Top 3 Tips For Having The Best Trade Show Experience For Your Creative Business

I’ve been attending and working at trade shows for years. Between my parents dragging me along to expos to shop for their businesses to my nearly 10 years in the association industry, I’m constantly working on or attending something. All of this experience helped, and at times, hindered my trade show prep.

This was my first time representing my own brand and products. That makes this first Suds trade show unique for me. It was also my first time working on a micro budget. I’ve designed booths that were triple the size of the my Suds booth that had 1,000 times the budget. Working with a few hundred dollars versus tens of thousands was challenging – to say the least.

Here are my top 3 tips for having the best trade show experience for your creative business.

Invest in good flooring.

When we put in our soap kitchen, our contractor saved the carpet and padding he pulled up. It was a lifesaver for the budget because I didn’t have to pay for flooring (it’s mandatory to put down some sort of flooring). Standing for days on concrete floors kills your back, knees, feet and well, your entire body. I thought the padding and carpet would help alleviate some of that pain and it did to a certain extent. When I looked at everyone else’s flooring choices I saw this foam tile flooring. I didn’t know this existed until I saw it in the expo hall. All of the trade show booths I’ve built have always used carpet because it is more professional in that setting. But for the craft/handmade businesses this foam tile is the best invention ever. I’m upgrading our flooring for our next show. I’ll be getting a ton of tiles to use. Plus, I can use them during our craft shows to make standing for hours, days, and weeks easier on my body.

Take this Creative Live Class

I love Megan Auman. Her classes on Creative Live are thoughtful and super helpful. I can’t recommend her wholesale class enough. She covers every aspect of the wholesale trade show. I felt super prepared for our event because I had watched her class and was able to implement several of her strategies. I was able to present a level of confidence at the trade show because I knew what the buyers were expecting. I even saved several of the sessions to my MacBook so I could watch them in the evenings after the show had closed. This way I was constantly in the selling mindset and learning how to improve.

Get a Lead Scanner

I was dumbfounded at the sheer lack of people scanning badges. I found out from the show organizers that I was one of TWO people to use the scanner. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it isn’t cheap. Yes it gave me nearly 100 stores to EASILY add to my marketing campaigns. I didn’t have to try to look up people, remember details or anything of that nature. When I had 10 buyers in my booth all I had to do saw scan their badge, add a few notes in the app if I wanted to, and move to the next buyer. The lead scanner is ALWAYS worth the money. Always. I have a spreadsheet of names, email addresses, physical locations and store names all because I spent a few more dollars and go the scanner. If you are of the mindset that buyers will have business cards and you can just collect them, think again. Buyers never bring enough cards. What are you going to do then? What you do is scan their badge and you have everything you need.

Why Mango Butter Matters

I think it is pretty clear that I am in love with our Best Face Wash Ever. It keeps my skin under control plus it has Mango Butter in it.

Mango Butter is what it sounds like. It’s made from the de-shelled fruit kernels of the mango tree. It’s great in the Best Face Wash Ever because, in the soap making process, it has a high level of non-saponifiable which means that there is a ton of the Mango Butter that doesn’t turn into soap when the lye is added. That means that the user gets all the benefits of Mango Butter directly on their skin, and in this case, my face.

Why should you care? Well, Mango Butter is know to help dry skin and it is used in a ton of anti-agning treatments. I’m not going to complain about Mango Butter keeping the lines and wrinkles at bay. Plus, it’s easily absorbs into the skin without that greasy feeling that many oils and butters can leave.

So that is why Mango Butter Matters.

Old Town Suds at The National Archives!

As I write this, it’s my 4 year brain surgery anniversary. We decided to celebrate with a trip to see my soaps at The National Archives! This was my first trip to this particular museum. I’ve been to all the other Smithsonian’s but Archives has eluded me during my nearly 10 years in the DC area.

Old Town Suds’ soap is being displayed as part of the Spirited Republic exhibition – a special exhibit all about prohibition. It’s the perfect way for soap made with beer and wine to make it’s debut at Archives.

Since it is a special day, I was trying to find something fun and exciting to celebrate being alive – I decided we had to see my soap in DC. Around lunch time we ventured into the city on this super spectacular Spring day. It was sunny and we couldn’t have asked for a better day to drive in.

We went straight to the gift shop after parking. It took a bit of looking to find our soaps because they only had FOUR bars in stock. Talk about selling quickly. Technically….photos aren’t allowed in Archives but somehow, our iPhones had a flaw and took some photos all on their own! Apple really needs to work on this glitch.

After the excitement, we decided to tour the Prohibition exhibit. We were wondering if there would be anything on moonshine since Joel is from the county in Virginia that is known for its grain alcohol. There was a lot on various political movements, you see copied of the amendments that outlaw, and then reinstate, liquor. It was interesting and very much worth the trip. As we were getting ready to leave the exhibit we see this:

IMG_0002 THAT’S OUR MERLOT WINE SOAP! IN THE EXHIBIT! I couldn’t believe it! There we are! I think I screamed.

There you have it. That’s how we spent Big Brain Anniversary 2015.

Philly Bound

April & May are the months of Philadelphia! Old Town Suds will be heading to two awesome events in the city.

On April 26th, we’ll be at Crafty Balboa. Outside of the 40 awesome venders:

Crafty Balboa runs in conjunction with Flavors of the Avenue. East Passyunk’s award-winning chefs will offer tastes of their signature dishes and drinks under the cover of a big top tent, making the event rain or shine!

Google Maps also tells me there are two well-known cheesesteak places a few blocks up the road too. What can I say, I lead with my stomach.

If you didn’t get enough of Suds on the 26th, we’ll be back for two days in May! On the 9th and 10th you’ll find us at Art Star Craft Bazaar which has been rated a Best of Philly event for YEARS.

Over 150 local and national artists have been chosen to set up shop and sell their wares at Penn’s Landing Great Plaza, right along the Delaware River.

Save the dates on your calendar now! Suds can’t wait to see you in Philly in April and May.

Designing a New Soap Booth

The past few years of attending weekly markets has fought us a few things about our booth space. I know to always plan for more traffic than I expect at 6am on a Saturday morning (why are so many people in DC up at this time?) and that I need pieces that I am able to carry (strict 20 pound limit on what I can carry). That means most mornings I’m waiting on the husband to unload the car while I wait looking rather pathetic.

So, I’ve decided to redesign our booth space before the market season starts and allow for more items that I can carry. We’ll still have the same wine tasting feel but it’s going to be more jazzed up. For our longer events, we’ll take it up another notch with a bar counter like feel, but that is for another post. If my father in law thought I was a pain in the ass with our trade show booth…wait until he sees this plan. I’m sure you will all hear him scream.

A majority of spaces we occupy are 10’x10′ which is also the size of our canopy. That means everything has to fit in nice and cozy in to 100 square feet. Thankfully, very tiny apartment living has taught me well. Last year, we used the front of the tent as a walkup bar and the rest was storage for us. This year, will be different.

(keep in mind, this is our draft stage right now)

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.55.01 PM

What we are going to create is a U shaped table setup. A 6′ table will be at the base of the U with two 4′ tables flanking the sides. The tables will be used for displaying items, signage and whatnot. The 4 feet of space behind the tables will give us a place to stand, additional storage and give us room to maneuver.

I also plan on building shelving between two wooden creates to add height to the display. (That’s one thing we are currently lacking with our setup from last year.) Additionally, our tables are going to grow a few inches in height. They have been eating their veggies during the winter and have gotten a bit taller with the use of PVC pipes on their legs. These extensions will help bring everything up to a more comfortable shopping height. Plus, it also means the stray toddler will have a bit more difficultly eat the new “fudge” they just found at the farmers’ market. (yeah, that has happened)

Our first outdoor market of the season starts in 3 weeks so we must have everything done by then! I see some late nights of painting in our future.

I Hate Snow

I hate snow. I hate it. Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word. The puppies can’t get off the porch because the steps have turned into a snow slide – that now needs to be shoveled. It’s cold and we’re stuck at home. I do believe this is the definition of hell. I moved away from the Midwest’s blizzards for a reason. Snow and I do not get along.

Side note: Where exactly is Spring? The good news is our farmers’ markets will be starting soon! I really can’t wait to get out and see everyone again. (please remind me of this post when it is 95 out with 80% humidity)

As I sit by the fireplace with Lizzy curled up next to me, I think we need to move to Napa. The wine soap maker at the California vineyards :) That is doable, right?

One can dream. Until then, there is little bath champagne in my plans for this evening.

Stay warm and safe everyone!

How I take care of my skin

Every few markets I get someone who asks what exactly I do to keep my skin looking so great. First, I love that people are using my skin as an example. For years decades I’ve been working on a routine that keeps my skin as clear as possible. There hasn’t been a day since my teens where I haven’t had some sort of breakout.

First, I drink more water that you will ever believe.

At our farmers’ markets I go through at least 1 gallon of water in 5 hours. Throughout the day I always have a large glass of water with me. It’s hardly ever empty.

Second, I always wash with the Best Face Wash Ever. It’s the only way I can keep my skin under control. At times it can a touch too drying (like in this winter season), but it’s necessary for me to keep the acne at bay.

After I wash with BFWE, I follow with either a facial moisturizer that is great under makeup for the day or I use our Hydrate Facial Oil for night or when I’m not wearing makeup. I LOVE Hydrate. After playing with some really young cousins, aka germ magnets, I got seriously sick. The Hydrate kept my nose calm, cool, and not flaky! I used a bit more than normal to help keep my nose happy and it paid off.

Last is something that I am really working on. It’s eating more vegetables. The saying is true, you are what you eat. It’s easier during the summer when I am running between farmers’ markets but I’ve gotta increase the amount of green leafy veggies in my diet. I believe that is the next step to really keeping my skin radiant and glowing.