Last week in Dublin's RDS Hairy Fruit Art had it's debut launch at Showcase Ireland 2016 and what an impressive show it was!
However, before the show I had searched the internet looking for an honest and friendly blog post from a previous newbie to get a feel of what it would be like but I didn't find what I was looking for.
So I decided to write this blog post which might be a nice one for a future "newbie exhibitor" to read.
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW...
Showcase Ireland is "Ireland's Creative Expo". In their own words….
"Explore the best of Ireland’s creativity from over 450 exhibitors including leading Irish designers and manufacturers and the very best emerging home grown creative talent."
Organised by the Design and Craft's Council of Ireland and supported by Local Enterprise, thousands of trade buyers from home and abroad travel to visit this show to buy their stock for the year and to source new products from new designers. I was so proud looking around at the vast array of talented Irish designers and makers, no wonder this is a "must-go-to-show" for international buyers.
I was privileged to be one of four small businesses from Wicklow to be selected and supported by Wicklow Local Enterprise to exhibit in the "Enterprise Zone" this year. The Enterprise Zone is upstairs in the gallery with lots of exhibitors and designers from counties of Ireland who are supported by their Local Enterprise.
Not all, but many of the exhibitors upstairs in the E-Zone are newbies which in itself is encouraging just to know that you're not the only one. I was very excited but also quite nervous because I had never exhibited in a trade show before and wondered whether I would be "up" to the unknown challenges that lay ahead. I realised during the show that adrenalin is good :-)
So grateful to my husband who is a genius when it comes to DIY and fixing things and he helped me set up my stand which consisted of three walls 2mx2mx2m. For the trickiest bit (wall hanging) I had done a mock up on the computer roughly to scale of how my prints would hang on the wall. This was an utterly brilliant idea if I say so myself.
I had even decided which pictures would be placed where. This worked really well because I knew exactly what prints to bring along with me, especially helpful when you have multiple artworks like I do. A computer isn't essential, a pencil and paper will do, but some sort of "thought-out" mockup of your stand saves a huge amount of time and indecision in the setting up.
This is the spectacular view from where I was positioned on the balcony. At quiet times I enjoyed watching buyers and sellers "do their thing" with everybody working hard and the stands looked really amazing.
DEALING WITH BUYERS
This was the bit I was nervous about. I was outside of my comfort zone and really wasn't sure if I would find it easy to approach buyers on the floor effectively, hold their attention long enough to discuss my products, confidently explain my pricing and terms, and help them understand that Hairy Fruit Art is truly unique and special and agh!
When the lady on the PA system announced that Showcase Ireland was open you could feel the adrenalin pumping through the RDS, well my heart was pumping anyway!
They say Day 1 and 2 are the busiest because that's when the serious buyers do their work and I can well believe it. By mid morning there were buyers coming by in their droves and after speaking to the first buyer I suddenly realised there was nothing to worry about. Buyers are humans too, they are there to do business as was I, and generally speaking they were all lovely people and very easy to talk to.
I can't tell you how many gorgeous and inspiring folk I met from shop owners to hoteliers, writers, bloggers and gifted designers, friendly helpful exhibitors, the list goes on. I knew from Day 1 that it was going to be okay and I really began to enjoy myself.
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
Whoever is beside you at Showcase is a major factor in helping the four days flow along with pleasure. I was very fortunate with my fellow Wicklow Enterprise Zoners. Geraldine Leonard Textile Artist, Mette O'Connor from AMOC Jewellers, and Catherine from The Crafty Bird who were great craic and a huge support, before it was even over I was missing them already.
Not to mention my lovely friends Linda Lucas and Ciara Winkleman who offered to help me at my stand, both busy people who took the time to support me so brilliantly in my hour of need, and for that I am truly grateful. Last but not least my thanks to Judy Davis who was the catalyst in encouraging me to make the big step and do a trade show in the first place.
YOUR HELP IS YOUR WEALTH
I was fortunate that Wicklow Local Enterprise were able to offer me the assistance of a great mentor, Lisa Cunningham. Lisa was/is brilliant. Apart from her marvellous energy and personality (which I could do a separate blog post on ;-)), Lisa (Vogue Business Development) is a female entrepreneur with years of experience from running her own many successful businesses and helping others run theirs. It was she who had the confidence in me and said I was ready to go, she who helped me work out an endless amount of things down to sketching out my brochure layout on a piece of paper over a coffee in Delgany!
All in all Showcase Ireland 2016 was a success. I set goals for myself which were reached with some positive added surprises thrown in. I was delighted with the enthusiastic reaction to my designs, happy and grateful to get orders at the show, got interesting new commissions, new leads, it was just great. Well worth all the preparation and effort and even the odd sleepless night!
If I can do it anyone can. Roll on Showcase 2017!
Would this encourage you to bring your small business to the next level and attend your first trade fair?