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First-time vendor tips from four OOAK Show vendors

Posted by Hayleigh Smith | Vendors

The time has come: you’ve reserved your booth space, you’ve got vendor insurance, and you’re ready to start getting your small business’ name out into the world at your first-ever show. How exciting!

Although you’re fired up and ready to go, you can never be too prepared when it comes to your first vending opportunity. 

To help you make the most of your time at your upcoming show, we’ve asked a few established vendors from Toronto’s One Of A Kind Show (OOAK) to provide us with some tips to help you prepare! 

Let’s get into it:

1. Chelsea Keramaris, Pretty Plum Boutique

Chelsea is the owner and operator of the ethically-made women’s and children’s clothing line, Pretty Plum Boutique. Not only does she create clothing for moms and their little ones, but she’s also been vending at shows for four years! Here’s the advice she’d give to a first-time vendor:

  1. Design your booth to tell a story, and really showcase your brand.
  2. Bring extra of everything and make a list of everything you need to bring. 
  3. Wear comfy shoes! 
  4. Hire a booth sitter if you can, it helps prevent you from getting physically and mentally exhausted from long days.
  5. Make friends with your booth neighbours. 

Photo credits: @prettyplumboutique on Instagram 

2. Rose Chang and Stephanie Drabik, Crywolf Clothing

This dynamic duo are the owners of Crywolf, a small business that curates limited edition and collectible clothing, accessories, and fun graphic tees in retail box packaging. Rose and Stephanie started vending at craft shows back in 2005 and continue to do so today! Here’s what these trade show veterans want new vendors to know: 

  1. Read through all of your show’s emails and welcome packages. Each show is different and sometimes they provide their own unique checklist of things to remember to bring.
  2. Outdoor shows: invest in a tent. It will give you shade and protect your work if it rains!
  3. Give out business cards or postcards with a discount code to your online store for people who seem interested in your brand.
  4. Plan your setup before you get there. Either draw out or measure the space and set up your stuff beforehand to see how it looks and works before you get there. It can help avoid issues on show day!
  5. Don’t let a bad show discourage you. So many factors can affect your sales, some within your control (your booth/table design) and some out of your control (wrong crowd, weather).

Photo credits: @crywolfclothing on Instagram

3. Molly Shannon, Canadian Succulents

Molly, the owner of Canadian Succulents, turned her pandemic collectors hobby into a successful small business. When she’s not growing succulents and designing planter arrangements, she’s selling them at shows! Here’s what she recommends doing before your first time as a vendor: 

  1. Start designing your booth way ahead of time.
  2. Reach out to other vendors to ask questions (everyone at OOAK is super nice!)
  3. Bring a ton of business cards!
  4. Light up your booth as much as possible.
  5. Invest in mat/carpet flooring (to save your feet from long days of standing!)

Photo credits: @canadiansucculents on Instagram 

4. Katia Hagen, Lights of All

Lights of All is a vegan, ecocentric clothing brand with a focus on creating comfortable and fashionable pieces that don’t harm the planet. When Katia isn’t designing sustainable clothes, she’s participating in shows like OOAK! Here are her first-time vendor tips:

  1. Bring lots of business cards or some kind of flyer (I underestimated how much people want these. I had made a QR code in an easily scannable spot, but people were upset I ran out of business cards).
  2. Bring yourself snacks! Since I was working my booth alone, it was hard to leave my spot. I kept snacks on hand so I could nibble on something when things slowed down. 
  3. Introduce yourself to your neighbours. Making those connections is key to surviving OOAK or any show! Your neighbours will keep an eye on your booth if you need to use the bathroom, for example. 
  4. Prepare as much as you can and read all the information provided. It can seem like a lot, but preparing as much as you can ahead of time makes it more seamless and less stressful on move-in day and during the event.
  5. Don’t do it alone. Some people can do large events alone and I usually do, but OOAK specifically is really hard to do by yourself. If you are introverted like me, I highly recommend you have someone to split your days with. It will make all the difference and it’s not a weakness to ask for help!

Photo credits: @lightsofall on Instagram

Participating in and preparing for your first show can be nerve-wracking, but by preparing ahead of time and following these helpful tips, you’re sure to be set up for success! As a way to mitigate any pre-show jitters, consider purchasing a Duuo Vendor Insurance policy to get that peace of mind! Vendor insurance acts as your “just in case” safety net when participating in shows, that way, you can focus less on what could go wrong and more on bringing your A-game come show time.

About the author

Hayleigh Smith
Hayleigh is Duuo’s Content Marketing Specialist. When she’s not managing Duuo’s social media, writing blogs, and developing marketing content, you can find her sketching, practicing her tattoo skills, or listening to music!