Posts tagged nss
National Stationery Show 2016

We recently exhibited at the National Stationery Show in our first solo booth! (You can read the recap of our first NSS experience in 2014 here.)

We were inspired by Lucky Horse Press to try soft walls. We designed and built a simple, easily transportable booth that we can reuse for future trade shows. Since we're always going to be a cross-country plane ride from New York, we wanted to avoid shipping a crate back and forth if at all possible. We are really happy with how our booth turned out! Here's what we did.

Our friend Eli is a talented metalworker and he fabricated a beautiful aluminum frame for us. All of the pieces were 5ft long or shorter and fit into an army style duffel bag that we could check on the plane. The pieces fit together easily and are tightened into place with an allen wrench. All together, the frame poles weigh around 70lbs. We checked the connectors (another 15lbs) in another bag with our clothes to keep the weight low.

We purchased canvas drop cloths from Home Depot for the booth walls. I really wanted to use sail cloth (nautical!), but it turns out that sail cloth is super expensive. Drop cloths are huge and reasonably priced. One of the walls got a coat of paint for contrast underneath our wood logo sign. We sent the walls out to Turning Star for professional fire proofing. I hemmed the panels on my sewing machine at home. 

We used a simple grommet kit to apply grommets to the walls. I wanted to buy an expensive grommet press, but it actually didn't take all that long to do the grommets by hand. It's kind of fun and was a good pre-NSS stress reliever. 

We packed up our 6 checked bags, 2 carry ons, 2 backpacks, 1 car seat, 1 stroller, and 1 toddler and headed to the airport! Getting the baggage moved around was a giant pain, but it saved us a bunch of money on shipping a crate, and then we didn't have to wait for our crate to be returned at the end of the show. And also we don't have to store a crate. (Apparently I have a crate phobia.)

When you get to the show, this is what the booth looks like. Not so cute! We took two days for set-up, but we were out of the Javits Center by dinner time each night. We had a hotel very close by, which allowed us to carry suitcases back and forth as we needed them. While I'd like to have spent less on the hotel, the close proximity was really really nice.

We started out by hanging the cloth panels on the frame with zip ties very loosely, and then we tightened them evenly in all directions to get the panels as taut as we could. The 2 short sides were very smooth - the long side was a little more wavy. I kept reminding myself: "We're going for a natural, nautical look. It's supposed to be fabric." The perfectionist in me likes to argue, but our brand isn't polished perfection. It's honesty and groundedness - simplicity, natural elements and masculine energy. In my opinion, the booth fit our brand well. (Although it's easy to play the comparison game when you're looking down the aisle and other booths are fancier than the house you live in.)

Our beautiful logo sign was made by Bill Sayer - PPointCreates on Etsy. We hung the sign (and all the cards) with adhesive velcro dots from Uline. For the small letters and the line, we did velcro dot surgery and cut them down to smaller pieces. The sign stayed on the wall for the whole show. (Hooray!) The cards were a little more finicky. We used a handy box of straight pins to reinforce the cards that fell down. That's one of the benefits of fabric walls!

We splurged on furniture and rented some fun vintage pieces from Patina. It was really nice to round off the nautical theme with the furniture pieces, and they were super handy to have. Sitting and storage are important! We used FJÄLLA boxes from IKEA to hide all of our extra booth stuff. Our flooring was navy blue carpet tiles from Flor. Our lighting was simple clip lamps from Home Depot that we painted gold. We picked super high lumen LED lightbulbs that kept the booth bright without being hot.

We wanted a booth that was practical to transport, fit our brand, and didn't break the bank. All of the elements for the booth definitely added up in price, but nearly everything can be reused again for future shows. As much time and planning as the booth takes, in the end it's all about the product. We released 20+ new cards and a series of A to Z Signal Flag postcards that won a Best New Product award in the Eco Chic category!

It's a HUGE honor to win an award like this, and we are so grateful. It can be hard to quantify the benefits of doing a major trade show with the time spent planning, financial investment, travel time and costs, etc. Getting recognition like this certainly makes it easier to see the fruit of all that hard work. (I'm still staring at the award on my desk like I don't really believe it happened.)

We're still tired from the trip, but we're also still glowing a little bit. I LOVE meeting our buyers face to face - hearing their stories, sharing my inspiration for each product, seeing what they order and getting to hear why. It's all exciting and inspiring and it gives me new fuel for the fire. Thanks for the memories, New York! Until next time...

Mega Update for Almost Spring
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Hello friends, it's been awhile. It's about time for a giant update, so here goes!

National Stationery Show
I've been busy preparing for NSS, but it's been more of a fun-busy than a stressed-busy. It's been the perfect opportunity to design and print all new branded pieces, dream up crazy giveaways, and focus on who we are as a company. It's been torture not to Instagram/tweet/blog/shout from the rooftops about the fun new things I've been working on. But I'm determined to keep things secret until just before the show!

We're really excited to be back in New York for the show. It's a special city, and one I'm happy to have a yearly excuse to visit. I don't have too many expectations for the show (or at least I'm trying not to), but we're setting a small new stockist goal and planning to celebrate it with a nice dinner. Any suggestions for where we should go?

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Paper Camp
I know I gushed about it in the Fall, but I want to reiterate how important Paper Camp and the Tradeshow Bootcamp community have been in this preparation season. I was a mess thinking about NSS before Paper Camp, but with my binder, my new friends, and the massive load of knowledge I stuffed into my carry-on when coming home... I'm feeling confident and excited. Katie, the founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp, is offering a full scholarship to the next Paper Camp this September in Los Angeles! You can apply here. Don't hesitate, just do it. You won't regret it!

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SideTour
We've done five SideTour workshops so far, and they have been absolutely wonderful. It's a joy to welcome new friends into the studio, share my knowledge and see their eyes light up at the chance to create. I learned a ton about printing history in preparation, and can now share 500+ years of history from memory (with a few notes here and there). Feel free to quiz me! It's been really fun to let my nerd flag fly.

One of the biggest surprises from the SideTour workshops have been the kids. We've had a few kids in the 10-14 age group attend, and their enthusiasm is incredible. It's really gotten me thinking. I love teaching, love kids, and love seeing the craft of hand printing passed on to the next generation. Still brainstorming on what to do with all of that, but it's on my mind.

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Looking For Help
I'm looking for a freelance letterpress printer to add to the family. I do all our printing in-house, and I adore it. But the downside of being 100% hand-fed and treadle-operated is that sometimes things get busy and I am 100% exhausted. It would be incredibly helpful to have someone to bring in during busy seasons. It's a paid (hourly) position in our Pioneer Square, Seattle studio. I'm looking for someone who is experienced on platen presses, flexible for scheduling and fun to be around. Please pass this info along to anyone you think may be interested. Please send a resume & print samples to hello@constellationco.com. I'm not looking for an intern at the moment, so experienced applicants only please!

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