I made it through my first trade show! Vivi Dot had a booth in the Cash and Carry section of POOL at the beginning of September and it was a great success. Backing up just a bit, I'll explain how this show differs from all of the other shows I've done. POOL is a part of the huge MAGIC trade show where many, many clothing and accessory companies present their lines to buyers from across the world. Buyers from department stores, owners of small town boutiques and everyone in between come to place orders for their businesses. Most brands set up extravagant booths that display their pieces that are currently available for order. The Cash and Carry section that I was in allows buyers to purchase items on the spot so they can try newer lines like Vivi Dot out before they place a larger order. This section also makes it easier for small timers like me to get our foot in the door in the world of wholesaling.
I've been in stores in the Bay Area for a few years, but getting Vivi Dot ready for world wide expansion was a huge undertaking. I started out by redesigning my packaging to give everything a consistent, noticeable look. Hanna Nation, of Gadabout Paper did some amazing drawings of my products as well as created a few of her adorable girl drawings with some Vivi Dot product accents. I incorporated these into the cards I use as well as my line sheet (an informational catalog for buyers).
After the packaging was all squared away it was time to come up with an edited assortment of prints and products. Now that I'm designing my own fabrics for the products I'm no longer limited to what I can find at the fabric store. Duncan and I went through numerous iterations and color tests and decided on our favorite prints to use for the show. Since the fabric I get printed is limited in some respects (the saturation of certain colors, etc) I supplemented my designs with some of my favorite prints from Pea Pod Fabrics. Here's the final collection of swatches that were offered:
The last important step in preparing was mass production. I sweatshopped myself right down to the last minute with devoted help from Duncan all along the way. I've done big shows before, but nothing where someone might come by and want to buy 8 of this item and 10 of that item so my mind was reeling with all possible scenarios and how I could prepare myself for each of them.
Finally it was time to go so I packed up my things into two heavy suitcases and hopped on my Virgin America flight to Las Vegas. My sister, Emily and her husband Bryce live in Vegas which was a huge advantage. I was able to have a home for my home base instead of an unfamiliar hotel. I was also able to use some of Emily's plastic drawers for under the table storage, a cooler for our food and drinks and other items that made everything so much easier than if we had to bring everything ourselves.
Emily, Bryce and I headed to the convention center on Sunday afternoon to check everything out and set up what we could the day before. There were surprisingly few people around, likely due to the fact that the air conditioning was off making it ridiculously hot inside. Later that day, I picked Duncan up at the airport around 8:30 and we headed back to the house to finish putting all of the products on their newly designed cards. This task, as always, took much longer than expected so I was up until about 2:30 am getting every last thing together.
Four short hours later I was up and headed to the show. My first sale was from a salon owner from Phoenix. She purchased twenty items and started the day off in the right direction. A few hours later I had completed a few more big orders and already covered the cost of the booth! I was getting great feedback on my new packaging and it was amazing to finally hear what people thought of everything after so much preparation. I must have been running on adrenaline because my lack of sleep didn't even hit me until after dinner. I felt initiated after day one was complete and was happy to know what to expect for the next two days.
Click any of the images to see them enlarged.
Even though we were exhausted, Duncan and I headed out to dinner and then to the POOL Opening Party at the Hard Rock Hotel pool. We really wanted to see Glass Candy perform, but we were too exhausted to stay and wait for them to go on. We called it a night around midnight and already couldn't wait to do absolutely nothing after the second day of the show.
Day two and three went really well for us too. It would be slow for a while and then our energy would be recharged after another order was placed. I also had time to do some shopping at some of the other vendor's booths. The awesome items I picked up are worth a separate post of their own.
After a full night's sleep and the completion of day three it was time to hit the town. I treated Duncan to an amazing dinner at Koi at Planet Hollywood for all of his amazing help before and during the show. As you can see in this photo we had an incredible view of the Belagio Fountains and the strip.
After dinner and some tequila we played some quarter slots and in an unexpected turn of events I couldn't lose! I started out by putting in $10, bounced around to a bunch of different machines and continuously won. I never hit a big jackpot, but would get $10 here, $25 there and eventually ended up walking away with over $200. Duncan wasn't quite as lucky, but he was happy only spending about $20 to play the slots and have never ending 'free' bud lights all night.
I'm really happy to have my first big trade show behind me. Now I can go into the next one with more confidence knowing I've made it through one before. I'll be sure to update you soon about where to find Vivi Dot across the US and Canada!
If you own a boutique and are interested in carrying Vivi Dot products please visit the Wholesale Page and submit your information. After that's complete I will follow up and provide you with my line sheet, pattern swatches and order form.