One time, at Paper Camp...

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How do I even start talking about Paper Camp? (I've been writing and re-writing this blog post for weeks trying to say it all the way I want to. But here goes.)

I went into the weekend with the intention of learning practical info about exhibiting at a trade show, but I came out having learned so much more than that. I learned a lot about industry standards and the in's and out's of the trade show experience. But (unexpectedly) I also walked away with a new confidence in who we are as a company and a new focus on long-term goals. Like the incredible Paper Camp speakers kept saying - a trade show isn't the destination, but just a step along the way.

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A few of my BIG PICTURE take-aways:

When making decisions, always go back to your goals. Know what you want, and make sure each decision is moving you in that direction.

Know your brand! Everything your company does should tell your story - showing process and identity is important.

Be prepared for creative problem solving. Things will go wrong.

"I'm new" is not a valid excuse. When questions come up about your company, answer with pride. Don’t apologize for being new, just be professional and show them you're legit.

Whether you're looking for a store, a blog, a magazine, a collaboration or a vendor, finding the right fit is key. Quality relationships are everything.

STREAMLINE. Make choices and stand by them.

YOU make the rules for your business. Know industry standards, but then make the best decisions for your company.

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It was genuinely the best group of people I've ever had the pleasure of talking shop with. The speakers were incredibly generous to share their knowledge and experience with us. I feel SO a part of the community. As a young small business owner, I've felt pretty isolated these past few years - making big decisions and figuring out priorities largely on my own. I've longed for other entrepreneurial ladies to run things by, or just to say, "I know, right?" - because sometimes that's just what you need. Not only did I have 2 incredible days of those conversations at Paper Camp, but the relationships have continued beyond the weekend! There have been lots of e-mails, social media connections, and even snail mail! Plus, the Tradeshow Bootcamp alumni Facebook page is an amazing, active place - lots of questions and answers and friendly faces! I can't rave enough. (The next Paper Camp is in Los Angeles in January, and you NEED to be there!)

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My mind was so incredibly blown by the people and information packed into 2 days, I'm still processing it all. So far, I've made a couple huge to do lists with both big picture dreams and right away tasks. I've also made a budget, placed a ridiculous Uline order, ordered a giant calendar for planning, and briefed the team. But before I rush off and tackle my to do lists, I want to personally thank each of the amazing speakers. I'm working on snail mail thank you's as well, but I just want to publicly acknowledge the fact that these incredible women have chosen to make community important and have shared their time, talents, and trade secrets (!) to encourage other small businesses to flourish. If you've read this blog at all, you know I beat the community "drum" quite a bit - and this is community at its best.

So, THANK YOU!

Katie Hunt (Kelp Designs) Erika Firm (Delphine) Claudia Smith (Fig 2. Design) Rachael Hetzel (Pistachio Press) Carina Murray (Crow + Canary) Kimberley Yurkiewicz (Crow + Canary) Nole Garey (Oh So Beautiful Paper) Dani Antol & Heather Haynie (Rock, Paper, Scissors)

Photos by Mary Kate McKenna Photography, LLC for Tradeshow Bootcamp