Trade Show Life
I think the only thing I don’t like about traveling is that awkward problem of needing to brush my teeth in the morning of departure and then pack my wet toothbrush into my bathroom kit. TSA lines, traffic jams, they don’t bother me. I have three wonderful children and these delays provide rare moments of silence in my life. Language barriers, detours are fine, they provide the experience of the unexpected and make great stories later.
So, when it comes to things I do at Misc. Goods Co. traveling to trade shows is one of the things I really enjoy.
If you aren’t familiar, a trade show is an event where companies and brands gather and display their goods for buyers who are selecting the items their store will sell that season. Think of an indoor farmers market with booths full of the trends of the next six months in homewares, apparel, books and gifts.
Shows break the routine and boundaries of regular work. You’re out there on your own telling the story of the brand in-person; trying to find opportunities, inspiration and fun. There are a few days of working twice as hard or at least more intensely than usual; punctuated by good meals, celebrations and reunions.
Besides being fun for me, trade shows bring real value to the health of Misc. Goods.
We make sales
Most of our long-time retail partners are people we met at trade shows. They heard our story, held the goods in their hands and saw a connection between our goods and their customers. The opportunity to meet face-to-face and hear about their stories, hear who their customers are and what they need helps us serve them better and to place the right goods in the right places.
We make discoveries
Trade shows are a great place to learn about new things people are creating and new ways of telling stories. Each seller at a trade show is selling attempts to solve a customer’s problem. When there are so many of these attempts in one location you can gain a really interesting big picture of what sorts of felt needs there might be in the market and where there is space for new and creative approaches. A really basic example is when I was at a show with our solid colognes, I noticed other fragrance companies were providing multiple ways for people to use their smells. It made sense that our customers might like the same opportunities with Underhill and Valley of Gold (and now Meadow Land). I also discover ways to better tell our brand story. I notice the elements of the story that people relate to more and the details about our goods that are surprising or intriguing to someone who has found them for the first time. These discoveries help me get better at finding the best opportunities for Misc. Goods Co.
We make connections
I’ve been to trade shows in cities ranging from New York to Las Vegas, Miami, Berlin and Tokyo. Every show is different, but one thing I’ve found to be the same is the comradery among the people showing their work. Talking to other makers and people who have bent their backs getting an idea off the ground, it’s easy to relate to each other’s mistakes, wins and losses. It’s fun to celebrate with friends who cut the side-gig string and go full-time working on their own vision. These connections lead to collaborations. It might be as small as helping each other solve small problems in running our businesses like finding a supplier for a specific material; or sometimes a full-scale collaborative project around a product or marketing opportunity. We’ve even connected with people who manufacture some of our goods at trade shows.
Shows aren’t all fun. They’re a lot of work. It often takes a week just to gather, prep and pack all of the inventory I take for our booth. Set-up is always a storm of intense activity and detailed decisions. Sometimes shows are super slow and I find myself standing waiting for buyers to come and feel my feet flattening against the floor. Sometimes shows are so busy it’s hard to keep up and stay organized.
• Always forget something; this leaves room for improvisation.
• Bring tape; you or your neighbors are going to need it every time.
• Always talk to the uber or lyft drivers; they have so many cool things to tell you about their story and their city; I always learn something unexpected.
• If you’re in Las Vegas, only eat breakfast at Public Us.
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