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16 11, 2017

How do I know if a store is a good fit for my products?

By |November 16th, 2017|0 Comments|

You’ve probably heard me say this on Proof to Product and in previous emails, but I’m a firm believer that relationships are they key to running and building a successful business.

Everyone from our team, to our customers, to our colleagues, to our vendors plays a significant role in our personal growth as well as the development of our company. Your relationships with wholesale buyers, are no exception.

But how do you find the right stores?

How do you connect on a personal level with the buyer?

How do you know if a store is a good fit for what you sell?

These are common questions, so let me share some ideas:

Focus on quality over quantity.
I often hear people say that they want to be in hundreds of stores. But, I’d argue that it is more beneficial (especially in the beginning) to work with a smaller group of stores that order from you regularly. It’s much easier to provide great customer service and build meaningful relationships with a smaller pool of customers. And, it gives you time to refine your internal systems and build a strong foundation so that if you do grow your wholesale line to a point when you have hundreds of stockists, you’ll be able to keep up. Set realistic goals when you’re starting out and remember that fewer customers isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Go beyond the website.
The internet is a fantastic place to research potential wholesale partners, but there is so much more to a business than just their website. How is the store showing up on social media? Who are their customers? What other brands do they buy from or do they engage with on social media? Which shows are they attending and talking about? What types of products do they feature? I’m not advocating stalking, but the more you know about a potential shop the more effective your first point of contact will be. You’ll also have a clearer idea if your products would work in that store.

Start a conversation.
Again, don’t stalk. But don’t be afraid to engage with people in your industry, particularly shops you admire. Comment on their social media, like their posts, send an email introducing yourself and your line. Or, send a note (on one of your cards!) and let them know you’ve enjoyed their emails / social media posts / their window display was cool. Relationships take time to build and I know you’re busy juggling one thousand other things on a daily basis. But, if stores don’t know about you, they aren’t going to buy from you.

And that brings us back to relationships.

These stores are your customers. Focus on customer experience, building real connections and delivering on your promises.

Be professional, polite and use every point of contact as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your buyers.

P.S. At Paper Camp, we’ll explain why you need to do your homework to identify the right stores, then provide you with strategies for how to reach them. Learn more & register for Paper Camp here.

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28 03, 2017

Podcast Round-up: Legal, Mindset, Hiring & Productivity

By |March 28th, 2017|0 Comments|

Tradeshow Bootcamp Podcast Round-up | productivity, hiring, mindset, legal, licensing art,

Looking for new podcasts to follow?  Below are a few episodes we though you’d enjoy.  They focus on business, mind-set and productivity.  Things we’re all grappling with everyday!

Licensing your content & brand

Legal Road Map with Autumn Witt Boyd | Episode 10
Autumn talks about licensing fundamentals including what it means to license your work, exclusivity vs. non-exclusivity and what to charge, and also how to protect yourself when you license stock photos or art from others.  Key Take Away:  A license is a contract, so be specific and put everything in writing.

The Secret Parallel Universe of Wholesaling

The Strategy Hour  | Episode 21
TSBC founder, Katie Hunt sat down with Emylee and Abagail of Think Creative Collective to talk about what it means to sell wholesale, how to know if you’re ready and how to do shows.  Great primer for those considering selling wholesale!

Conquering your Inner Critic

Work Your Wealth Podcast | Episode 17
Financial planner and money guru, Mary Beth Storjohann sat down with Reina Pomeroy, a life and business coach to talk about how to acknowledge and push through internal negativity and fear.  They talk about decision-making, setting your values and changing your mindset so that you’re celebrating your successes.

The Magic of Monotasking

Productivity Paradox with Tonya Dalton | Episode 10
Tonya Dalton talks about working with focus by practicing monotasking rather than multi-tasking.  She shares how multi-tasking can lead to distraction and when you dedicate yourself to do one thing at one time you’ll be more efficient, effective and feel more productive.   Free download:  5 Minutes to Peak Productivity!

How to Hire Help for your Creative Business

Dear Handmade Life | Episode 49
Listen in as Katie Hunt, Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson talk about when to hire help, how to find the right people and the benefits of bringing on help.


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21 03, 2017

Booth Brainstorm: Good Lighting

By |March 21st, 2017|0 Comments|

Good LightingExcellent lighting is critical to your trade show booth. You want your booth to be inviting and display your products in the best possible way. And, lighting is a big component of this. As you’re weighing your lighting options, keep in mind the reasons behind why you want to have great lighting in your trade show booth.

Your Buyers

Your buyers want to see what they’re buying. Good lighting makes the details of your product stand out—the colors, textures—and helps the buyers envision your products on their store shelves.

The Press

Members of the press love trade shows. It’s their chance to see new products, new concepts and trends in the industry under one roof. But, they need a well-lit booth to take great photos. The better your lighting, the more likely they’ll share a snap on social media or save a photo as a reminder to follow-up with you later.

Pro Tip: Don’t include glass in the frames of any art prints. Glass can create glare in photos.

Social Media

We always see an uptick in social media posts during show season, not just from exhibitors but also from people walking a show. Great lighting makes your booth more inviting and allows people to take and share better photos.

Pro Tip: Include your social handles on your wall so that people tag you in their photos.

Bright lighting increases visibility, accurately shows your products, makes a booth warm and inviting and creates a better setting for taking photos.  

Check out the booth case studies to see different types of lighting in use. There are lots of different options available to meet any budget.

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28 02, 2017

Booth Brainstorm: Walls

By |February 28th, 2017|0 Comments|

tradeshow booth wallsWhen you’re planning your tradeshow booth, start with your walls. The type of walls you choose to use will have a domino effect on other decisions you make for your booth. For example, your walls will determine how you display your products, whether you use shelves, how you hang your signs and what lights you use. Plus, your walls set the stage for the overall aesthetic of your booth.

Whether you rent or build your own walls, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing your wall materials. How easy are the walls to transport and install? Can they be reused? How much will they cost? Do they display your product well?

Ultimately you want your booth to mirror your brand and highlight your products in the best possible way to garner sales. Here are some options to get you started.

Hard Walls

Plywood walls are gaining popularity among our alumni for a few reasons. If you’re planning on doing multiple shows, investing in hard walls up front can save you money over time. Plywood walls and pegboard walls are durable and can hold a wide range of shelving units and product displays. They can also be painted to match your brand. Shipping hard walls can be costly and installation can take extra time at set-up, so make sure you consider all factors.  

Hard walls are also available to rent through your show decorators (we love Manny Stone Decorators for NSS and NYNow!).  When you rent your walls, they will be installed before you arrive at the show so there is one less thing you need to do at set-up. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling far distances to your show.

Foam Core

Foam Core walls are a fan favorite for our alums because it can be a less expensive option than hard walls. The 4 ft. by 8 ft. panels come in white, can be matched to PMS colors or custom printed with your logo or placeholders for your products. Foam core board are 3/16-inch thick and if you’re DIYing foam core walls, you can attach the boards to the pipe framing with zip ties. If you rent your boards, Manny Stone Decorators will handle installation for you before you arrive at the show. If you choose to use foam core, be sure to think through your product displays.

Foam core cannot accommodate heavy shelving, but it’s great for light weight products. In the paper world, most exhibitors affix cards directly to foam core walls using double sided tape or velcro. Foam core walls are a one-time use, but they look great and can be customized to match your branding.

Set Paper & Fabric

Set paper and fabric walls are the two lease expensive wall options. However, if you use canvas, fabric or curtains you bring from home, most shows will require you to fireproof the fabric; an extra step and cost that you’ll want to factor into your timeline and budget. Your set paper or fabric walls can easily attach onto the pipe frame of your booth, and will hang in front of the drape provided with your booth. Since these walls can not support shelves, you’ll need to get creative and either find a way to hang your products from the pipe or utilize stand-alone shelves. Think through how you want to merchandise your products when determining whether these walls are best for you.

Want to see these walls in use? We have a number of case studies that will help you along the way. Then, take a look at your signage so you can draw people to your booth!

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21 02, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Loudhouse Creative

By |February 21st, 2017|0 Comments|

Alumni Spotlight Loudhouse CreativeWe love to spotlight our TSBC alums because we believe there is always something we can learn from one another’s experiences. Francesca Fuges of Loudhouse Creative recently exhibited at the Las Vegas Market; her second tradeshow in the last year. We sat down with Francesca to get her feedback on the show. But first, her story.

Francesca started Loudhouse Creative in 2013, primarily as a design firm working with branding and packaging clients. In 2015, she stumbled upon letterpress printing and started making greeting cards for friends and family. She fell in love with the process of printing and wanted to expand her design work into sellable products.

Although she was new to the paper business, Francesca signed up for the National Stationery show immediately. Knowing she needed help marketing her new business and figuring out the mysteries of selling wholesale and trade shows, she joined us for Paper Camp in 2015 before her National Stationery Show debut.

Prior to NSS, Francesca spent time developing her product line to include greeting cards, gift items and she added a holiday collection.  She researched retail stores that had a similar aesthetic to her cards and created a mailer introducing herself and her line.  Both exercises are key to creating a solid wholesale foundation.

Las Vegas Market | January 2017

Francesca is freshly back from the Las Vegas Market, where she was one of the Artisanal LA vendors. She used hard-walls for her 7’ by 6’ space, which was located toward the back of the show but on an end-cap giving her lots of space to spread out. She used vinyl signage for her logo and booth number. She utilized two types of shelves to display her cards and also hung an aisle sign to draw traffic into her booth.

“Since my location was less than desirable, I had to hustle for my orders,” she said. “I’m not a natural hustler so it was a growth experience for me. But the retailers were so nice and many from stores I wouldn’t normally think to send mailers to, like pharmacies, clothing boutiques, hotel gift shops, etc.”

The overall vibe of the Las Vegas Market was very different from the NSS as well. While it was a little slow, the cost of doing the show was significantly less than the NSS.

“I felt a lot less intimidated than I did at NSS and therefore it was easier to talk to people. Since there were only a handful of stationers (it’s primarily a gift show), we were able to stand out a bit from the other vendors.”

Francesca was comfortable with her investment in the show and pleased with the results.  Participating in a shared booth lowered her exhibiting costs and Artisanal took care of logistics like ordering walls and lighting removing items from her to do list. Francesca felt that the energy in Las Vegas was slower than New York, yet she received the same number of orders at both shows — but the order in Las Vegas were higher volume and larger dollar amounts. Francesca said that show management was very accommodating and sent a crew to unload her car and bring her boxes to her space!

What I’d Do Different in Biz

“I created and launched my line within a year (while also learning to letterpress and trying to discover my illustrative style). Looking back on it, though I’m glad I created a deadline for myself, I would have taken a bit more time to really craft my line, particularly my illustrations, and figure out my ‘look’ instead of rushing to be ready for a launch date that was self-inflicted. Since NSS, I’ve gone back and changed several cards in order to make them more visually interesting and removed cards that I was unhappy with.”

Biggest Tip for Newbies

“Find your unique voice and style in order to stand out in the market. Be selective with what you put out into the world and make sure your line looks like a collection. Create rules for yourself to follow as a guide—colors (envelopes and overall palette), font style, tone (funny, sweet, snarky). This helps in creating a cohesive line and building a successful brand. That said, don’t let the rules stifle you. They can be broken. It’s your business. To quote Cartman, ‘Whatever, I do what I want.’”

Of course, we want to shout out some of the other alums who were also at Las Vegas Market. Congrats to Cara at Underwood Letterpress, Alex of Chez Gagné, Lisa of Tiramisu Paperie and Julie of Kiss and Punch Designs.

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14 02, 2017

Packaging Your Products Without Breaking the Bank

By |February 14th, 2017|0 Comments|

product packagingCan we talk about product packaging for a minute? You want your products to look unique and stand out from the crowd, but you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

There are so many packaging options available, and it’s important to know when to follow the crowd and use standard packaging and when to get creative and do your own thing.

Ultimately, your product packaging must make it easy for the end customer to understand what your product is and how they can use it. And, from a business standpoint, you want to ensure that your packaging looks great, is scaleable and doesn’t cut into your profit margins. Here’s where to focus.

Keep it Simple

We all want beautiful packaging, but the more elaborate it is, the more expensive it is in terms of both time and money. While that gold twine and foil-stamped tag that are hand-tied to your boxed notes look super cute, they add an extra step and more cost to your fulfillment process. Plus, what happens if you get an order for 1,000 boxes? Can you get that out the door quickly?

In the stationery world, cello sleeves and clear acetate boxes are the norm for a number of reasons. Keep it simple and where there’s an industry standard, stick to what is tried and true.

Keep it On-Brand

You want your audience to immediately identify with your product and recognize that it’s your brand and product when they see it. Think about your colors, your logo, your style and include these elements on packaging. You can dress us standard packaging with custom stickers, belly bands or insert cards, all low-cost items that add personality while not adding huge steps in the fulfillment process.

Keep Costs Down

Remember that you need to factor packaging costs into your production costs. If you don’t know what it costs you to make one single item, run those numbers now. Factor in your hard costs of creating your product, your packaging costs, your time and any labor costs. Run these numbers for each type of product you sell (mugs, art prints, greeting cards, etc.) and revisit them regularly so that you know these numbers well. The higher your production costs, the lower your profit margin and we want high profit margin!

Some Resources

  • Clear Bags gives us a run-down of stationery packaging from the last 20 years, and we imagine that it will continue to develop as our industry’s needs change. How will your business meet tomorrow’s changes? Clear Bags is also a great resource for packaging.
  • GT Bag is another great resource for cello sleeves. If you need bags with flaps, they have amazing non-static strips! Let them know TSBC sent you for a discount on your first order.
  • Digital Lizard is a commercial printer offering all sorts of custom print services that work well for packaging—insert cards, belly bands and stickers.
  • Sticker Giant provides a wide range of custom sticker options for your product packaging or your shipping boxes. You can even get 20% off your offer with our coupon code: TSBC15

Try to find a balance between using packaging that mirrors your brand, makes it simple for you to fulfill and merchandises well for your retailers.

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7 02, 2017

Wholesaling: Top Tips for Building Your Catalog

By |February 7th, 2017|0 Comments|

building your catalogCatalogs are an important and necessary sales tool for your wholesale business. But they are also expensive and time-consuming to produce so you want to make them as effective as possible.

Whether you’re attending tradeshows or sending samples to stores, a catalog is a must-have. Let’s take a closer look at what to include.

Contact Information

A catalog is meant to generate business, but when your contact information isn’t easy to find, buyers may go elsewhere.

Add your contact information at the footer of every page, without exception. Include your phone number, email address, website and social media handles. That way, a retailer can immediately get in touch with you if they have questions or want to place an order.

Product Descriptions

Product descriptions are an important part of your catalog. You want to clearly explain what the products are, how they are used and provide concrete details that will help the retailer know if they are a good fit for their customers. Don’t leave questions unanswered.

Your product descriptions should include what it’s made of, the size, pricing information and your minimum quantity requirements. Have trouble coming up with the right words? We’ve got some help for you.

Product Photography

Product photography is what separates a catalog from a line sheet. Investing in product photos is a worthwhile investment because you can use the photos across your sales tools and marketing materials, including email blasts, social media posts and press inquiries. Whether you hire a pro or DIY your photos, use a mix of styled photos and direct images so buyers can see the details of your products and visualize what your products will look like on their store shelves.

At the end of the day, you need to make it as easy as possible for your retailers to buy. Having a well-designed and detailed catalog is a necessary sales tool that will set you aparat from the competition. You’ll look polished, professional and accessible to your buyers.

For more information, you can watch my short video or take my CreativeLive course about catalogs.

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31 01, 2017

Case Study: E. Frances Paper Launch Story

By |January 31st, 2017|0 Comments|

E. Frances Paper Launch StoryPro Tip: Launching your wholesale line at a trade show is not your only option.

In the paper industry, many brands look to the National Stationery Show to serve as their wholesale debut. It’s a great place to meet buyers, get feedback on your products and build relationships with press, reps and other designers.

Many thriving businesses are introducing their product line to buyers outside of shows and doing it successfully. Take E. Frances Paper, for example, one of Paper Camp’s 2013 alums.

After attending Paper Camp that February, owners Ali Flippin, Jenni Laundon and Pippi Roberts knew they weren’t ready for a big launch at the NSS that May. They wanted to spend time further developing their product line, building a marketing strategy and refining their sales tools before they reached out to retailers.

The E. Frances team traveled from their home base of Newport, Rhode Island to New York to scope out the National Stationery Show. They walked the show, took some pictures and made the decision to ease their way into the business.

“We were still figuring it out back then,” says creative director Ali Flippin. “We are grateful now that we didn’t rush it and launch because the NSS is a whole bundle of figuring it out.”

Instead of a big-bang launch at the show, the group focused on perfecting their product and developing business systems as they worked on their mailing list and soft-launching the company.

After Googling and researching stores they thought might be a good fit for their product, the team sent out packages to introduce themselves. They used a tier system, with the biggest packages going to those stores that were the best fit. The gifts included a balloon, samples and more information about E. Frances.

“We wanted to bring on new customers and encourage social shares to introduce our name to retailers. It worked well and we built on that,” says Flippin.

As those new customers came on board, the team was able to develop and refine systems for fulfilling orders. They figured out what size boxes they needed, how to package the product, how much time it takes and what kind of inventory they’d need on hand. They started small, gradually adding handful after handful of new customers.

E. Frances participated in its first NSS in May 2014, and by then, they were ready. The company doubled its wholesale accounts while there, proof that their hard work and preparation had paid off

Today, E. Frances is found in the national chain Paper Source as well as specialty and boutique stores across North America and in Europe, Asia and online.

The Low-Down, from Ali Flippin

“We should have hired a bookkeeper way earlier than we did. I thought we were too small, we couldn’t afford something we could do ourselves, etc. But it changed our business drastically—organizing our books, preparing us for taxes, giving us general advice about organizing our banking. It’s the absolute best money you can spend. You can start off pretty small with a freelance bookkeeper, for only a few hours per month. Running a company, no matter how small, is still running a company, and requires a lot of accounting and organizational skills. If you don’t have these skills, outsource!”

Ali’s Thoughts on Paper Camp

“We could not have done it without Paper Camp. When we started, there wasn’t any information online about starting a paper business. The things I learned from Paper Camp were invaluable, from preparing for the show to standard processes to business standards.”

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24 01, 2017

Client Relationships: Management Tools for Creative Entrepreneurs

By |January 24th, 2017|0 Comments|

CRMs for Creative EntrepreneursEmailing prospects.

Following up with retailers after a show.

Tracking who you’ve sent catalogs and samples to in an organized fashion.

These are all good business practices that shouldn’t find you scrounging through old business cards or digging into your inbox. With the right customer relationship management tool, you can do all of these things (and so much more). And many of our favorites have added benefits too.

Here, we have a short review of some of the CRMs used by Paper Camp alumni, and resources we’ve found to really help you have positive client communications and relationships.


Podio is one of the more popular CRMs favored by our alums. It’s a project management system and contact management system rolled into one.

From a CRM standpoint, Podio allows you to track clients, their purchases, add notes and upload files to company profiles or specific contacts. When you send a retailer a catalog and a few samples, you can mark it for follow-up in a few weeks.

For project management, Podio enables you to create systems and project workflows for things like order fulfillment and other internal processes. Everyone on your team can see what tasks have been completed and what items still need to be tackled.

Depending on the level you choose, you can create visual reports, sync contacts with other tools, automate your workflow and more. Packages start at $9 a month for the basic plan.


If you like to keep your contacts in your inbox, Insightly is a free tool that integrates with a number of accounting and business tools. Track leads, enter notes, create projects and milestones, know where a potential customer is in your sales funnel.

Additional benefits are available in paid versions of this tool, which starts at $12 a month per user.

FreshBooks & QuickBooks

FreshBooks and QuickBooks are both accounting programs, but they’re also handy for maintaining your customer lists and notes. You can also track revenue by client so you know which clients order more frequently and who places the highest volume orders.

If you’re doing custom work or collaborations, these tools also offer time tracking and reporting systems for revenue and expenses by project. Added bonus: Many accountants prefer QuickBooks for bookkeeping and organizing your finances for taxes. QuickBooks and Freshbooks are easy to use if you’re doing your own bookkeeping and taxes too.


While Postable isn’t a CRM service, they sure make it easy to build strong relationships with clients through snail mail. Their address book feature makes it easy to manage your mailing list and ensure your contact list is up-to-date. Simply send your contacts a link requesting their physical address and Postable will collect and/or update them in your address book for you.

You can also request birthdays of your contacts and Postable will send you a reminder so you can choose a card, type a message and they’ll print and send it for you. It’s a great resource for staying connected to your personal and business contacts. You can also export the list and move it to a full CRM at any time.

Whichever direction you decide to go, we recommend choosing something that helps keep you organized and efficient. We don’t know what we’d do without our own systems!

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17 01, 2017

Booth Brainstorm: Signage

By |January 17th, 2017|0 Comments|

Booth Brainstorm: SignageThe sign you hang in your tradeshow booth is your “address” for the show. It’s how people find you and it’s up to you to make sure that you’re easy to find!

There are a lot of options when it comes to signage and we encourage you to weigh several considerations when choosing:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it easy to transport?
  • Is it easy to install?
  • Can I reuse it?
  • Does it match my brand aesthetic?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular signage options and their pro’s and con’s to help you as you make the best decisions for your business.


Cut vinyl is, by far, the most popular signage option for several reasons. It’s cost-effective, easy to transport and install and it comes in several colors so you can match your branding. Because it’s inexpensive, we recommend ordering a few extra duplicate pieces so you can practice installing it at home and have a back-up at your show.

The downside to vinyl is that it’s one and done. Once you install it, you can’t remove it and reapply it somewhere else. If you’re looking for something you can use for multiple shows, this isn’t the signage for you. But vinyl is a great option for elements that change over time, like your booth number, reps wanted or even the names of your product categories.

Pro Tip: Check your vinyl when it arrives to make sure it’s the right color and style. Don’t wait until the show.

Wood or Acrylic

Wood and acrylic signs look great and can be customized to your brand style and colors. These signs are sturdy when transporting and can be easy to hang. If the sign is large, you’ll want to consider shipping it and factor in more time for installation.

The biggest downside to wood or acrylic signs is the cost. These types of signs are a larger investment, so you’ll want to use it for signage that will have a larger lifespan; your logo, for example. You may not want to use it for things like your booth number, which changes every year.

The best part about wooden or acrylic signs is that you can reuse them at future tradeshows, craft shows or hung in your office, which saves you money in the long run.

Fabric Banner

A mid-level sign, the fabric banner is relatively inexpensive and can also be used multiple times before the wear begs for a new one. Being made of fabric, the banner is lighter than most, travels easily and is quick to display just about anywhere.

The drawback with fabric banners is that fire code requires that it be fireproofed, an extra step you have to go through to be up to standards.

Aisle Signs

While not allowed at every tradeshow (check the guidelines first), an aisle sign is an additional sign placed in the aisle of the show, hanging off your booth wall. It draws more attention to your booth than just the sign at your booth, increasing foot traffic as potential customers and partners wander the show.

Of course, because this would be an additional sign, there’s an added cost involved. Consider going a more conservative route on sign style for this secondary sign.

Your booth signage is just one thing to consider when budgeting for your next tradeshow. Keep your eyes peeled as we help you brainstorm other costs in future Booth Brainstorm posts. And for budgeting help on your booth, grab our budgeting worksheet.


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