Getting my start as an entrepreneur has been a busy and educational process. While my first children’s book is only the beginning of business ventures that I would like to pursue, it has already provided so many learning opportunities for me. One of my most recent adventures was the 22nd Annual Taliah Waajid Natural Hair Show in Atlanta where I participated as a vendor, with numerous copies of Nikki Loves Her Hair in Tow, as well as other supporting products and supplies. To say the least, this was an awesome experience that I am so grateful that I got to be part of!
As I continue on my journey to spread positive messages for young black children and achieve financial independence, there are a few takeaways from my first trade show experience that I would love to pass along. I want to be part of the force that moves my community forward, and that means embracing the good, the bad and especially the ugly!
Here are six tips that you should consider when participating in a major event as a vendor:
Plan for technical difficulties. We all want to believe that things will go perfectly and you won’t run into problems, but that just isn’t life! When you are gearing up for involvement in your first event promoting your product, you need to think of everything that could go wrong and create a backup solution. For me, payment processing is an area where I was glad I was prepared. We are quickly becoming a cashless society, so when you are selling products of any kind, you need to have multiple options for payment. However, we have to remember one thing, technology fails! Especially when you really need it not to.
In addition to cash, I also processed payments through Square and CashApp. I will say this: CashApp was a life-saver! For whatever reason, the card readers would work on and off. Luckily, I set up a professional cash app account for people to send their money to if they didn’t have cash or didn’t want to swipe their card.
Make sure you have EVERYTHING you need. I do not recommend going into an event like this without creating a thorough checklist numerous days before. You will be surprised at the number of things you look over if you don’t plan ahead of time. From business cards to a guest check-in log, have all of your bases covered!
This is a good place to highlight that you should also consider little goodies or giveaways to place on your table. At my booth, we provided different flavored mints that were a complete hit! People loved them. And while not everyone that grabs a piece of candy will want to buy what you’re selling, it gets them to YOU and opens the door for you to introduce yourself and make friendly conversation.
Build a supportive team. In business, you can’t do everything on your own. You will need others on your team that can help support your vision and assist with major events promoting your product. One thing to keep in mind is, make sure that the people you select to help you are completely clear on how they will help. Especially when you are dealing with family and friends, communicate effectively! You may have certain expectations or ways you think things will be handled – make sure that is relayed clearly or you may end up disappointed. Everyone should be able to verbalize exactly what their role will be. Do not wait until the last minute to discuss this!
Stick to a budget. There will often be opportunities for advertising and promotion at an additional price for events and trade shows such as this one, but remember to ask yourself one question: “Is this something that I absolutely need to spend money on right now?” When you are starting out a small business, especially if you are self-funding, please do not feel like you need to jump on everything thrown at you. Spend your coins wisely.
Make sure your branding is on point. I would say that must-haves for me included a retractable banner (with my official logo and contact information), table runner (also included my logo) and additional table decor. Make your space inviting and original to your product. Every time you attend an event like this, you are introducing people to your energy and your brand. Make every effort count. People love to take pictures so do everything you can to make them fabulous!
Entrepreneurship only works if you put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, this will happen regardless. The goal is to be in a constant state of improvement so you can consistently propel yourself forward.