Trade Shows are the bread and butter of the wholesale industry. It’s an opportunity for makers to showcase their products, buyers to find new brands, and industry professionals to see what’s trending. However, these events are a big investment of time and money, especially if you don’t live in a city where they occur and have to travel. As a small and relatively new business, we weren’t sure how feasible it would be to participate in a show, but knew it was important to our growth.
In 2022, we would get the chance to break into the world of trade shows through Shoppe Object’s Black Lives Matter Action Initiative (BLMAI), which seeks to foster a better, more representative home and gift market by subsidizing the cost of exhibition space at Shoppe Object to talented independent Black designers and makers.
We applied for the program and were lucky enough to be chosen to receive a 4x8 ft booth at no cost. Making our debut at Shoppe Object was a dream come true—it’s one of the most curated shows in NYC with the best brands in home and gifting. The location was also driveable for us so we didn’t have to spend much on travel or accommodations. Once we were accepted into the program, it was time to prepare for the show.
The first step was deciding how to set up our booth. We wanted to showcase our beautiful collection, tell a visual story, and convey some of our brand values, all in a 4x8 foot booth space. Not having any prior experience in setting up a trade show, we faced some challenges with finding the right materials to display our products. But thanks to a helpful employee at Home Depot, we were able to find a practical design solution to display the cards.
Once we had our display supplies, the next step was to stage the booth in our work office so that everything would run smoothly when we had to set it up in real time. We decided which products would go on which shelves, where we would display vinyls, how much space we needed to add a shelf, and more. This part took us about 2 to 3 hours and was definitely something I suggest everyone do before doing any trade show.
Now we get to the good part: booth set up! The event coordinators allotted a full day for set up, plus a few hours on the day of the show. We had a team of three to help us unload our inventory and supplies into our booth. Some things you should have are: a mini ladder, tape measure, level, and double sided adhesive.
Once we loaded in, SaVonne and I began to set our booth up. Since we had already staged the booth in our office and had reference photos, initial set up was done pretty quickly. This was good because during our set up time, we realized that we needed to add a few more fixtures, electricity, and chairs. It’s always good to give yourself extra time to set up for last minute changes like this.
Once our shelves, products, and vinyl decals were up, our booth was ready for the show! In addition to booth set up, here are a few other things we did to prepare:
- Create bags of samples + brand information cards to give to buyers who showed interest
- Prepare a digital catalog that could easily be shared with buyers
- Restock our business cards so we could give them out to network
- Send emails to our buyer list to let them know we’d be at the show
Shoppe Object was 3 days long, and we had a lot of momentum at our booth for the entire show! Even though there were a lot of greeting card brands at the show, our booth definitely stood out and got lots of compliments from buyers and exhibitors. That felt really good, since it was our first time and helped us build confidence.
In addition to connecting with new potential buyers, we also connected with many of our existing buyers who previously only spoke to us on email. It was great to put faces to names and meet folks working in our industry.
Over the course of the show we wrote 20 orders on the spot, and gained over 50 leads. Overall, the trade show was a success and gave us confirmation that we should be doing them more often! So this year, we’ll be returning to Shoppe Object in New York this August and also trying out a new show: Noted in San Francisco in April. Stop by our booth if you’re there! Xo, Jaquasia