Advice on Choosing to Exhibit at the National Stationery Show

June 13, 2013

This year at the National Stationery Show I had the pleasure of meeting a number of artists and designers walking the show. Many asked how I decided to do the show and what it takes to get there. 


There's no "right" or easy path when it comes to deciding to exhibit at the show, and each person's decision is completely different from the next as it is a very personal one. That said, if you are contemplating having a booth at NSS in the future, here's a few bits of advice: 

- Set goals. Think about your company and where you want to be. Spend a lot of time thinking about where you see yourself in six months, one year, five years, etc. Will exhibiting at the Stationery Show help you get there? How? 

- Develop an understanding of the wholesale world. Wholesaling isn't right for everyone and is very different from selling directly to retail consumers. If you are new to wholesaling and also considering doing the Stationery Show, start thinking through some of the systems and processes you will likely need to set up. Do you have the ability to scale up your production and fulfill orders to retailers in a timely manner? Can you appropriately price your products for the wholesale market? How will you keep track of your orders and contacts? How will you package and ship your products? Will you be able to release new designs consistently throughout the year? Lots to think about!

- Be prepared to show a full line of cards/products. Having just 12 cards won't cut it at NSS. You are expected to have a complete line covering many different categories. From different people I've spoken to, I've heard you should be prepared to bring anywhere from 30 to 75 unique designs to present at the show. You want your walls to have ample product on display and for buyers to see that you are committed to your art.

- Do a lot of research. I learned a LOT about the show by looking at photos and reading summaries online. Blogs like Paper Crave, The Stationery Place, Design Sponge, and Oh So Beautiful Paper do a wonderful job covering the show each year.  Many designers share their experiences on their own blogs or Facebook pages as well. The Center Aisle Group has also published a book about preparing for this tradeshow in particular that should be on your must-read list. If you can swing it, walk the show (the show management allows artists to purchase passes to attend the show) and take it all in.

- Invest in workshops and networking opportunities. I've shared before how invaluable Tradeshow Bootcamp has been and continues to be in preparing for and navigating NSS and the stationery industry in general. I've also greatly benefited from working with business consultants, industry experts, and educators including The Center Aisle Group, Joyce Wan, and Rena Tom. Each opportunity has been well worth the investment as I've learned a TON while also building a network of friends and supporters at the same time.

- Meet other designers. I've made a number of good "paper" friends who are not only wonderful people and amazing designers, but also a great resource when I need feedback about preparing for NSS or working with retailers. Find other designers that live near you and ask them to meet up, or email a few designers you admire and see if they would be willing to answer some of your questions. 

Have more questions? Feel free to contact me at hello{at} and I'd be more than happy to answer them!

1 Response


June 24, 2013

really good advice Brannon!

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