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2014 National Stationery Show! (Part 6: POST-SHOW)

This post marks the last of my six part series about the National Stationery Show.
Here are the quick links to the previous posts:

Part 1: INTRO
Part 2: PREP
Part 3: BOOTH
Part 4: THE SHOW
Part 5: COSTS
And now, Part 6: POST-SHOW

Bottom line, NSS… was it worth it?

Pursuing your own business is always risky, you never know how it’s going to pan out. If you decide to leave your career for it, saying goodbye to a steady paycheque is even more terrifying, especially with a child in the picture so I would not recommend this route unless you have a safety net in place. (I explain why I decided to pursue a work-at-home mom status in Part 1: INTRO). I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills if it wasn’t for my savings account but even that was dwindling too quickly after you saw my NSS expense report. If you are financially secure and have a plan, go for it. Working for myself is the most gratifying and toughest thing I have ever experienced, next to having my daughter. queenie’s cards is my second baby and I am so relieved I was able to see it strive and succeed (though, slowly but surely) this past year. A gigantic part of this is thanks to NSS — during those three and a half days in New York City, I made countless connections which led me to where I am today. Suffice to say, it was 100% worth it and I would do it again, without question.

Post-Show… now what?

When I arrived back in Toronto, I was in post-show recovery for a few weeks, maybe even months. For such a huge and expensive event, exhibitors planned and worked for months and months and after such an intense build up, it takes some time for you to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Your brain is still constantly in overdrive:

– Trying to figure out your next steps in that critical window to send thank you notes to everyone you met
– Fill orders to meet your delivery dates
– Respond to potential stockists, clients and mail them catalogues or whatever further info requested at the show
– Research future opportunities that were presented to you but still ongoing
– Restock inventory, rethink or add to product line, change/edit any existing items based on suggestions at the show
– All the while trying to reflect on and take in the entire NSS experience to determine what road you might be headed in the following months

It’s a lot to deal with. I honestly didn’t even think of any scenarios because I went in with no expectations, not because I didn’t believe in myself and my company but because I had no idea what the heck I was doing! I secretly was keeping my fingers crossed for one order, and that to me would’ve meant I succeeded. Thankfully I got more than one! During the summer I worked everyday to keep the momentum going and continuously added stockists to my list. The work never ends, processes are long and gruelling but you have to stick with it. For example, it took half a year for my products to be in a number of stores. I’m still currently working with several companies I met at the show before I can announce them as a stockist. There is a phone book’s worth of paperwork and logistics to sort through before any contracts are signed. You might also need to source new suppliers along the way, test new printers and rethink your product line.  You need an endless amount of patience as a business owner, but let me tell you, it’s worth the wait.

Ask questions… all the time!

The one thing I learned about this entire experience, from the day I quit my job to right now, is that you don’t need a business resume for sole proprietorship. You need to believe in your brand, your products, and what they are worth. I minored in marketing in university but I honestly gleaned more from when I worked retail than any textbook has taught me. This may just be how I work, but I want to tell you incase you work the same way. Be smart with your choices, don’t say yes to everything, and ask questions. That’s what got me through a lot of uncertainty, I bugged the heck out of people who I thought would have answers for me. If they didn’t, they would no doubt offer valuable advice I didn’t think to ask. Always ask questions!

Where I am now… hello 2015!

There is always more work to do, even though I’ve had a tremendous amount of positive results this past year, I’m eons away from where I’d like to be. This is only the beginning and the overwhelming feeling never leaves. My brain is still always thinking and until the company is somewhat self-sufficient, I have to keep working and learning. I’m still an amateur in this small biz world and there is so much I have to go through before I can put my feet up and have that assistant I pine for (lol). Everything has been a lot of trial and error and that changes all the time. Everyone you work with is different and you will have to adapt accordingly. You will change. Your products will change. It’s an ongoing process and I’ve had so many headaches along the way, but it has also been the greatest journey and I cannot believe I’m on my second year! Here is my short to do list off the top of my head:

– Right now, I’m in the design phase with a top secret company that I cannot wait to announce if all things go well.
– I have to finish my 2015 catalogue for current and potential retailers, I’m uber behind because the holiday rush was insane.
– Valentine designs are underway, I’m late because of said holiday insanity.
– Re-evaluating my products because I want to add onesies and tshirts to the mix! And mugs, y’all love mugs.
– I have to get my tax documents ready… my accountant is going to hate me, there is a lot to sort through.
– I’m still not finished editing the hundreds of photos from my shoot a month ago, my website is in need of an update ASAP.
– I’m researching more Toronto shows to participate in because my first one was such a success. In the meantime, I’m signed up for OOAK (info below) and I hope to see you there!

Upcoming event:

ONE OF A KIND SPRING SHOW
March 25-29, 2015
Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place in Toronto ON

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2014 National Stationery Show! (Part 5: COSTS)

The nitty gritty of it all — the cost of NSS (for queenie’s cards, anyway).

I already posted the cost details of everything booth related in Part 3 and I’ve elaborated (or, ranted) on specifics about prep (flight, hotel, catalogues, line sheets, order forms and marketing materials) in Part:2, all so I could summarize the cost breakdowns in this chart:

So there you have it! $11,356.54 is the (approximate) total I spent on my 2014 National Stationery Show experience. Yowza.

The hotel fee really ate into my budget, I’ve made a ton of New Yorker friends since the show so if I were to ever exhibit again I would love to cross this expense off my list! I was lucky I could at least fly on points.

The booth, well, there’s tons I could have done differently now that I’ve had my first experience. But honestly, looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because it worked out so smoothly and I know if I attempted to put anything together on my own it would’ve been a disaster.

Shipping costs was more than I estimated, as I mentioned before, I will 100% plan a month ahead of all self-given deadlines so I can ground ship all materials. It was a pain in the arse to lug to and from the airport too, what a mess!

Inventory costs included all cellophane sleeves for the cards, press kits, tote bags, buttons/magnets/keychains, and of course the cards themselves (I brought 3 of each design with me but printed extras for orders).

Marketing materials: I got a great deal for my business cards and postcards (no tax and free shipping), I’m happy with my order forms because I can use them for future orders, but I spent way too much on catalogues and line sheets. I printed/purchased 100 too many of each and now they’re obsolete. I was paranoid I would run out so I handed them out sparingly, but next time I would give one to anyone who would want to take it and I’d leave extras at my booth for after hours incase suppliers were walking the show when it was closed.

I cabbed from the airport to my hotel (and back) because I had too much luggage to bother with the subway. Flying into JFK wasn’t the most convenient but it was the only flight I could get with my points so I made do. I didn’t even think to see if there were any shuttle buses available until I went back to NYC with the hubs last month and he looked into one — though we flew into Newark the round trip ticket was only $30. Argh.

Food in NYC is pricey. Thankfully, breakfast was included with my hotel stay (such a saviour!) but a boxed chicken sandwich in Javits cost $10 — so relieved I took fruit and bagels with me from breakfast everyday. Needless to say I didn’t eat much for lunch, especially because I didn’t eat in my booth and after a big breakfast I was ok until the evening. I did splurge on dinner and desserts, I told myself I earned it after each long day at the show. I went out with my new NSS friends every night and we had a blast, from Shake Shack to fancy sushi restaurants, it was totally worth it. Next time I would bring a crap ton of snacks though, just to have on hand at the airport, hotel and at the booth. Having a water bottle was key!

Other miscellaneous purchases added up too, I had to buy a $20 US data phone plan but went over anyway because I was already speaking with local retailers after the first day, I cabbed to and from dinner a few times because I don’t know my way around the city, and I bought gifts and souvenirs which isn’t technically in my budget (shhh).

All in all, over half a year later I still feel good about every purchase and I’m really curious what my expense report would be if I exhibit again. I would like to eventually, but for 2015 I’m concentrating on local Toronto shows now that I’ve reached a wide range of stockists, all thanks to the contacts and connections I’ve made at NSS! It was an absolute surreal adventure and I loved every bit of it! Next up is Part 6: Post-Show — what the heck has been going on since I’ve come back!

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Filed under Photos, Products, queenie's cards, Tradeshows