We did it! My collective and I just exhibited at Blue Print. In this post you'll get a recap of certain aspects of exhibiting like how the show went, pricing, what it cost, and what I wore (because everyone is *dying* to know...).
ABOUT THE SHOW
Blue Print is a small show (only 30 exhibitors per show) and there's one show 3 days prior to Surtex, and the next show ran concurrently. You can read more about it on Blue Print's website. It's ran by Cinnamon Joe and a whole bunch of great volunteers.
getting prepared for the show
Timing: Being a perfectionist, I hate procrastinating. I make spread sheets for everything and everything has a due date and a timeline. I'm glad the others in my collective were totally on board and not wanting to wait till the last minute, either. Brooke was really great with setting up the timeline. We started preparing pretty early for the show. I want to say it was end of September when we began hustling artwork creation and getting our marketing campaigns going. We also sent out early postcards in January (I think, or December) and another follow up in early May. In addition to that, we had our collective newsletter go out every month (thanks, Katie!) We wanted to make sure people knew we were going and that we were prepared.
I would say our busiest "holy crap" moments were between end of February and beginning of May. It came to that time where "this is ACTUALLY happening, guys!" and we'd reconvene and have group Skype meeting about where we were and how we were doing.
Pricing: Blue Print is a bit different than Surtex (though it's changing), in that it's about 50/50 buyouts and licensing. Most people we spoke to always asked our prices for certain pieces, however some were open to licensing as well. In my collective, I'm kind of informally in charge of spread sheet stuff and we came up with a system to price our work. Once we had that figured out, we put ALL the artwork we were bringing into an Airtable spreadsheet and had it automatically price our work based on a chosen complexity. Then, that would auto-generate a letter code range that we could write on the back of our artwork. Here's the header of our spreadsheet. Super simple but so effective.
It made it super easy to tell a price just by referencing the letter code to a "cheat sheet" on a clipboard. We'd modify our prices if they wanted full buyouts or category buyouts.
Doing the actual work: Some of the getting ready stuff was theoretical and internet-based. A lot of digital marketing and figuring prices, etc. When it came time to actually get my hands my printed artwork and do the booth decorations (I was in charge of cutting/printing the bunting flags), that was where the magic happened. After I got my templates set up, I got them ready to print by converting to PDF, then PSD. Once I got the colors correct (using swatches), I replicated those colors throughout my artwork and just sent them all to the printer at once using a Droplet. Super easy, lemon squeezy. It was SO fun seeing my entire portfolio printed out. It made the show a whole new level of real.
Yep, I actually use the techniques I talk about all the time ;)
HOW THE SHOW WENT
The biggest thing that happened was that it was the first time any of us met in person after 2.5 years of our collective! We were telling people it was so weird to see the others' lower halves 😂. We all got along really well and we each used our strengths to help as a team. It was the first time exhibiting for all of us - and people were genuinly surprised to hear it!
We exhibited at show 2, which was running at the same time as Surtex. There were a lot of companies coming over from there, too. Mostly after lunch time on all the days. We actually got a few companies say they came out to New York specifically to see us! That was crazy and awesome!
While I'm still chasing leads and communicating with come companies, the show was a success! I'm expecting to make a profit once deals are finished, thought not a large one. Paul of Cinnamon Joe was saying how, since this was our first show, that we have to "pay our dues" and the next years will be more profitable once we have a client base that wants to see us. You kind of become a legit business owner, it seemed, by exhibiting.
I think the real value of showing comes from the leads you get and people you meet in person. There were companies that I never got replies from via email, however, when they met me in person and saw my art, they wanted to see more! It was kind of interesting how that worked out.
WHAT THE SHOW COST
Since I exhibited with my collective, a total of 4 members, a lot of the costs were shared. See the table below to see what it cost in total, and what it cost for only my share. You can filter or sort this list to see expense types or categories. 💛 Airtable!
I'm not including the cost of the Blue Print booth (which included the tables/chairs/default tablecloth) because Blue Print doesn't advertise the cost. And the price will fluctuate in coming years so I don't want to ruffle any feathers. However, I will say the total cost of the trip for me, not including the rest of the collective's shared booth costs, was almost $2,000.
I should also note that I didn't ever use my chip reader at the show, but I wanted to upgrade from the basic swipe reader from Stripe so I could get the fraud protection. Deals that were made at the show were just written on Invoice forms (that Betsy Siber provided) and they were billed after the show using my invoice app, Wave Accounting. I only brought the Stripe reader in case it was needed or expected.
WHAT I WORE
Yep, the most important question. I scoured the internet and Facebook groups for information on what to wear...most specifically: shoes.
Since leaving my full time job last July, I did a (in hindsight) bad thing. I got rid of all my cute shoes that were business casual. "I didn't need them anymore," I'd said. 😑 <-- my face when I discovered the lie I told myself. SO, in addition to bringing my super-comfy grey TOMS (to wear after-hours)...this is what I did:
After reading a bajillion reviews and shopping around, I ended up purchasing some Dansko shoes in their 'Sam' style (in this Sand Dollar color). They were perfect from first step. My feet never hurt and they went with everything. I also bought some ridiculous toe socks that literally cover only your toes. They worked really well to absorb any unsatisfactory olfactory developments. Also, pro tip: putting panty liners in your shoes will also act as a "sock".
Besides the shoes, Blue Print was very casual (more so than Surtex, I thought), and I wore a combination of leggings, tunics, dark jeans, and comfy, flowy tops. So: get a shoe that's comfy and that is broken in. Mostly any shoe company that deals in comfort is your best bet.