Small Biz Adventures: the FUN and NOT fun of Exhibiting at Market

I just returned home to Kansas City from exhibiting at Shoppe Object in the Big Apple-- and am sorting through the ups and downs of it. I'm going on 11 years in business, and it took me 4 years before I exhibited at a market, and really could have used some info before I did so I thought I'd share some insight here. Maybe you're just a voyeur wondering what it's like to be slinging throws for a living, or maybe you have a small business and perhaps you'll find it helpful.

What is 'market' you ask? Market is where vendors like myself come to show their goods. In this case, the people visiting Shoppe Object are either buyers, press or "trade'. Buyers at this show are often the shop owners of small boutiques coming to stock their shops with the latest goods, but big box companies also come and then it would be the buyer(s) for the company.  Press is online and print magazines looking for a story or new product to showcase. Trade would be folks in the design and retail fields. 

For frame of reference, I've done a handful of shows in the past: 2015 New York NOW, 2015 ICFF (NYC) as part of the first Design Milk collective, 2016 with a rug show that no longer exists (also NYC), West Edge Design in LA a few times and let's see things get a little foggy- seems there was a Vegas show in there and then Shoppe Object opened in 2018 and I've now done that 4, maybe 5 times. 

So when I cut to it, I think in terms of fun factor because this seems like important business advice of how to measure success, right?

WHAT'S FUN ABOUT EXHIBITING AT NYC MARKET:

FOOD IS FUN!

It's NEW YORK baby! So you might be too exhausted to go to a museum at 6 pm when the show ends, but you gotta eat right? New York is really the best place for ALL food (except BBQ, duh!) and I'm not gonna lie, I'm even happy with a street vendor gyros. Here's some of my faves that I've gone back to over the years because they're that good; Via Carota for the best homemade pasta, Buvette for quaint french, Beauty and Essex for creative small bites and champagne bar in the ladies room, Tacombi for tacos and margs, Bathalzar for classic old school French experience.

DRINKS ARE FUN!
One of the most special places for a glass of champagne or a Ning Fling (that I once accidentally dropped off the roof before taking a sip! haha. No one was injured BTW and they were so nice when my friend talked them into giving me another one: Salon de Ning at the top of the Peninsula Hotel. Pretty much any rooftop in NYC is special- some that are memorable: Spyglass, the Roof (at le Meridien).
 
HOTELS ARE FUN!
Stay in a nice hotel, you deserve it and it will be your sanctuary after a LONG day. As a busy mom, this is a serious treat for me- designer suites with a view of the city is a mini vacation in itself. Two of my faves are: Public and Archer. Here's some snaps from my stay at Public this time. Yes, I bring throws to my rooms. Always.
Public Hotel NYC
 
SHOPPING THE SHOW IS FUN!
Before Shoppe Object existed, I was looking into starting my own show, or a collective of brands that I respected that I could bring together in one place because I wasn't happy with the market options that were out there. As I was exploring this idea, Shoppe Object was born-- and it was far better than what I could have imagined. Walking the show is an exploration of the coolest products all in one place. I bookmark so many products for gifts and ideas for myself. Sometimes vendors will sell their samples at the end of the show too- I came home with some pretty awesome stuff this time. Here are a few of my faves from the show (this is definitely the short list, I could go on):
  • Leah Singh- had the pleasure of meeting Leah and was so happy to meet such a down to earth designer, super cool to connect with her! (I am now the proud owner of several of her pillows!)
  • Wolfum- I met Annabel a few years back when I discovered she was a friend of a friend and we became fast friends-- our patterned products are meant to hang out together and her Cornhole set is a favorite at my house. I was super excited she was just 1 booth away so it was lovely to talk business and personal-- we also came up with a pretty great hashtag if we can find the guts to use it: #patternporn
  • Nate Cotterman- they had me at built in ice-cubes in beautiful glasses that you freeze. 
  • Lateral Objects- was 2 booths over-- I'm in love with their ombre glassware. 
  • Wandering Bud- Riley is a fellow KC gal who had recently bought a throw to use in a photoshoot and I gotta say, my throws and her beautiful "highly aesthetic smokeware" are a great match-- chill + chill. I look forward to seeing how our products can fit together in more photos! Had the joy of meeting her and her mom and it's always great to connect with an entrepreneur doing cool things in my hometown.
  • Stockhome Candles- Diana is just a sweetheart. And Fig Tree makes my senses happy. Good people making good products right here.
THE SHOW IS FUN! Not all shows are created equal. Shoppe Object has a bright sunny vibe. Good music, good food (they even have a cart that goes through with food and drinks) + cool people. There was a bar at the end of my aisle- people seem relaxed and happy to be there. It's not 'work' but a cool experience and a feast for the eyes!

 

Okay, now for the NOT FUN:

PHYSICAL WORK + SCHLEPPING Yes, your boxes do arrive in your booth, but unless you hire someone to do the heavy lifting or your product is feathers, it's still a lot of ummmm, what's the best word here: sweating. Maybe it's because I'm nearing 50 this year and my flight was delayed but I was exhausted after set up. It takes a lot of careful planning, and even then, it's a lot of 'work'. Here, I'll make it look all pretty and easy...

 SHOPPE OBJECT SET UP

 

and now for some mixed emotions about it all...

FUN AND NOT FUN AT THE SAME TIME:

TALKING. all day. Exhilarating and truly awesome to connect with new shopkeepers and reconnect ones I already know (especially after being gone due to Covid the last 2+ years!) At the same time that exhilaration can be depleting at the end of the day. 
THE CITY. We aren't in Kansas anymore. Art, architecture, theatre- so much to do if you have time! I had just a few hours before my return flight, so I got my Aura read at the cutest little place, but the walk there smelled of urine, rotting trash and hot seafood. 
TRAVELING. Need I say more? I've learned to shift my perspective to look at the travel as part of the adventure, it's not a means to and end but part of the process and it should be enjoyed. At same time, it can be tiring, and airplane seats are uncomfortable. For some unknown reason, first class was like $25 more on the way home- so I grabbed it and man what a pleasant 3 hour flight! Not sure that will ever happen again, but if it does I'm on it!
I look happy as a first timer in first-class right?
$$$$$. NYC isn't for the cheap. But hey, it's a business expense, right? The owner can deal with it. Oh wait, that's me...

 

So do I drop $1000s for the sake of fun, or possible NOT fun or a mixed bag of FUN? The short answer is yes. If I'm having fun-- I do believe the business success part will follow. I know it's not ALL fun and games, and I do believe in putting in hard work and doing difficult things, but FUN is usually a good indicator that things are headed in the right direction and also attracts positive motion. It's hard to have an exact ROI measurement as sometimes orders trickle in a year or more later, or someone found me via the Shoppe Object website way after the show, and I didn't meet them personally at the show, but in the end, I do think it's important to stay relevant in the public eye, and going to a good market does that. It also helps keep me on my toes with fresh product and design. So for now... I'll leave you with my Aura at Day 5 in NYC...

Aura Photo NYC

My aura read as passionate, creative, confident, reliable and responsible, that I had some lingering things ruminating that I need to let go of (who doesn't!?), and that my eyes and shoulders were tired (yep!) and that the yellow there is sunny days ahead (which is now, which has proven to be quite true!) Next time I'm hoping for some blue in there which denotes peacefulness, but that seems hard to achieve while hustling in the city-- but that's my goal for next show!

 

 

 

[Opinions are my own, there are no affiliation links here, I do not benefit from passing along my fave products from the show, or restaurants, or hotels, just my opinions in the spirit of sharing. After all this is the Woobie- a place for keeping you cozy, inside and out. ]


1 comment


  • emily

    Loved seeing and hearing about the ins and outs of the show. xoxo ps – first class looks good on you


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