The National Stationery Show. It’s a large paper and gift trade show that takes place in the Javitz Center in New York. It now happens twice a year (used to only be in May) in combination with NY NOW, another huge home & gift trade show, in February and in August.
February of 2019 was my first show ever. At that point, I had been slowly growing my greeting cards line for about 2.5 years. I started my business out with just the custom wedding stationery but as I navigated the growth of that small business, I noticed other stationers also had a wholesale line of cards which I thought was smart. I also thought it was so perfect because truthfully I have loved cards all my life. I always purchased the blank ones with a pretty illustration on the front. If you know me, you already know I’m a huge fan of the written word. It’s eternal. It’s romantic. And to me, it’s the most meaningful way to express yourself to someone because you’re putting it down on paper for them to read over and over again and to look back on in years to come.
2018, I had Logan. It was a tough year and I wrote more about my postpartum experience in another post here. I had so much growing and adjusting to do in order to find my balance. Not actual balance, just my version of it. I was never planning to give up my career, my business, my goals, to be a mom. I always planned on figuring out how to succeed at both and what I learned is, you can only succeed if there is dedicated time set aside for each one separately. So I spent all of 2018 juggling everything as any mom or parent really, can relate to. But when you want something badly enough, you do it.
So here’s what I did to prep for the trade show…
- Scour pinterest for booth ideas, inspiration, tips, etc.
- Brainstorm booth ideas every single day and night in order to land on something that felt “on brand”
- Asked myself, what is “on brand” for Stephanie Tara Stationery?
- Developed a brand
- Redesigned my logo with hand lettering because that was “on brand”
- Called my friend Tori from Tori Love Jewelry, every single day and night for moral, emotional, creative and business support. Frientors are everything and now I have so many more to add to the mix that I’m so grateful for and met at NSS!
- Hired a family friend in construction to help structurally design and build my walls
- Hired my husband with sexual favors as pay, to paint said walls and then help me do literally everything physical for the trade show ( I’m only half kidding about the sexual favors ) *John and my dad come with me to every setup and after everything gets forklifted to my spot, they put the walls together
- Cried and had every breakdown imaginable because I did not know how I would get everything done in time
- Got everything done in time (Within reason. You have to sacrifice some things and get to them the next time around. For example, I did not have as many marketing materials or skus as I would have liked but each show I add a little more and that’s okay)
- Had major help from a friend, Jodi from The Neighborgoods, who had done the show previously and gave me tips on where to print my catalog, where to print my order forms, how to order electric for my booth and how much, where to order flooring and so much more. She was an absolute lifesaver and I’ll forever be grateful! I feel a sense of paying forward my knowledge now to any other people going into the show for their first time because it’s impossible to do it successfully without some insider help
- Did so many other little details that it’s impossible to actually list or we’d be here all day and no one wants that but if you do, message me and I’ll happily get into more detail!
- Showed up and wrote orders
- Went home and freaked out because I had never sent out wholesale orders before and that was a giant learning curve in itself
- Set Up an actual shipping station in my studio so the next time around it was 75% easier
I could definitely go on but I think for now that’s a good beginner run through. The key is to identify YOUR priorities for YOUR brand and YOUR goals. Some people want to have a lot of products and some just want to have greeting cards. Sometimes one product works great for another company but does horribly for you and that’s just something we learn along the way. For example gift wrap did badly for me and also I hate storing it and mailing it. I say try whatever your passionate about, after doing research on what the market will spend on it and how much you’re willing to shell out in order to get your prices right for wholesale, and then get out there and show the world. Oldest story holds true, you’ll never know until your try.
Here are some photos of the 2 NSS shows I did in 2019 and in just a week, we’ll be at it again!
NSS February 2019 – total newbie
NSS August 2019 – semi seasoned
Last day of setting up – Feeling tired and excited
John’s alter ego is a stationery designer – as can be seen in the photos above, really feeling himself in my cubby.
I like gathering all of this information and these photos in one spot for myself because it’s a nice memory to look back on. I can remember the feelings I wrote down and see the growth I’ve made from one show to the next. Highly recommend to anyone out there making moves, document it in a place that’s special to you!