The National Stationery Show is probably the most important B2B marketplace for stationery professionals in America. Despite our very young age in the industry, we decided we should be there anyway! Here are a few takeaways of our experience 😊
Phase 1 - Awareness
The NSS was of course totally unknown to us before a year ago when Marina, who worked with us at the time, talked about this enormous market in New York City. She heard about it as she was prospecting for craft markets in which to participate. At this time, we had no stock, done almost no market, had only a couple of SKUs, barely had a table we shared in a workshop, etc. In a quiet gesture, we registered thinking that one year later, we would be more ready.
I’m literally smiling, writing this. This move was so bold, but I admit we don’t regret that decision on bit today.
Phase 2 - Acceptation and prep
Winter 2015 came and market season was in full swing. We tested the maximum we could across the province and sometimes beyond, to finally arrive to the OOAK of Toronto and on which, you may remember, we wrote our Survival Guide. Ye!
This occasion really had the advantage to raise red flags on big events.
First of all, everything costs A MASSIVE amount of money. I mean, you have to have a good cashdown a year before an event to think about participating. The worst for us was maybe to have to pay upfront without knowing whether we would even be present. The second worst thing was that, the closer you come to the event, the more money you have to spend repeatedly. Even if everything is budgeted, be sure you’ll always have extra fees and a few bad surprises here and there until the very end of the show.
Logistic matters were exceptionally difficult to overcome. I'm used to work in startups to “make things happen”, but this one was quite tough. The fact that we come from Canada, that we had neither a van or fellow entrepreneur to learn from added a level of complexity to the whole adventure. Let’s roll our sleeves, be positive, optimistic, and hustle!
Paperwork, done. Payments, done. Insurances, taken. Promotional items, made. Every day, as we cleared new tasks, we discovered new ones. However, we were so focused that nothing could stop us.
Melanie and I spent too little time preparing mentally and physically as we were stuck in that tornado of what we thought was a Must Do Before We Leave list of things. Eventually, you learn to relax, to put things into perspective, to let go. You have a walk, then you run again, a little bit more every day, and the world turns 'round the same way. Next time, we will definitely approach this type of challenge with the same determination but on a more relaxed pace!
NSS - 2 days before
Oh how happy (and tired) we were when we jumped into the car that morning! Oddly enough, we slept well the night before. Now that everything was packed, nothing could stop us except, maybe, something at the border 👉🏻 You never know what can happen there.
Thanks to the fantastic Anne Thomas and Tat Chao, we managed to arrange all the paperwork that allowed us to cross the border easily. Thank you again for that, you’re awesome!
NSS - 1 day before
What ?! The setup was really fast. At last something easy! Much easier than other exhibitors we saw around the alleys. Melanie did a fantastic job preparing all the stuff. If we could, we would have helped our neighbours but a lot of work had to be done, yet we only had a couple of hours before the show opened.
We had the chance to have one of our products beeing selected as finalist of the “Best Product Award” in the lifestyle category (our beloved nordic notebook), so we had to put a sample in the appropriate area for the judges to choose. We didn’t win but we were really excited by this recognition and the products we were up against were truly amazing.
We also dropped a couple of Press Kits in the Press Area of the show: companies gave such incredible documents to the press! Some of them were literally art pieces. Everything to impress journalists and bloggers. Next year, I think we’ll have to raise the bar a little bit 😀
Booth #2268: Clear!
If I have to sum up the show in one sentence : it's like seeing your Instagram feed coming to life.
The NSS show
I mean, to give you an example, we were right in front of These are Things! We've loved and respected their work since the start. Awesome and inspiring guys, discussing with them was nearly surreal. Same with Poketo, Nole from Oh So Beautiful Paper, and many others. Of course Melanie also met and chat with her idol, Tina Roth Eisenberg aka Swiss Miss, founder of Tattly and CreativeMornings beyond other massively successful projects.
We will also remember that we made show-friends that we will be more than happy to see again soon: fantastic folks, weird geniuses, unbelievable designers and technicians. It would be too long to name them all but a big high five to Benjamin Ryder, Rosanna and Joel from Iron Curtain Press, Risa and Nicole from PapaLlama in San Fransisco, Litsa from That Sky Blue, Michelle of 417 Press, and many more…
The best things that can happen during this type of event is definitely connecting with other entrepreneurs in order to exchange on our daily struggles and hopes. I really would have loved to have a “Brain dating” space as E-180 organizes in several events.
NSS show follow up
To observe the tradition is becoming, the car broke the day after the show, taking with it our last American dollars left.
We ended up tired and happy. Tired and happy to have filled order forms, also by the satisfaction to have shops across the United States believing in us and in the talent of Melanie. We are tired but proud and will now do our best to deliver the best products we can.
See you next year NYC!