I’m home and almost 2 weeks out from my first tradeshow experience. The last 3 months have been crazy as I prepared for this, that it’s taken me this long to find my normal routine and get my feet back under me. So many of you have prayed for me and cheered me on that I wanted to bring you a update post to tell you how it went, what I learned, and whether it was worth it!
In October 2017 I registered for my booth space and paid $3500 for that precious 10x10 piece of real estate. And then I felt a surge of panic at what was before me!
Here’s a picture of my initial “to do” list - it only grew from there!
The biggest part of a booth is figuring out your walls. My brother-in-law built the walls for me out of plywood and lumber. Then I sanded and painted and we added baseboard and crown molding to make it look more like a room.
In all, over 50 hours were spent getting the booth walls built and prepared (whoa).
The day before we left, we rented a small 4’x8’ Uhaul trailer to transport everything, and my mother in law graciously loaned me her car for the week. The walls were a pain to load into the trailer, but in the end, everything fit perfectly.
We went to bed at 1 a.m. and I was up by 5 a.m. to pick up my two friends for the trip to Atlanta!
(Definitely take people you like with you since you’ll be spending A LOT of time together.)
I won’t bore you with the details of unloading - suffice it to say everything went more smoothly than I could have hoped (minus having to back up in a loading dock with a trailer attached), and we got to our booth to check out the space by 3 p.m. Monday!
Our home for the next 7 days!
We spent the next couple days setting up - putting down the floor, installing the walls and shelves, putting together furniture, merchandising the product, etc. We worked hard and went to bed exhausted every night.
We did have some fun in our off hours though!
Finally it was showtime!
The AmericasMart buildings (3 total buildings) are giant. We were in building 3, floor 5.
That first day I just wanted to hide behind the booth - I almost couldn’t bear to be out in front to see buyers. But the Lord was good to us. Our first buyers were Instagram followers, and they placed orders! That broke the ice. We worked and talked for 9 hours and then we dropped.
And then we did it all over again. For 5 and a half days.
Here are some highlights:
The teardown took us about 2 hours. But we couldn’t just leave. Since everyone is leaving at the same time, those with personal vehicles have to wait in a queue in order to load their stuff. So we packed up by 4:00 p.m. and got our vehicle...and then we waited.
At 8:30 p.m. we were finally called to go get our stuff from the loading dock. Thank the Lord for Netflix, salt and vinegar chips, and porta-potties in the meantime!
Loading was a bit more difficult this time because of the extra furniture. And then I had to back up with the trailer again (I will NEVER do that again...unless I get lessons). But we made it out, and with some Starbucks Espresso from the gas station and some Jim Gaffigan, we made it home in one piece - at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning!
Things I learned:
• Tradeshow booths aren’t exactly the size they tell you - my walls almost didn’t fit!
• It’s worth saying again, Bring people you like with you. You’re together 24/7 and it would be easy to get on each other’s nerves.
• Send out pre-show mailers! I had several people stop by that received them that wouldn't have otherwise come by.
• Make friends with your booth neighbors! I had the best neighbors and enjoyed the camaraderie we all shared.
• Order your Starbucks from your mobile app to avoid the insane lines. Also, the sausage cheddar sandwiches are my favorite there!
• Ask questions to buyers and find out about them. Form a relationship. I got a lot of creative ideas from buyers by asking what they were looking for.
• Be patient and flexible when things don’t go as planned. Things will go wrong.
• Plan for worst case scenarios! My emergency kit had everything I could think of. Which was good when a frame fell off the wall two days in a row - I had extra Command Strips!
Was it worth it?
Definitely! I made some good friends and learned so much about the wholesale industry in general. I also got an idea of what people were looking for and inspiration for my next release. And we got a nice number of orders, more than expected!
Would I do AmericasMart again?
Yes, I would. I believe my product line is a good fit for the people who come to this market. I can't wait to come back.