Four months out from NSS 2016 and we’ve got tradeshows on our minds big time. As we start gearing up for full-blown pre-production mode, we’re reflecting on our first time exhibiting at the National Stationery Show last year. Between arranging accommodations, booking flights, deciding on decor, printing fancy leaflets, sending mailers, designing giveaways, contacting vendors, and coordinating deliveries (phew!), the months leading up to the show felt a lot like planning a mini destination wedding - the tiniest 8’ x 10’ fête for our fellow paper-loving guests.
Coincidentally, the best advice we’ve ever gotten about wedding planning is totally applicable: the most important preparations are, by far, the ones you make for the life that begins the morning after - the crazy-but-beautiful journey of marriage itself.
By the time the DJ has played that last song, your curls will have become tousled from dancing, that gorgeous ruffled cake will have been devoured, and you’ll find yourself standing on the steps of an entirely new and wonderful stage. Neither the four-course menu nor fact that you had roses instead of ranunculus will have even the slightest bearing on whether you’re prepared, for better or for worse, for the days ahead.
The weeks following our NSS debut were a lot like that morning after: we flew home to LA, eyes bleary but hearts full, to find ourselves already knee-deep in a completely new phase of Our Heiday. Despite spending so many sleepless nights planning every. last. detail. of that four-day soiree at Javitz, even the most meticulously designed booth was inconsequential to the viability of the company post-show. What truly allowed us to seamlessly transition into a new flow of business (and maintain our sanity!) were the pieces preemptively put in place in anticipation for the weeks ahead.
Today, we're sharing four do's and don't's we picked up from the process of preparing for business after our first trade show.
DO begin hunting for new studio spaces ahead of time if you anticipate that the growth might require you to upsize.
This may or may not apply given what stage you are in your business, but for Our Heiday, there was hopeful (read: desperate) anticipation that Patricia would be able to take operations entirely elsewhere for the sanity of her husband and pup. We initiated communication with potential leads a few weeks prior to NSS, which allowed us to settle into Our Heiday Studio within a couple weeks of the show. It was impossible to predict what square footage we’d ultimately need, but getting a good sense of where we wanted to be and what was absolutely essential (natural light, yes! private parking, wishful thinking!) was helpful in narrowing options so the move was without unanticipated delay. Beginning this process ahead of time minimized the stress of relocating, especially amidst a sea of inventory and new orders.
DON'T attempt to handle the post-show scramble alone.
Bringing people on board is a huge step mentally and financially, but Pat found that continuing to juggle every aspect of a (quickly growing!) business alone was impossible. Learning to delegate responsibility and trusting others to do the job well allowed Our Heiday to handle the post-show season with far fewer hiccups than we would’ve otherwise! More on building a team here.
DO prepare a system of organizing inventory - both physically and digitally - so that you can ship those orders out without a hitch!
If you’re moving into a new space like we did, invest the time into organizing your inventory and creating a system that works before you start preparing shipments so that you don’t have to rummage through half-opened boxes to look for the product you need! As soon as we moved into the studio, one of the first things we did was figure out our shelving units so that inventory would be organized by SKU and easy to pull.
DON'T forget to follow up with all of those contacts you’ve collected! There’s gold hidden among those business card exchanges.
Some of our best opportunities came about from post-show follow ups - staying open-minded about the various contacts that came our way was a great learning experience. Our biggest order after the show came from an international retailer who we had only exchanged brief details with.