From November 26th to December 6th and for the very first time in history, we’ve participated to the One of a Kind show at the Toronto Enercare Centre.
Oh what an experience.
For those of you who don’t know this show, it’s a as huge as it's a fantastic event, gathering hundreds of artisans under one single roof during eleven days, only a month prior Christmas. We’ve heard about it at the beginning of last summer, exactly at the moment we had a massive amount of work on track. Hopefully, at this time, we could count on Marina’s precious help to organize our participation.
This show is the thing we thought you HAVE to do when you’re arrived at a certain point in your development: We’re brand new on the market and have a lot to share and present to everyone. We were full of willingness, energy. It was hard but and at the end of the day, it has been a truly fantastic experience which really worth it. Also, the OOAK organization team was fantastic and I couldn’t thank enough people like Valérie Roy for her help and her energy all along this marathon. That team continuously shared a lot of life saving tips and tricks during the months prior to the event and those helpful information, including a reverse schedule, have been written by show veterans and should be followed pretty much at the letter.
Nevertheless, due to our insane schedule and our obvious lack of experience at this moment, we struggled a lot.
Our 8 surviving tips for the OOAK
(and all other relevant equivalent shows.)
1. Do not go there on your own
With Melanie, we’ve decided to split in order to handle the Souk@Sat show in Montreal and the OOAK in Toronto at the same time. Definitely, bad idea #1. Participating to a show is not like being at a market with a simple table to decorate. You have kilometres to drive, a booth to build, energy to manage… Sounds obvious when you say it like that, but we felt like we could do it anyway.
On top of that, our car broke on day#9: the gearbox just didn’t respond anymore. Thankfully, Melanie remotely helped me to handle it. 1 000$ and 4 days later, I’ve been able to go back to Montreal.
The booth has to be built AND unbuilt. I mean, it requires A DRILL and a ladder, ok ? These kind of things we definitely don’t use every day at the workshop. Even though our booth was a 5’ x 10’ it was a quite challenging.
Also, having a second look on your setup is nearly impossible except through photos or the eyes of your booth’s neighbours.
Takeaway : Block your calendar for two people.
2. Group transportation and accommodation
Obviously for budget and convenience purposes, grouping with other artisans of your city sounds like a life saving idea. Booths and stocks should be grouped in a single van, optimizing loading, deloading and fuel costs.
Renting an large apartment or even a house at a walking distance of the exhibition centre is greatly appreciated. I really insist on the walking distance, because it allows you to take a breath prior and after your long days spent in a no-window area during eleven dark long winter days.
Takeaway : Connect with your fellow local artisans through markets and social media groups a long time prior to the event and book everything 3-4 months in advance.
3. Be as light as possible
Just like when you travel, feeling light and at ease is essential whether it’s regarding your belongings or your booth. Some booths were really heavy, made of wood and real furnitures, giving a spectacular real home finish but letting limited space for improvisation and unforeseen events.
Takeaways : Prepare to do a load or two of laundry, use solid convenient boxes for your stock and booth, bring a trolley...
4. Prepare your stock properly
As good first timers, we had no idea of the volume and kind of items we were going to sell (or even if anyone would buy something).
So we prepared - at very last moment of course :) - a random amount of stuff based more or less on what we experienced during the past markets.
Again, reality is that shows are very different from markets: different crowd, different city, different timeframe, different behaviour…
Takeaway : Stocks must be consequent and calculated on the income you want to make on a daily basis at a certain show.
5. Give love to your booth
We’ve built our booth for the first time literally 48 hours prior to my departure. Conception was made a couple of months ago on paper but we never had the opportunity to actually make it up until then.
Last time, building made us realize that shelves were too large, lighting nonexistent, framing too fragile, panels’ sizes inaccurate… No time left to figure out something, a lot of improvisation had to be expected on day 1.
Takeaway : Give love to your booth, it will become your hom for eleven days. Also, bring some duct tape :)
6. Prepare your budget
In the expenses column, think about:
- Booth space
- Travel (you AND your stock)
- Your time
- Unloading and loading on site
- Electricity on site
- Wifi on site
- Stock (enough to avoid costly refills during the event)
Takeaway : In the cloudy revenue column, here is a good advice for you: During markets, you may usually make 100$, 1000$, 5000$... a day. Don’t expect to do very differently during a show. Just take your average daily number and multiply by the number of days of the show. Then, you’ll know by comparing the balance if it’s worth participating :)
7. Be physically and mentally prepared
Tiredness, boredom, excitement, anxiety, frustration… you will live so many extreme feelings for which you have to be prepared. Relax, smile and always be optimistic :)
Also, standing still all day long is quite challenging. Thankfully, my friend Jill Bogart from Doodle and Hoob had my back by lending me one of those latex kitchen carpet. By the way, Jill and Emily Arbour from Hello Yellow have once again been fantastic and helpful and I hope we’ll meet again in 2016. Check out their awesome work!
8. The importance of having good neighbours
Honestly, without them, I just couldn’t do it. They had my back all day long, teaching me tricks for selling, how to better showcase products, how to manage my energy and my time…
An immense cheer up to Mr and Mrs Benko from Milverton Furniture (Stratford, ON), Mike and Connie Leishman from Leishman Pottery (Stayner, ON), Jay Bell Redbird and Halina Stopyra (Tiny, ON), and Danielle Kreeft from Danipress. You are amazing and I’m really looking forward to seeing you again at a next show.
Here it is! I hope that these hardly taught tips will help you with your next challenge.
As for us, we’re now preparing for the next big one in May : The National Stationery Show in New York.
If you have any question or need more details, just ask us in the comments!