As a member of the UK Craft and Hobby Association (CHA UK), I had an opportunity to have a small stand at the Craft, Hobby and Stitch International trade show. It was a new initiative for their designer, educator and blogger members (DEBs). The cost was £80 which gave me a 6ft table and back wall space. There were 8 other DEB members that also took up the offer.
I’ve never exhibited at a trade show before and so I suddenly felt really nervous about showcasing my work. It was such a great opportunity to get my work in front of the industry’s “movers and shakers”. I wanted to get feedback on my recent work and see if my next plans and goals for my business were actually viable. Having spent well over 10 yrs creating digital content in a niche area of the industry, I now wanted to get my work licensed for fabric and paper craft products.
Steve was incredibly supportive and helped me put together some marketing materials and write a plan for the three day show. Who did I want to see? What did I want to achieve? I then got some fabric swatches of my designs printed at Spoonflower and made some bunting. We had a banner printed along with prints of my designs. I made some post cards and some fun A5 colouring in cards for people to take away.
The Designer Showcase stands were set up as part of the CHA UK stand so there were was a lot of support from them and the other designers. We all got on well and it was a great creative atmosphere from the get go.
We didn’t expect to get much from the first day of the show as it’s usually a busy day with mainly retailers looking to buy new products. However, by the end of the day we’d had several retailers stop by our stand and tell us that had my designs been fabric, they would’ve bought them! What a huge relief that was for me and Steve. If nothing else, I now knew that I was, at the very least, going in the right direction. We’d also had interest in my illustrations in regards to getting them manufactured as stamps and dies.
The next two days, although much quieter, proved to be equally positive and interesting. I had two appointments with UK fabric and textile companies and the feedback I got from them both was invaluable. It was impressive to me that they took time out of the show to sit with me and go through my portfolio, give me feedback and tell me how I can further develop my designs. I have a follow up meeting with one of those companies and thrilled to see where my collections will go! I also had a meeting with a couple of papercrafting companies with similar feedback on my work.
By the end of the 3 days, my head was buzzing with new ideas and beyond thrilled to know that my dream to branch out into fabric and papercraft design was coming true. Oh and Steve and I were absolutely exhausted!
I really cannot say enough about what an amazing experience it was. It was incredible to get my work in front of key decision makers in the industry. To have some quality conversations with them was worth every minute. Sometimes it really does only take a conversation with someone. It also made me realise the importance of chatting with people face to face. I know I get lost in my own little business bubble working from home and using the internet for most of my marketing and connecting with people. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely know the value of that and appreciate it. However, sitting with someone and talking about your work, your passion is equally important.
If you’re a designer, educator or blogger in the creative, craft, hobby industry, I really cannot say enough about the value of being a member of the CHA UK. This one experience at Stitches has more than paid for our annual subscription. And once a member, you can take part in their Designer Showcase which they’re running again in 2017.