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7 Tips for Attending a Trade Show

Did you know that Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year? Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated between $7 and $8 billion.  Crazy, right?  You may think that this market is taking a nose dive because of technology, but we beg to differ.

We’re two sisters who run a small Etsy shop, hedoe precious paper, and probably no one at this year’s National Stationery Show had ever even heard of us.  But, we knew we had a lot to learn, we were a #realbiz and there was only place to learn it.  It was after one of the business calls with Cary Heise and Susan Newnam that lead us to make the final decision.

Bonus!  It was in New York!  We registered, and yes the cost hurt (especially with two of us).  Girls weekend + the business that we love = perfect trip.  

Tips for Attending a Trade Show, Hedoe Paper Raleigh Stationary

The best part of this show is that there were many different aspects of our business there – suppliers, Etsy wholesalers (a new addition to the show this year) and many, many exhibitors – over 900 in all.  It was a paper lover’s paradise.  And although we didn’t really have a plan (or the right walking shoes – comfort should have definitely trumped fashion in this case), we would sit every hour or so and frantically take notes on ideas and inspirations.  Here are some tips if you are planning to go to a trade show of this magnitude:

  1. Identify your goals.  Are you looking for a new supplier of something?  Are you looking for a specific medium of your market?  Are you looking to network with others? What kinds of other people? Find their booth numbers to help with #3. 
  2. Plan what classes you might want to attend.  They are often taught by prominent people in the market at discounted rates because it is press for them and possibly their companies, too.  
  3. Plan your route and any classes.   This is EX-tremely important.   We got bogged down fast with paper swatches and samples and had to check a bag in because our arms were killing us.   or
  4. Take diligent notes, there are SO many things to take in and you think you will remember it, all but you won’t.  Take pictures if they’ll let you, but be sensitive to people’s original work and creative works.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We were shy at first, as “shoppers,” but also understand that most of the vendors are there to sell to the buyers.  It was almost as if you could see the “ray” of sunshine around these buyers.  People seemed to know who they were and catered to them.
  6. Be gracious.  We made sure to touch base with the other small Etsy shops that were there.  We knew it took A LOT of guts (and cash) for them to have their own booth.  We shared with them what we loved about their products, commiserated over challenges and wished them the very best of luck at the show.  They loved the encouragement!
  7. Have fun!  We were blown away by the creativity of these stationery companies (and designers), big AND small.  Everyone has to start somewhere, right?  They had a fantastic display called the Louie Awards which were awards given in different categories such as greeting cards, invitations and announcements in different price ranges.  We loved how they were blind judged by experts in the industry.

Tips for Attending a Trade Show, Raleigh StationaryIf you’re wondering what our goal was – it was to find that niche we think is under-served/understated.  We’re working on a new line of stationery now that we’re passionate about – which we believe is essential to success.  We were also able to source some different things, or at least get more options – paper, for example. 

Overall, it was a great first trade show experience to see what the market trends are and where they are going.  And it gave us time to regroup as mompreneurs.   What excites us about our business and what can we do without?  How can we create stationery for a different market and keep our current customers?

Perhaps we need to pair the next show with a spa because that’s what we needed after all that walking!  We didn’t have much left in us for all the walking NY requires.   We thoroughly enjoyed Kinky Boots, a must-see show if you’re in NY.

Don’t question whether you are a #realbiz.  You are! 

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. 
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Raleigh Stationary Tiffany and Heather
Hedoe PaperVend Raleigh Directory Members
We’re two sisters that are the best of friends.  We love classy, high quality paper and can talk way too long about which pen glides over which paper best.

I wonder if you get as excited about opening your mailboxes as we do?  Unfortunately, these days it’s mostly filled with bills and junk mail.  We truly believe a written note or letter evokes emotions – joy, sympathy, gratitude – that an email can not.  A paper invitation or written note is a keepsake for life.  Let’s try to fill our mailboxes with more of that.

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Leading Raleigh Area Business Women

Cary Heise
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