This past weekend my business, Shop Always Rooney, had the huge opportunity to be a vendor at the Magnolia Silobration. I’ve never done anything like it before so going into it I was a little intimidated on how everything worked. Of course when we arrived, the team and all the other vendors were extremely welcoming and helpful and made us newbies feel like family.
When prepping for the vendor fair, I had SO many questions and I feel like it is something people are not transparent about online. I thankfully had so many friends and family helping me out that made me feel prepared but I know someone may come across this that feels as I did in the beginning: overwhelmed and intimidated.
So here is a short little series on my experience and how things came together. First up, the prep work and how we built the booth. Just a disclaimer, I can’t stress enough how much you need people alongside you when doing any vendor event or anything in your business. If you’re anything like me, pride can get the best of you and can make you think you can do it all (I mean, I love a good DIY) but if I’ve learned anything this year it is you will go further if you go together.
Building the Booth
I drew up on my iPad a sketch of what I wanted the booth to look like. I knew I wanted three tall walls that would make my 10×10 space feel like a storefront and to be a clean canvas to display my leather products.
My friend Rachel has been working with her new Inventables cnc machine to create beautiful signs. I asked her to help out and she jumped on board with the process of cutting out “Always Rooney”. It was so fun to watch and crazy what that machine can do! We used a thin mdf board, sanded down the edges and spray painted it black for a smooth finish.
For the booth build-out, my bro-in-law Aric helped design and come up with how we could quickly and effectively assemble the booth with just two people. First, we measured the vehicle we were taking with us so we wouldn’t have to rent a truck or trailer and planned accordingly. Knowing we had 8ftx4 feet to work with, Aric planned everything to be in panels no wider than four feet.
We attached the logo to the back wall with velcro (thanks to my Mom for the great idea) which made it so easy to attach when we arrived.
We planned where to put the shelves before-hand but detached them for the drive. The main design feature of the booth was to keep about two-three feet behind the back wall to keep inventory, shopping bags and extra marketing cards.
I knew I wanted a mirror for the space so when customers were trying on bags they could see how they fit them. I ended up using a cricut machine and cutting out my website and instagram handle in black vinyl so if someone took a picture, they could remember where to find me!
Finally, I had a local sign company create vinyls for the side walls to give more context to the products. I am so glad I did this because it helped answer a few questions as a customer was in our space. I think it really added to the whole booth.
Of course, I didn’t just plan a simple booth because of how my brain works so don’t feel like you have to go all out like we did. This was just what I chose and I loved the end product! The beautiful thing is your space is a blank canvas and as long as your goal is reflective of your brand and doable for you to put together, that is a win.
A big upside to having your product at a vendor fair is the amount of people that will be familiarized with your brand. When Jordan and I signed up for this event, we went in with the mindset of getting the brand out there as well as our products. Yes, a sale was nice but sharing our story and brand with people was important to us and something we couldn’t measure. So we went prepared with three pieces of marketing materials we gave out. First, simple business cards. These will transfer to anything we do and so I bought a lot to carry on after the event.
Next, we printed postcard sized cards. On the front I had a photo of myself with my products so people would remember which booth we were and on the back I had what we specialized in (personalized leather travel goods) as well as a website and social handle.
Lastly, each customer who purchased a product on site received a thank you card and a coupon for holiday orders because we are so grateful for the support. This card also had a picture on the back of our products so they would remember what we sold.
Our back wall with the logo became a marketing material we didn’t even think about! People stopped just to take a picture which made us smile every single time.
Everything we printed was through Vista Print!
Inventory. This was a big one to plan for! I probably went back and forth a hundred times over how much to bring for this event. What I ended up doing was take the expected number of attendees to the event and multiply it by .01 to find out what 1% was. I planned accordingly to imagine if one percent bought something, we would be prepared. I have no clue why I did that, but it worked! Ha. I wouldn’t advise you to do the same…I’m just sharing what I did. It’s not a scientific fact haha.
I also looked at the time I had to prepare and my most popular items. Time played a huge factor in my prep work. My advice is to just do what you can and make sure you have marketing materials in place for if you sell-out!
I had my parents come help (yes, they are the BEST) prepare inventory and Jordan helped do all the finishing work on every product. I couldn’t have done it without them!
Staying In Your Lane
One of the most difficult things about preparing your (very small) business for a vendor fair is learning to say no to unimportant things. I’m a dreamer, so while working I had big ideas for things that we just couldn’t pull off in a short time frame and with only two people working the booth. So I wrote those ideas down and tucked them away for later. It’s always easy to look at other people and what they’re doing and feel like you have to do the same but stay.in.your.lane.
For example, a large part of my business is personalization. I wanted to have personalization on the spot for customers (and will one day) but for just me and Jordan working the booth we agreed it would be a lot of pressure and overwhelming. So we went with plan B and provided free shipping for orders made on the event weekend to get it to them the following week – free of charge.
The other big piece of advice I got from a good friend was to cover the prep work and event in prayer. Asking God for wisdom and grace to walk this out. I can’t tell you how much of a mental battle something like this can be and I had to constantly stop myself and remember God had graced me for this, but I couldn’t do it without Him.