My First show at MODA Exhibitions.
Last week was my very first exhibition, I would say it was a bit of a milestone, simply because of how much I learnt and the lovely people I met.
It was months in the planning, phone calls after phone calls to arrange my stand, get my wall paper printed, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I was going to fill my space. I had to get all the right paper work in place such as price lists, policies, and order forms. I felt very much in the dark about it all but I carried on hoping I was doing the right thing.
I had arranged my mum to look after Isla so Adam and I could set up the stand on the Saturday and although I anticipated it to be a few hours I spent all day at the NEC. Luckily my first show just so happened to be 5 minutes’ drive from home so any last minute things that came to mind were easy to get.
Adam had a surprising creative input in the display, coming up with ideas like using props and ornaments from home to bring my stand to life a little more. It was nice having someone there in times of panic to help you think straight. There was a lot of back and forth but I had finished setting up finally at around 8pm, and made it home just in time for Islas bed time.
We left that day looking at everyone else’s stands on our way out. I noticed my stand was very different. Everyone else’s looked more like a shop, market stall etc. Lots, and lots of items and products on rails. Mine was the only one that looked like a curated creative space. I thought this was the only thing that made me stand out but it made me think that maybe it wasn’t the right audience for me. Only time would tell.
Day one- we arrive at 8.30am giving ourselves an hour to get in the zone. I felt reassured Adam was with me as initially my nerves really kicked in. It was a fear that I would be lost for words or say the wrong thing. The show opened and Within 10 minutes I had my first viewers. I’ll never forget the reaction of my first views ’HOW GORGEOUS ARE THESE SCRAVES!’ They were really impressed and had nothing but nice words to say. I gave them a price list and off they went. It was a really nice little boost.
The stand next to me was a jewellery stand. It was huge and had the loveliest unique jewellery. I got talking to the man from there and little did I know it was the beginning of 3 days of very interesting conversations. His name was Paul, and he was helping his partner Maggie represent the Treaty stand. Paul was a top interior designer (who had done some work in Princess Dianna’s home) and Maggie ran the Treaty business with beautiful unique jewellery. It was their last show as they had been doing it for 10 years plus. Maggie was handing her business over to her son and they had just bought a yacht to travel the world. The advice they gave me felt invaluable. With Maggie’s experience in business, and Pauls experience in design it felt like whatever they had to say was like gold dust.
The main message I got from them both was KEEP GOING, AND BELIVE IN YOURSELF AND PRODUCT. I have read this a lot and heard this from others but for some reason it really sunk in when they said it, partly because they could see potential in my work and me. There was an irony in that they were at the end of their creative business and I was just starting mine. The little tips and tricks they let me in on were definitely noted.
I had quite a few people stop at my stand and listening to their reactions was just lovely. It helped build my confidence more and more throughout the show. There was a speed dating event at the show where you have 5 mins to pitch to a buyer and talk about your product. Initially this was very daunting but I soon got comfortable in m y own skin and done a few sessions. Talking about my product with passion and enthusiasm and pushing myself out of necessity grew my confidence.
We also got chatting to our other neighbours. Inyati, a vegan bag and shoe company. Tara was a designer for Asos and then started Inyati. She designed all her products and also gave me plenty of great advice and contacts. She was trendy and full of buzzing energy about her products which I loved. Paul her business partner was also well experienced in business and gave some very useful advice.
First sale- A man came and stood right in front of my stand. Hands on hips, very serious looking. He stood for ages staring at my mannequin. Then the lovely lady came behind him and said ‘these are just exquisite’ you could tell she was excited. The way she was handing the scarves, assessing the weight and drape. ‘It’s the first time I’ve been excited about scarves’ she said . ‘I’ll take two of these, and these and these and these’. Adam and I were flapping. You could tell we were excited. Adam helped with all the order forms and I did all the ‘selling’. They were serious customers as they paid the next day and I got the order out to them the following week. It was a real high!
So many exhibitors and buyers came to me and said you need to be doing shows like Scoop, and Pure London, which have much higher end customers. On Tuesday (the last day) you could tell everyone was winding down and getting ready to pack up. It was quiet, it usually is but we made the most of our time debriefing, chatting to our neighbours and discussing future plans. 3.50pm and everyone was starting to pack up. It was a strange feeling as our eyes had been accustomed to seeing the same faces and stands for four days straight. It felt like a milestone and a huge turning point in my career as an artist and designer. It was an enforced break for Adam away from his admin and GP work. I’m so glad he was with me throughout it all as I had somebody to share my thoughts and experiences with.