasadena, an estimated 5,000 shoppers strolled through the booths in the convention center, according to event organizer Big Top Entertainment – which itself is a small business.
“I pretty much started as one of our exhibitors, and I would go to events and sell clothing or accessories or whatever was hot at the time,” said Melissa Adams, the now 34-year-old owner of Big Top Entertainment, “and there was a real need for big events, because obviously bigger events is where you make more money, and you can really be more stable as a small business.”
With support from her husband David, Adams established the company in 2014 and today organizes pop up style markets for small businesses all over the state. Adams said they have a network of about 8,000 Texas run businesses that cycle through the events, which normally have anywhere from 100 to 300 venders.
Through the years, Big Top has also grown and now Adams has four employees plus a handful of contractors she works with to put the events together.
And this isn’t Adams’ first experience running a business – at age 14 she realized a lot of the businesses in her Spring, Texas community were run by one person. If that person needed time off, she said, the business would have to close.
“I saw a need,” Adams said, “and I went to Office Depot and got the perforated business cards, went home, printed them out on the inkjet, and it was called ‘Time Tickers.’ And, it was basically a labor company, you could hire me by the hour.”
Soon, Time Tickers was so popular Adams said she had to hire her friends to help out.
“That’s where it all started.”
Today Adams’ favorite part of running Big Top is seeing her vendors’ businesses grow. She said some now sell items in large retailers like H-E-B, run multi million dollar online businesses, or physically have outgrown their first booth space at Big Top events.
That’s the case for Tamra Wilcoxson. The 59-year-old started the Dainty Cactus Boutique with her daughter six years ago selling clothes, purses, jewelry and shoes.
“We’ve been doing it as a hobby, and this hobby has kind of grown,” Wilcoxson said. “We started out in a 10 by 10 foot pop up tent and we grew to the 30 foot bus.”
A pink bus, to be exact, that Wilcoxson calls their “mobile boutique.” For the event in Pasadena they opted for a booth inside the convention center, but normally they bring their pink bus that’s been converted into a boutique on wheels.
On the other side of the convention center Rebecca Henson and her husband are selling baby and toddler clothes. Henson said she started Le’Rae Baby Boutique in October of 2020.
“I was looking for some cute clothing in the stores, but I never could find anything,” she said. “So I started ordering online, but it would take forever to come in.”
Henson decided to invest in her own inventory of chic clothes for children ages six months to five years and sell it both online – where often her two daughters, ages two and 10 months, act as models – and in-person at events like the Boutique Pop Up.
The desire to support small businesses in her community is the reason 26-year-old Madison Hutchinson decided to come shop at Saturday’s Boutique Pop Up.
She said instead of spending money at department stores, she’d rather help support families in her community.
“If you can be a part of helping them start their dream,” Hutchinson said, “I think that’s amazing.”