Simply Enough: You're hosting the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo. What gave you the idea to host a tiny house event?
Frank Hazzard: My daughter Emily is a junior at University of Maryland. Emily expressed a keen interest in tiny houses after seeing TV shows about them. She said she wanted financial independence, geographic mobility and sustainable living. So, two years ago I looked around in the local area for a tiny house builder who could mentor me with a DIY build. At the time there were none in Maryland.
Kirk Johnson and I met when our daughters played softball together in high school. We are both recently retired, and Kirk agreed to help me with the project. We started making plans and buying building materials for the tiny house. Then, Kirk got an idea. “We can’t be the only people in this area who are curious about tiny houses,” he said. “There have to be thousands of people just like us. Let’s stage a tiny house expo to give curious people access to tiny houses.”
I had a background in trade show planning and production that I could easily adapt to this market. Other tiny house shows had attracted huge numbers of attendees. Why not here? Fast forward nearly a year. We’ve been working on the expo since February. It will take place at the Howard County (Maryland) Fairgrounds on Oct 28-29.
Are you in the process of building a tiny house now? If so, can you tell us a little about the build, and if we can expect to see your house at the Expo?
We built a tiny house shell as a prop to promote the show. It’s a 25-foot house with lots of windows and a handsome, cottage exterior. It was a lot of work! Fortunately, we received help from friends and family. This was not the house we intended to build for Emily. I still look forward to building one with her. We plan to park our THOW outside at the show as a way to attract attendees.
You'll have more than 20 tiny houses for people to tour at the Expo. How did you get tiny house builders and owners on board for this first-time event?
Lots of phone calls, email and digital marketing! LOL. As I said earlier, I have a background in events, so I know a little bit about exhibitor marketing.
Can you give us an idea of the variety of homes that will be on site?
We think it will be a nice variety of houses. We have a yurt, a sea container builder, conventional two-story houses with lofts, a single-story THOW. We have a gypsy wagon on steroids. Even a chapel! One builder is bringing three houses.
In addition to tiny houses, you have an impressive number of vendors lined up. What are some of the products and services would-be-tiny-house-dwellers can learn more about?
Thank you! We do have a lot of vendors who offer things that tiny house people need, including composting toilets, flooring, grey water systems, off-grid solar and closet systems.
This is advertised as a "rain or shine" event at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Will the houses and exhibitors all be inside an exhibit hall?
Yes, the expo will be in the Main Exhibit Hall at the fairgrounds, which is a one-acre building with tall ceilings and 14-foot overhead doors. It’s a great place for an event of this type. I’ve been to outdoor expos when it rained. Not too much fun.
You said you have a background in trade show management. What are some of the lessons learned you'll be applying at this event?
Number one, lead-time is everything! There is never enough time to prepare for an event, but the more time you have, the easier it is to be successful. You also have to focus simultaneously on the three main elements: exhibit sales, attendee marketing and logistics/production.
The net proceeds from the Expo will go to Civic Works, a non-profit teaching job skills to at-risk youth in Baltimore. Can you tell us a little about their connection to the tiny house movement?
Civic Works is an amazing organization. We are thrilled to have it as a partner for the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo. They recently opened a factory where youth are taught construction trades by building tiny houses. The houses are then sold to fund the program. We think this is a great idea. If you think about it, THOWs require all of the trades, only on a smaller scale. It would be a lot more difficult to mentor kids who were building conventional houses.
Finally, your organization is called "Tiny House Expos." Does that mean you have more expos in the works?
You noticed it’s plural! Yes, actually. We are very close to booking a couple more events – hopefully in time to announce them before the October 28 event kicks off.