Friday, May 04, 2012

The Writing Bureau - Trade Fairs

Are you ready for a mamouth amount of information on Trade Shows? 

Do you want to know where to start? what to expect? Is it worth it? How do you prepare for one and much, much more!

Well over the next few weeks and possibly the next month, I will be putting together a series of blogs all about trade shows.

We have some wonderful ladies guest blogging for us who all have vast amounts of knowledge about what goes on behind the scenes at these massive events. Read on to find out all the trade secrets.

First up we have the lovely Jo from The Writing Bureau. Jo is just about to exhibit at her first ever trade show in London and is kindly putting together a series of blogs for us. I have asked Jo to to keep a diary throughout the whole experience. From all the preparation work, to setting up, the actual show and what happens once the doors open and she finally has the chance to sell her product, right the way through to the after show details.......the sales and orders!!

So this first blog in the series concentrates on Jo and her business. How it came together and how her business has come so far in such a short period of time. This is a truly inspiring blog and I do hope you can all  get a little something out of it. If nothing else, it may just inspire you to push your ideas forward and realise that you CAN do it. YES you CAN do it :)

Over to Jo.............................


I have always had a love of textiles, firstly studying BTEC Fashion Design before graduating in BA Hons Art and Craft. On graduating I worked in art galleries and outdoor education before moving to New Zealand with my husband.

I spent 5 years in NZ and its here that the seed for The Writing Bureau started. We travelled lots and I started making cards whilst on the road. Cards were the perfect product because I could travel easily with all the kit and I didn't need a lot of space to work. Whenever we went to a new town I sold them to galleries, shops and cafes as well as at local arts markets and at music festivals. 

I learnt so much from this experience because I was basically knocking on doors and it got me used to showing my designs to potential customers. I enjoyed the social side of markets and running stalls but I soon realised I had to sell at least 150 cards to make it a worthwhile day. I decided that if my hobby was to ever become a viable business I would need to step away from making every product myself as well as finding every customer. 

We moved home to the UK to 'settle down' and it was whilst on maternity leave form my job in publishing that I started work on developing a wholesale greeting card business. 

The cards are printed professionally and hand-finished (by me). I sell to independent gift/card/book shops as well as to galleries and garden centres throughout the UK. My card collection has just been taken on by 3 sales agents. I also sell through NotontheHighStreet and when I get a minute I will set up the online shop on my website.


Why did you decide to do your first trade show, what was the initial trigger?

I was originally booked to exhibit at Top Drawer Spring 2012 but I have a toddler and knew it just wasn't the right time for her to start nursery. So although I really wanted to exhibit at that show I had to take a step back as I felt I was rushing her into childcare. Having a day of feeling absolutely gutted I realised that if I didn't exhibit at a trade show in 2012 I'd be really frustrated with myself. 

So the following day I booked Progressive Greetings Live.I choose this mainly because it was in May (as opposed to January) therefore giving me a few more months to get my little girl settled into childcare. I also liked it's a trade show specifically aimed at greeting card publishers and has an area called @Springboard which is all about promoting new publishers.
It's at the Business Design Centre in London on 29th and 30th May

There was no trigger or light bulb moment that told me I was ready for a trade show, it just felt the natural step if I wanted more sales. I'd previously visited Top Drawer, Spring Fair and Pulse in the UK as well as trade shows in NZ and I've always thought doing a show is necessary in order to get your product seen by buyers. 

Having a deadline has been fantastic for sorting out my 'to do list' for the business. It has really focused me and since booking the show my business has taken strides forward. Due to this deadline I have created lots more designs, sorted my branding, learnt Quickbooks (accounts package), got a Twitter page, sorted my blog and facebook page, written press releases and received press exposure, sorted my photography and finally got round to setting up my 'notonthehighstreet' shopfront. I've known I've had to do all these things but having the deadline has stopped me dilly dallying!

How did you gather info to prepare yourself? Did you speak to lots of other craft people to get advice, have you visited trade shows to see what happens. What would you suggest others do?

I've been visiting trade shows on and off for years and I think before you book one definitely go and visit some. They have a real buzz about them and designers create amazing displays in such small spaces. It also shows you the standard of design and products. 

I've browsed trade show websites looking at gallery pages and read blog articles but I haven't been in touch with other craft people directly.Before setting up my business I worked for a stationery company and so I have a fairly recent insight into their experience of exhibiting at Spring Fair. I'm currently finding Twitter useful to chat to other exhibitors.

This is what I suggest for getting yourself prepared.......

1. Definitely go to trade shows. After looking at all the stands, get yourself a coffee, sit back and take it all in. Can you imagine yourself and your designs in one of the stands? You'll know when your ready and if you think yes then trust yourself and go for it. Once you book it everything will fall into place (it has to!).The last time I was at Top Drawer I did just that and got to the point of even sketching out my dream stand design! 

2. Get yourself well informed in whatever way you can. So if that means emailing other designers, reading blogs, talking to other makers then do it.

3. Once you pay your deposit there's no turning back so be very sure it's going to work for you personally as well as for your business. Make sure you have a friend or family member to help out over show time. Also, make sure you have support in the months leading up to the show. 
It can be stressful and you need someone to talk to and bounce ideas off. My husband really supports me and has great listening skills - I think he knows more about greeting cards than he does about football these days!

Remember, there are always other shows so you don't have to rush it. Do what's right for you at the right time. 

Since I booked PGLive there's not yet been a day that I've thought 'ahhh, what am I doing?' 

Even in February when I found out I was pregnant!!! 

Wow, another truly inspiring blog. Thanks so much Jo!!

......and congratulations on the bub news!! Look out for the next instalment of Jo's blog, where we will be taking a peek into her rather busy diary on the run up to her trade show, finding out what happens, what she learns and whether it was all worth it. I'm sure it will be as Jo's cards are absolutely gorgeous.

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don't forget..............

Next Cheeky Blog will be over on tickle the imaginations page, but with me hosting 
Thursday 10th May at 8pm (est) hope to see you all there. 

We will be chatting about all things to do with blogs with a couple of veteran bloggers on hand to dish out the advice Jolene from Jolene's Mumbo Jumbo and Jeanie from Inspired Wish

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