Trade show life and down memory lane
After running the retail store for six years in the Portland Metro area, I had a loyal client following. But, somewhere down in my heart I knew that it was not my calling. My love for traveling and having my roots connected with the artisans back in India was what I was missing a lot. The store was an excellent outlet for my designs but to be honest, how much could I really showcase from that one location. That started my research on how to get my products in front of the eyes of other retailers and designers. The answer was loud and clear- "TRADE SHOWS." I had no idea what I was getting us into. The first show where we decided to showcase our product line was NYNOW. After all, it happens in the city of dreams, so it had to be trendy. My sisters and I decided to walk the show and get a feel for the type of products and booth set ups. We walked the show and decided that let us just participate the following season.
We registered to participate in the trade show. The booth cost was very high, and then we were in competition with all the massive booths that have brilliant displays (they set up a full showroom and have an army of people working for them setting up these giant installs- like a real space!) Our army was just me, my sister and a part-time employee, with very little knowledge of how we would display our products.
We packed some heavy poles, bookshelves, and tables (for displays) along with our products on a palate and shipped everything from west coast to east coast. We were very surprised by the freight charges later in month, because we were way off with how much our freight weighed compared to what we had estimated. (1st mistake)
NYNOW has many strict rules about labor, to get those poles installed and lights install we were handed a massive bill of labor charges. (2nd mistake)
The first show was a lot of learning! We wrote a few orders that were hardly going to pay our hotel bills and Uber expenses in the city. That did not discourage us. We took the first show as a learning opportunity and were prepared for that next show: do a simple booth install, avoid freight charges, and work on our product line. The products that the customers like most were what we wanted to focus more on.
For the second show, we made a trip to IKEA and purchased some inexpensive shelving units that we could use for the display and if needed donate after the show. We made some pretty curtains that could hang off of the already existing poles that are provided by the show authority.
At the last moment, the show authorities decided to change the orientation of our booth, but it all worked in our favor since they offered us a corner, open space which means more exposure to the walk-in traffic. We displayed our products on the IKEA bought shelving (the shelving did take a long time installing), but we didn't have any labor charges and managed everything on our own. The poles we covered with curtains and also hung our rugs off the pole. The second show was a good showing for us, people were noticing us, the products were appreciated by many buyers, and we wrote a decent order. But, oh god, did we learn after that show how to fulfill those orders!
By our 6th show (3rd year), we were ready to take a leap to rent walls and make our booth look more professional and install good lighting. That all adds up in trade show expenses but it is at a point where we have a lovely clientele following at the shows and our impression at our booth display matters to us.
This is our 5th year doing trade shows, it's been a lot of learning along the way, whether it's about our current products or new products that we should work on.
The best thing about being present at the shows is the relationship we built with our customers. The fellow vendors that we meet and get inspired by their stories and product lines they are creating. Last but not least the beautiful time my sister and I get to spend together, seeing us grow together was something we were doing anyways... but seeing the business grow is something we are enjoying and cherishing very much.
We are grateful for so many opportunities that our hard work and determination are bringing our way.
"If you are thinking about showing your product line at a trade show and have thousands of unanswered questions, I will be happy to answer from my past experience to make your journey a little more comfortable." ;)
Deepali and Nanu
Down the memory lane
2014- My sisters and me at NYNOW (walking the show). Meghna (on the left) was for moral support. She's been such an amazing support to our business in early stages of trade show. Nanu and I look so young!
Our very first display in 2015 (poles + furniture did not showcase the products that well).
2015- I was 6 months pregnant with my second, my sister Meghna (support sister) and associate Martine. Nanu was in India still deciding if she wants to do this full time with me; that topic for another blog post :)
2014- Researching and developing our product lines, Annika my daughter, she is 10 now and totally adjusted to my life as a trade show mom and traveling back and forth to India.
2019 Booth- Still a lot we want to do, but it makes us very happy seeing how far we came.
Trade show sisters and yes, business partners! Would not trade this for anything. Working with my sister is the best thing that happened to my work life!