I want to help you build a sustainable, profitable handmade business that makes you consistent income and sales. I only ever teach or recommend marketing, social media, pricing, production and branding tips that I’ve personally used successfully in my own 7-figure handmade businesses.
I'm Mei, from Los Angeles!
starting a business
get more traffic
running a business
make more sales
growing a business
mindset & productivity
pricing & money
selling on etsy
selling on amazon
I’ve talked about how wholesale is a great way to diversify your income streams and build your business.
Have you wondered how to up your wholesale game for your creative biz?
What’s one way that can turn your business into a million dollar company in less than two years?
(It has happened to a few of us.)
Trade shows are like craft shows except you don’t sell product right then and there.
Instead, you take wholesale orders (this is called “writing orders”) and ship your orders after the show is over.
In this post, I’ll talk about a few of the pros and cons of doing a trade show.
I’ll also walk you through my experience doing my first ever trade show The National Stationery Show (NSS) in New York.
Trade shows sound really scary, don’t they?
That’s what I thought.
These crazy what-if’s kept me worried, and I’m sure they’re running through your mind too:
But I’m here to tell you that my first show at the National Stationery Show in New York went absolutely fine.
It went so well that the day after I returned home, I made some calls and found that I don’t have to wait a whole year to do another trade show.
I could do two really big ones in just a couple of months from now.
When it comes down to it, it’s all in the numbers.
How many orders did I write? 21 – that’s 21 new stores carrying my work!
How much money did I make? $8,000+ (I broke even!)
How many leads did I get? At least 50!
That’s not even counting the bigger deals that can’t make orders at the show because they need to pick which designs to carry.
That’s at least 4 stores with over $2,000 orders each.
I met a dozen reputable sales reps that are dying to sell my products.
I also met a couple of interested licensing companies.
That’s all considering it was “unusually slow” in the later half of the trade show and “the worst trade show” one other vendor I talked to had ever done.
I consider my first trade show at NSS to be very successful.
Here’s what contributed to a great show for me:
Tons of blogs (including mine now) talk about doing NSS and other trade shows.
Learn from other people’s experiences so you don’t make their same mistake.
Someone said they brought 1000 catalogs and didn’t even come close to giving out that many.
They said to only bring about 300 – which I did and I have a handful leftover, but it was just right.
The construction of my booth walls was also a result of my research.
Because you’re not allowed to use power tools at the convention center, we needed to prepare the hardwood walls ahead of time for easy installation.
This being my first time doing a trade show, it was prudent to time and test setting up and tearing down the booth.
We did the trial in our garage.
And on the day of the trade show, everything went 10 times more smoothly.
I sent 400+ postcards to a custom-made list of stores that were attending the show.
I also took advantage of the exhibitor online portal that let me upload products for possible features.
A few people who made orders with me came saying they saw my product in an email blast or they got my postcard.
Where I would normally make minimum orders ($150), I made between $400-600 orders at the show because of my attractive show specials.
For anyone that shows interest in your product or if someone grabs a catalog, ask them for a business card in return.
These are valuable leads that could turn into sales in the future!
A lot of people ran out of cards so be ready with pen and paper to write their information down.
After the show, be sure to follow up. The magic is always in the follow up.
I had already spent $8,000 on this trade show, I knew I had to give 200% to my prospects.
Getting people’s attention by saying hi or welcoming them to touch my products helped break the ice for most.
It was important to be aware of people who were “hovering” and had questions or appeared curious.
I stood 95% of the time (and having lived in NY for a week, I think I need bed rest for a month to recoup!)
I was always present.
My exhibiting neighbors were complaining about what an awful show it was.
But these were the same people who looked like they were dying.
Or who weren’t even in their booths because they were too busy chatting with their exhibitor friends elsewhere.
Smile. Be of service. Know your product.
Shipping my entire booth walls, furniture and flooring was $1400 round trip.
I later found a company that could cut that cost in half.
It’s so important to know that you are a good fit for the show.
I was pretty confident with my fit at NSS but I feel I would have done even better at a trade show specifically geared towards gift shops (NSS is mostly stationery and paper).
I only collected the names of the person and the business because that was readily available on the badges that attendees have to wear.
But I failed to write down their contact information (email) because that was an extra step and I would have to ask for it.
I completely forgot and now that I need to follow up with them, I have to spend the extra time to hunt down their contact info.
Now that the National Stationery Show has come and gone, I’m still super stoked to take on more trade shows.
The cost to do them are significantly lower than the $8k I had to shell out for NSS.
There are two gift shows happening in Atlanta and Chicago in July.
I would love to do them and I think they will be so amazing for business.
Do you think I should do more shows or take it easy for the rest of the year?
Leave a Comment
Liked this article? Share it!
This workshop is for anyone who makes and sells a handmade or physical product, including jewelry designers, artists, paper designers, bath & body product makers and more!
The #1 mistake people make with Etsy & social media that causes shops to FLOP
The secret to making it with your handmade shop so it's no longer just a hobby
How to make sales in your handmade shop with ease so you can finally get to 6-figures
TAKE ME THERE
A Sale A Day
Become A Student
Watch On YouTube
See My Handmade Shop!
Hey! Love your stuff!!! Can you tell me where you got your walls from?!?
Hey Amanda! My husband and I made commissioned a local carpenter to build our walls for us. We can use them over and over again!
I think you should! Try NYNOW (my favorite) or sometimes the smaller shows that focus on made in american/handmade items can be really profitable, like ACRE or American Made Show (formerly Buyer’s Market)
Hi! How does one become a qualified member of the trade? I’m trying to apply to attend for 2016 but there’s not much info on the site. Thank you!
Hey Heidi! If you want to attend as a buyer, call their Registration department. If you want to attend as an exhibitor, call their Sales department.
Is there a range that buyers expect to purchase minimums?
For instance, my factory minimums are 3000 which I know isn’t realistic for a buyer. What was you average qty per unit that worked best for all buyers?
This would depend on your business and the market you’re in. For the gift/fashion industry, the standard is $150 minimum order or around there. I don’t set minimum quantity requirements for each unit though, although you certainly can do that to increase your order amount/size!
[…] Creative Hive’s first stationery show experience […]
I’very only just launched my hand painted wedding invitations this year but I am so intrigued about these shows!!!
I would love to go so I really, really appreciate the highly relevant information that you’ve posted here.
As a newbie I’m just terrified of the cost!!!
I also feel as though I need anot her year before I really hone my skill and designs and they’ve changed so much just on a few months plus I hardly have enough for a show!
I’d love to go the stationery card route but the cost is huge. If it doesn’t work it could be a killer!
Thank you soooo much for this post!
Thank you for sharing your wholesale trade show experience.
I had a quick question. I sell jewelry. I will be adding a label to them. What information is typical to put on items that are being sold wholesale? Besides my company name, I’m not sure what else goes on there? Suggested MSRP?
Any advice would be most appreciated!
This is so helpful. We are considering doing this show next year!
There is another show that you should also research. Global Stationery Products Market 2019. You can find info about the show at gspmshow.com Believe me … you will be glad you did. The show is taking place at the NJ Expo Center. Visit the web page and request pricing. You can also look at StationeryTrends.com they have articles about the show.
There is a New and highly talked about show taking place at the NJ Expo Center in June 2019. The show name is: GLOBAL STATIONERY PRODUCTS MARKET. The people behind the show are industry professionals that have listened to Stationery exhibitors and have created a show that suits every budget. The floor plan idea is amazing. It is a must see if you are an exhibitor as it provides maximum exposure. The NJ Expo Center is a right to work facility so you can be as creative in setting up your booth as you want to be and you get more for your money. Even electrical is included in the booth package….for everyone. Trade shows can be expensive lets face it. But if you are thinking about doing a show in the Stationery & Products industry this is truly the one to look at. You can find more info about the show at gspmshow.com
Hi! thanks so much for sharing your experience! It’s so helpful.
I am attending the show this year and would love to know the contact for the local carpenter you used, if you recommend them? I’m travelling from overseas so having a reliable person in NY to make the walls would be a great option for us!
thanks so much for your help,
Beautiful wall! Looking forward to seeing you in the trade next time. xoxo
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *