Trade Show Series - Guest - Unflappable Kate McKinnon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If you're just tuning in The Hole Bead Shoppe is running a not-so mini series on what it takes to become an efficient trade show vendor. Spurred by queries of Tamara Allison of The Vanishing Pearl and Stephanie Haussler of Pixybug Designs, we decided to ask our vendor peers to answer questions that might be helpful to budding entrepreneurs, designers and artists looking to expand their commercial base to larger venue shows.
Next in our lineup, self-proclaimed Lover, Fighter, Dreamer Kate McKinnon, probably won't remember the first time we met, it wasn't her, but me - who wasn't really memorable? She sharing a booth in Tucson with Anne Mitchell when I stalked, opps...spotted her. 
I had recently contacted her about a Breast Cancer charity. She (without knowing me at all) donated one of her handmade clasps to my charity auction. Kate probably didn't realize or have any way of knowing how the seemingly small action - forever won me over. At the time, I was already a fan of Kate's blog and her work, but the selfless act clinched my admiration. And now I'm babbling - so - here she is - Kate McKinnon!

1. What brand do you fall under (if any): Independent Jewelry Artist, Business Owner; Artisan and/or other:  Independent artisan, writer, and teacher.


2. What type of Trade Shows do you attend as a vendor (not buyer) and how many shows do you attend:
I've cut it down to no more than one or two a year. I've given up teaching at the big shows, because they are so focused on profits and number of bodies that I think that they aren't giving students a good enough classroom experience, and I don't want to be a part of that. Shows have kilns firing in classrooms, and they teach silly things like torch firing metal clay, carving and burning plastic, painting with and burning epoxy resin, and using dangerous microwave kilns. Also, there are often sketchy vendors- people who sell knockoffs of artisan work, cheesy unannealed lampwork, badly sourced pearls and stones. I just can't stand it, and I can't stop it, so I just stopped going.
A Shag Carpet of Pearls

As a vendor, my favorite shows are Bead Society bazaars. Low costs, enthusiastic audiences, smaller scenes. Shorter hours. And fabulous vendors! Some of my favorite artists and artisans only do small shows now, usually ones that are fairly local. And the big seed bead vendors always show up, so I can see all of the colours in person. Even people who order wholesale need to SEE the selection. Gotta see a big vendor for that. I prowl Jane's Fiber and Beads and Beyond Beadery for what's new in the world of seeds.

3. How far in advance do you plan for each show (i.e. inventory, advertising, hotels):
Hotels, as early as possible, and I check online a few times after I reserve to see if rates go down. If they do, I call up and get the new rate. Some travel sites have fare watching, which is fantastic. I fly Southwest Air so I can change my ticket with no fee, or, even better, if the fares go on sale, I go online, and change to the new lower fare. Southwest drops the savings in my travel account.
One of the reasons I love Kate...

Advertising- I like the show guides. Almost all shows, small or large, put together a directory, and almost everyone at the show will have one. Taking ads in them not only helps support the show, it helps you in real time. Some guides (like Bead and Button) are sent out early, and people mark them and plan to see the vendors whose ads entice them. I don't really think that advertising in the mags is worth it any more. Too expensive for too little return.


4. What type of advertising do you use, if any:
Only show guides, and my own social media activities. I don't like it when people use Facebook or Twitter to try to sell me things, but I do like it when they remind me of their existence, and make it easy for me to find their blogs, sites, and shops. Social media, used well, is the future. Print media- I think it's already over.

5. Do you have any tips to prevent loss/theft at shows:
It's not something I think about. Theft happens, but I don't want to be the kind of person who is always protecting myself. I hope that most people don't steal, and the ones who do are usually pros, which means that they are good at it and hard to stop. Keep what you can't bear to lose in a case, and keep an open heart otherwise, that's my advice. The more real you are, I think, the more respect people will treat you with.

6. Do you have a timeline for when and how to apply for tax permits or certifications for other states? And a good way to keep up with multiple permits and tax payment deadlines:
Honestly, it's a nightmare. The tax and the reporting burden (and the fear of making a costly mistake) is why I have given up on doing shows in multiple states. It's really difficult to keep up with these things unless you do them immediately. I try to get the permit and the form I need to file online before I arrive. Sometimes a tax officer walks the show, and I find that hugely helpful, because you can not only get forms you are missing, but ask them questions about their state rules.

Like what  you've read - find Kate and more of her work, here
More of Kate's interview Friday August 26th, 2011.
Leave a comment, check a box, share it. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

VanishingPearl said...

Good series from what I've read Kelli! Thanks for mentioning me. I have a three day show this weekend in Oklahoma City. It's the first one I'm doing by myself.

I've decided to simplify my display so that my work can be the star of the show and I can transport everything easily.

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