It's been exactly 365 days, or so, way more in fact, since my last published blog post and a lot has happened since then. Including the fact that I never got round to finishing this blog post that initially had the title 'Four Week Countdown to Pulse'. Yeah, the plan to write a blog a week until Pulse 2018 didn't exactly happen.
So here it is updated with the flakey lead up to the show and what went on afterwards. It's scary making the decision to actually do one and then when you sign up you do nothing but panic that you might not be able to create the products, pack everything up, transport it all, paint and decorate the stand, get the stand set up just right, and then present yourself with a cheery disposition, hiding the tiredness of course, for the next 3 days, smiling, chatting and taking orders, all the whilst having highs and lows and huge expectations, or none where I was concerned, then you take it all down and head home.
Yes. It's that exhausting. But it's worth it. Really worth it.
THE LOST BLOG POSTMy opening paragraph to the initial blog post went like this:
"What can I say. It's exactly 4 weeks to go until I open in London at Pulse for my first ever trade show. What was I thinking? I blame dear Ellie from East End Press. She talked me into this as she decided to do it and alas, I somehow found myself agreeing to chum her.
If only chumming her as a cheerleader and helping her out was an option. No. I am well and truly in. Hook. Line. And sinker."
And that's as far as I got. I actually can laugh about it all now. Despite the mad panic and almost not getting on the train to London on the Friday morning with all my bags. Lists played over and over in my head and I was frantically thinking 'What if I've forgotten something, what if I've totally misjudged my brand/cards and no one will actually want them. What if I make no sales'...And breathe. That's what I kept telling myself.
That and the mantra 'What's the worst that could happen?' Right? Big girl pants on and knowing that putting yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way you'll find out if it's for you or not. And of course taking the plunge to get on that next step of elevating your brand and your business.
THE TRADE SHOW SET UP
I got there on the Friday afternoon and found my stand. All I'll say is thank god my other half was there to help and get started on the two coats of paint which got that big job out of the way. All I'll say is plan, plan and plan some more. I had a spreadsheet of everything that needed to be done in the run up to leaving, things to be printed including line sheets and order forms, right down to tool kit and emergency sticky stuff.
I was glad I had planned a scaled drawing and visualised where every product would go. Measurements were worked out and added to those visuals so it was easy to set up and make it come to life as all the hard work had been done in the prep. Hours thinking about what the stand would look like, the placement of each card and the taped mockup on the kitchen cupboards helped me see how the shelving would work out and the size of the space itself.
THE DAY BEFORE OPENING
I unrealistically thought that I'd only have to go in put up my vinyl branding (after leaving the paint as long as possible to dry), place the products on the shelving and then go wandering in London. Oh how wrong I was. First off my cards wouldn't stay closed by themselves. Cue the emergency tool bag and to stick hundreds of little glue dots on them to keep them closed. Lesson learned and that will be done in the run up to any trade show in the future.
There's also a lot of deliberating as you procrastinate about product placement before realising it's all fine. And you just need to get on with it and accept it because there's very little you can do now. Plus, let's face it you planned this meticulously beforehand and you're now just overreacting.
Talk about nerves...but at least the tiredness calmed them a bit. Not to mention that you're surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you. I was in the new makers section so for many people it was their first or second time. I met some lovely people in that area and we are still in contact and it's always great to see them and catch up at the next show.
I had zero expectations of making any sales. Ellie felt exactly the same. We thought if we covered our costs that would be utterly amazing. And if we didn't, well at least we tried it. We'd already written the costs off and accepted that you had to speculate to accumulate and all that shit. But alas, we actually did really well!
THE HIGHS AND LOWS
After the high of your first sale, and the validation that someone wants to actually stock your products, then it's nothing but good. Plus you'll chat to plenty of people who won't place an order there and then but may get in touch after the show. In fact a year later which just happened to me.
You'll also have many conversations with people who are looking for "inspiration", thinking of starting their own business and checking out the competition. Which is all well and good but don't give too much info away because you did all the work yourself and you're there to make sales after all.
Other makers are the best to be around as they help you get through your day and share the experience with you. It's great to see everyone getting sales and being approached by the big brands, although those buyers often don't make themselves known as they pass by or stop to have a look.
The last day is the longest day, coffee is in abundance, faces ache from smiling and talking, and then you have to strip your stand and if you've opted not to pay for it to be painted back to white, then you have to do it yourself. I did it myself. With the help of my fellow makers seeing as my tin of white paint had burst inside a large plastic bag. Thank god for Ikea bags right? After a super speedy take down and several large glasses of wine we were ready to leave the next day and make the train journey home.
WAS IT A SUCCESS?I'd definitely say so. And so would Ellie. We definitely covered our costs, and a little but more, made some new friends, gained some brilliant stockists and began the growth of the wholesale side of our businesses and a whole new learning curve.
Stockists contacted us weeks, months, a year afterwards, and we've built relationships with them. It's always great to see them say hello in person at trade shows we've done afterwards.
Was Pulse worth it? It sure was. It was the first tentative steps into the wholesale world and taking the business up a notch. Since I appeared at Pulse it has merged with Top Drawer making it's first appearance this September 2019 as part of a bigger show. It's definitely worth looking into and comparing the costs as Top Drawer can be more expensive.
I decided to up the business a bit more and attended Top Drawer earlier this year in January 2019...now that was another big jump compared to my first show at Pulse. More visitors, more expensive and more feelings of being overwhelmed.
But this was a major step that paid off. Bigger sales, bigger stockists and my first international stockists in Switzerland, Dublin, Qatar and Japan.
However...that's another blog post...