Monday, February 3, 2014

The Patience To Succeed And The Guts To Fail: An Alumni's Reflection On Tradeshow Bootcamp

It's been two weeks since I attended Tradeshow Bootcamp's Paper Camp seminar, and it has literally taken that long for me to process the incredible wealth of knowledge and insight I gained there.

Imagine a Disneyland of stationery, where each contributing business factor is a ride and you have a fast pass to all of them (which clearly makes the National Stationery Show Space Mountain)....Okay, so maybe that isn't a good analogy if you're not a huge nerd, but the most amazing part is that to everyone attending, it IS Disneyland! So if that's your scene, then this is seriously the happiest place on earth.

The event is mostly made up of young (3-7 years) and successful businesses looking to expand into new market territory, and a carefully selected panel of industry professionals with expansive and complimentary experience. Then there are one or two new people who are there for a really good look at whether expansion/wholesale is right for their company (1-2 years). My big surprise was thinking I was on a solid track and seeing how much I have left to climb before I work UP to a "young company." Hint: the whole way. Quite a jolt to the system, but what a great feeling, really: to see in real time how much you need to do (not in hindsight), and then be sat down and told how to get there.

I have seen first hand how much companies felt they benefitted from Paper Camp—seen the great success of its alumni—and I understand how much of a monetary investment it is to attend which is why fewer start-ups do, but to lower the learning curve is truly invaluable for someone just starting out. This is the foundation you need to get it done, or a considerably quicker and cheaper way of realizing this business isn't for you. The advantage of "failing" at something is accepting that it isn't going to happen and moving on, but this can take a lot of time and money, and having a clearer view of what's ahead could save you from that. So really, it's a win/win.

Being in the basic start-up phase of Warren Tales, and having already committed to trying my hand at the National Stationery Show (Booth #1357) in May, I really couldn't afford to attend Paper Camp. Clearly that didn't stop me. Your three options for this are: Scholarships, fundraisers, and webinars.

Scholarship: I really chanced upon the Tradeshow Bootcamp scholarship, which I can't possibly be more grateful for. This is an incredibly generous offer by TSBC to fully cover the costs of the seminar (not including travel and accommodations obviously) and is the sole reason for why I was able to attend. You can even pay upfront if you're committed to going and they will refund you if you are selected, so it's always worth applying.

Fundraisers: I have no personal experience to offer for this one yet, but be creative and work with what your community can offer. Clearly state your goals, be transparent with your business model, and be as prepared as possible. If a Kickstarter-esque crowdsourcing campaign works for you: do it. If a lemonade stand works for you: do it. Find what works for you and your market and make it happen.

Webinars: TSBC offers a number of webinars that you can attend as a supplementary or alternative educational experience to Paper Camp. The webinars cover specific subjects, are offered at a lower price, and have the added convenience factor of online attendance. These are great if you're looking for information on a few—but not all—matters; you can spread your education out to break up the cost; and you are still welcomed into the private online forum/community. These are an excellent resource to consider.

Finally, you just can't beat the community. The stationery industry has some of the nicest, funniest, weirdest, most creative, most handworking, and most well-rounded/jack-of-all-trades people I've met. They are an incredibly knowledgable and experienced bunch who multitask like it's a Olympic sport. They mean business but they're not all business—they're amazing people too! The TSBC community is only a small fraction of the industry, but it's a great one, and having a space to communicate, collaborate, and celebrate (yeah, I alliterated) across miles is a large part of what makes Tradeshow Bootcamp invaluable. A chance to contribute to this community is a goal worth working toward.

So to summarize: "The greatest thing I took away from my experience with Tradeshow Bootcamp was direction. In only two days, Paper Camp nurtured confidence and support through discussion and a wealth of applicable knowledge. I not only feel comfortable taking the next step as a growing business, but feel prepared to respond effectively when confronted with set-backs. I firmly believe that I will look back on attending this seminar as a defining moment in my business, my career, and even my life." —Lindsey Warriner, Warren Tales, 2014 Paper Camp Alum

And you can read 44 more excellent reasons to attend right here.

I can only imagine (and hope) that other fledgling professionals went into the stationery business more prepared than I feel I have been, but one of the best things about working in this industry is that it's a long road for everyone. Everyone has learned from their experience, for better or worse, no matter how prepared they were at the beginning. What really counts are the hours you put in. After all, good experience is about having the patience to succeed and the guts to fail.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully put! I couldn't possibly have said it any better.