Shop Girl: Thoughts on The National Stationery Show

I was on the phone with Tara Hogan from INK+WIT recently discussing the National Stationary Show and thought some of you would enjoy a little inside scoop on what it's like to be an exhibitor there. Tara was kind enough to send along a few photos of the booth that she shared with three other small business owners, Jennifer from JHill Design, Janet from RSVP Press, and Anna from Sub-Studio. They all pretty much made the connection through this post, which is why I wanted to follow up to see how everything turned out.

These ladies decided to share a booth to cut down on costs since the show can be quite expensive for the little guys. I thought it may help to ask these ladies for their take on the overall experience of being new to such a massive show and what the experience was like for them personally. The hope is to shed light on the exhibitor experience from a small business perspective in case you have thought to set up a booth in the future. I'd like to open this post up to include some of your questions should you have any, fire away below!

Jennifer, Anna, Tara, and Janet. Go Ladies!

A new poster from INK + WIT.

In addition to Tara's helpful words, I also asked Jennifer Hill from JHill Design, who was part of the booth, to share some thoughts on the topic. Let's get started with Tara from INK+WIT.

Tara's take on the show overall:
It was a great show full of designers and artists I had never met in person or seen before. That factor and meeting publishers, editors, press, and bloggers in person were the most successful for me. There was a lot of energy going on in the booths steadily with exception to the last 2 days which were quite slow overall for everyone. It was nice to see that during the last slow day all of the exhibitors were walking around trading products and meeting each other. I go got to talk to the lovely sisters Sabrina and Eunice form Hello Lucky for quite some time and they are super sweet! Their whole group is quite sincere and charming.

Tara's thoughts on sharing a booth:
It is a great way to split costs but beware of how much space you need and how you split up the booth. Anna, Jennifer, Janet, and I luckily worked it all out and only had minor bumps to deal with which also worked out. However, our space was limited in size and we could not have a main area to sit and rest or take orders. We had to use a clipboard near our individual wall spaces and it was very unwelcoming to buyers. I would have liked the space to have a small table for a visitor to rest and relax so we could have spoken longer and had more privacy. But, you get what you pay for and we all were able to get to the show without breaking the bank. It was worth it but I would have my own booth next time for the sake of space and overall clear identification of what my brand is as buyers were a little confused about 4 different lines in one space. We clarified that we were 4 lines and all was well but a lot of passers by only grabbed one business card at times thinking we were all one group. The pros for new and smaller exhibitors is the costs so if you need to figure out how to get to the show without spending thousands then find a few people that are business savvy, trustworthy and ready to work as team to get accomplish a split booth. You do not want to get into a tiff about the space so work it out in the beginning to make sure all is fair.

Now let's hear from the awesome Boston girl Jennifer Hill of JHill Design.

Jennifer's take on the show:
For me the show was more of a meet and greet with the majority of buyers saying they would place their orders after the show. I gave away a good amount of catalogs and business cards, and also collected a good amount of cards so that I could follow up with buyers later. I was surprised at how many people from the press we met and was thankful that I had made a bunch of press kits to give out. I am very glad that I did the show though because I met some major stores that I never would have met by just emailing. I also got to meet stores that I currently sell to and others that I have talked with online. It also got me thinking about my line, in terms of what is missing and how it was organized.

Jennifer's thoughts on sharing a booth:
I think sharing a booth was such a good way to go the first time around. It let us share the booth, furniture, fixture, and electricity costs (booths are far from cheap). Since the 4 of us were quite different it brought in a good mix of buyers. There was a lot of down time and it was nice to have people to chat with, people to watch your line for you while you took a walk around to see the other vendors. We were lucky that we all got along so well (since we'd never met in person before, we had met through decor8 - thank you by the way!), and were totally supportive of one another. I really miss not having them around now!

Jennifer adds a few notes:
The cons of the show are first off how expensive it is to do. Not just the booth but production of samples, traveling to and staying in NYC for a week - it all adds up. The show is 4 days, the last day there were hardly any buyers, it was kind of a bummer. The crazy thing is that they have this whole schedule a few days before opening when you can move into your booth and such. But when the show ends it is like a free for all with everyone leaving at once. It was pretty chaotic. All in all, as of right now I plan on doing the show again next year.

Can I have one of everything please?

Thank you Tara and Jennifer for sharing your thoughts on the National Stationery Show this year. If Anna or Janet would like to add their thoughts, I invite you ladies to jump in with your thoughts. If anyone has questions for these ladies or if you were also at the show and have thoughts to include that may benefit readers, please comment below. Thanks!

(photography from ink + wit, rsvp press, and jhill design)