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National Stationery Show 2014 - Part II - The Show!

Lauren Boggs Meslar

beve booth #1468 at the 2014 National Stationery Show

We're back and we're talking about beve's debut experience at the 2014 National Stationery Show. We were part of NSS, but exhibited in the new #fresh section of the show and were affiliated with Etsy Wholesale's NSS presence. For our pre-show preparations, check out our first blog post (ever!).

After driving into the New Jersey area at about 2 AM to stay with our family friends, we took the drive to Javits mid-morning on Saturday, hoping to finish setting up by early evening. As children under 14 aren't allowed during set up (or take down, which isn't as publicized), Lennox was babysat by our family friends while Grandba helped us set up. It was great having two other people to help set up. I handled the more delicate and detailed items while my husband, Chris, and his father assembled furniture and the lights, etc. I also dropped off our press kits and Best New Product competition displays. Set up surprises? Even though I'd called to verify the height limit, the car garage wouldn't let us in with the cargo carrier on top. We had to pay extra for a VIP spot (but our coupon helped cancel out the extra cost). A more pleasant surprise: Javits provides big, flat bed dollies (and pushers) for folks dropping off their own items (vs. shipping)! I was terrified we were going to get a $200 bill or something after they took our booth number down, but it was free! Go Chris for having the initiative to ask the folks at the door about it!

Here's what our booth looked like when we first started setting up

With the walls up and floor in

Getting close to being show-ready

And right before the show started on Sunday morning

beve NSS prep

We arrived about an hour before the show started on Sunday to put the final touches on the booth. The show started and it took a while for folks to find their way to the rear where #fresh was located and then, BAM! We were slammed! It was unexpected and great! At times there wasn't even room for interested folks to come in our booth; a hand would swoop in and grab a catalog and leave a card. Given that our booth was only 60 SF before adding furniture, it wasn't too hard to fill up, but still! While this situation wasn't ideal for making contacts, it was great for creating buzz and giving a positive impression. We had many folks come back by the booth later and they were quite impressed with how much interest booth #1468 (our booth) was garnering.

I was so happy that Chris was there with me! Pre-show webinars had mentioned that while it's good to have someone helping, it can be frustrating to just have 'another body' there who can't really answer any questions. As Chris is an integral part of beve, doing the day to day shipping and some customer service, he has a good handle on beve's products and policies. Also, I'd been quizzing him on products, pricing, pitches, current retailers and 'we want to be here' retailers for about a month. It paid off as he wrote many orders with existing and new shop owners, so it was clear that they felt he could answer their questions.

Pretty, on-brand details helped beve's visual quality - and are just fun :)

pretty, beve blue details around our booth

We were thrilled with our success on Sunday and Monday was even busier. It was probably the busiest day and was quite steady. A number of folks said they did a quick walk on Sunday and then stopped in to the booths that caught their eye on Monday. This shows how important the visual quality of your booth is. I noticed numerous people go to walk by (from the front of the show to the back, fyi), glance at our inspiration boards, slow down, then come in to check them out more closely. That usually led to a nice chat, an exchange of cards and catalog and sometimes an order! I was happy I switched our layout around after making an educated guess at which direction people would be coming - think about that when working on your booth layout. Also, don't be afraid to ask for feedback. One shop owner mentioned she'd been coming to the show for something like twenty consecutive years. I asked if she'd be so kind as to let me know how we compared and she said we did very well - or she wouldn't have stopped in! I had been concerned that our booth was a bit busy, but she said it was enough to draw you in, but not overpower you. Otherwise, folks keep on walking. I'd heard this sentiment in webinars, so I was very happy that we'd managed to keep our 200 displayed products from being overwhelming.

Inspiration Boards showing our new watercolor letter seal stickers, watercolor floral paper straws, black bow washi tape, coral lovelies, antique blue paper straws, lots of honeycomb balls and lots more!

We were so busy on Monday that we ran out of our hard copy catalogs - on day two! - and we had 150 printed! Most information said that 100-200 would be good for a first time exhibitor, so I thought we'd be fine and would hopefully have some left over. Well, we have one or two copies for ourselves and the rest are out there in the universe hopefully working hard for us! I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but we ran out of business cards too. We ended up making "ghetto cards," with perforated edges - you know the ones. Not the classiest option when shop owners are going around with beautiful, thick, edge-painted cards like these from Oh So Beautiful Paper printed by the wonderful Gus & Ruby Letterpress! <Side note: be sure to bring good, full-size staplers. We had a number of cards almost kill our medium-sized stapler and Chris got stabbed by our pint-sized stapler. His bandage? Tissue and washi tape, of course!> Certainly better than nothing, though. We also had our info cards from Etsy Wholesale to give out and we wrote our ISSUU url on those and added it to our impromptu cards. Many people were getting weighed down by their catalogs at that point, so they were okay with just having a url for our Issuu hosted PDF.

This is how Chris and I looked (at close on Monday):

Grinning like mad! (and matching!)

Tuesday was steady and we wrote almost as many orders as on Monday. Wow, it was crazy! We had gone in expecting to write 5-10 orders based on my research of first-time exhibitors. By close on Wednesday, we'd written 32 orders at the show! I thought we'd maybe pay for the show by the end of the year through re-orders from new shops - we broke even (in gross sales, not net!) mid-day Tuesday. As we'll talk about in our next post, we kept our investment very low, so that certainly helped in breaking even. We were getting tired by the end of the day on Tuesday, but as we had a free invitation to The Paper Party while most tickets to show parties were $60-$150/each, we had to take advantage of the opportunity. We chatted with the super sweet Sara of our retailer Occasionette who was exhibiting for her line Girls Can Tell and her booth partner Jim of Beehive Handmade and a few other folks, but we headed out early to catch the last Express bus to Jersey. We missed our little girl! We did get our photo snapped chatting with Cambria Evans, seen here on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

I'm in yellow and Chris in in purple; I was checking out Cambria's haircut. So cute!!

Wednesday was pretty slow, but we still wrote two orders, one of which was from a new shop. Things got very slow at the end, which I'd expected as I'd walked the show each day in 2013. Based on the Save The Date we received, it looks like the half day was cut for 2015; not a bad idea, though I'm curious how break down will work. As we were leaving for home from the city, we drove in with my father-in-law and Lennox in tow and they got to explore the show a bit. Bob walked the entire show, something we hadn't been able to do at all due to our steady booth traffic, so it was nice to get some information about other booths and any similar products out there. Lennox found our booth interesting for about ten minutes, then wanted to explore. Thank goodness she hadn't been cooped up there the entire show! Chris took her exploring while I manned the booth. Apparently, she was, "stopping the show" on the 1500 aisle with everyone popping their heads out to check her out. One Gift>It exhibitor was sweet enough to snap a photo and text it to Chris. I'm so thankful because it is one of the cutest things I've ever seen! Sure, I'm biased, but come on! :D

Our daughter, Lennox, at 9 months at the 2014 National Stationery Show

Our daughter, Lennox, at 9 months at the 2014 National Stationery Show

I couldn't believe how quickly booths began coming down once 1 PM hit. Lennox and I headed to pick up our leftover press kits - they were all gone! - and then got caught with a baby. While I'd noted that kids were not allowed during set up, I had completely missed that they were not allowed at tear down. Makes sense, but it threw a monkey in our wrench. It turned out all right as I went with Bob to get the car, parked at a nearby garage and using the same $12 coupon we used on Saturday (keep an eye out for those deals!). We pulled the cargo carried we'd squished in the back of the vehicle (go Outback!!) out and got it ready to be refilled with our booth. Many exhibitors leave parts of their booth at the show instead of hauling them home or paying to store them in the city. Not us! We took everything home and plan to reuse most of it in future booths. Being a small business makes you have to be efficient - and creative! I'm already thinking about how to tweak our booth for future shows!

The boys did a good job of breaking the booth down while Lennox and I waited at the car, packing in items as they were brought out, and we were on the road to Virginia around 3 PM with a quick stop in Princeton, New Jersey for...


If you're ever in/near Princeton, you seriously need to go to The Bent Spoon. It's amazing! And I mean drive an extra 45 minutes on an already 6+ hour trip AFTER a four day show just to have a cup of ice cream amazing. You won't regret it :)

Check back in for Part III of our NSS 2014 adventure where we discuss the nitty gritty of orders, our booth set up, budget and lessons learned. We hope this is informative for all you first-time exhibitors!

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