Top 5 Conference Networking Tips

conference networking

Conference season is upon us. Let’s talk about networking. I’m Angie from Team Lucky Break, and I’m here to share my top 5 conference networking tips.

 

Surprisingly, many people don’t really know how to network. Seems simple right? Just go and talk to people! I hate to break it to you my friend, but networking is so much more than being friendly and bubbly. It’s about making meaningful connections in a sea of people. Many don’t realize that to successfully network, you need to have a strategy in place. I’m here to help you take the guesswork out of strategic conference networking.

conference networking

 

Top 5 Conference Networking Tips

I’ve gone to dozens, if not hundreds of networking events, conferences, trade shows, and business mixers. Some were for my business, bobo design studio, a lot more were for my previous roles in media and advertising. Doesn’t’ matter the content of the show, the rules are the same.

 

I’ve outlined five simple conference networking tips that I’ve learned over the years that will make you a smarter, more strategic attendee at your next big event. To help illustrate how one would implement these techniques, we’ll follow along with a hypothetical brand owner named Lucky who designs and creates her own line of adorable dog-themed stickers and stationery.

 

conference networking

(more…)

How to Sell on Faire

How to sell on faire

If you want to know how to sell on Faire, then you’ve come to the right place! This blog is part of an ongoing, deeply researched series about selling on Faire (formerly Indigo Fair). The first post, What is Faire?, detailed how Faire works, how much Faire charges, and what kinds of products Faire sells.

 

HOW TO SELL ON FAIRE

 

 

How to sell on Faire

 

In this installment of the series, I’m unpacking some of the nuances of the platform. Because Indigo Fair/ Faire is a rapidly evolving marketplace, it’s important to recognize that this data is accurate as of the time of publication. The Faire executive team is pioneering in spirit and ambitious in scope, so their efforts are an ever-changing experiment. It’s akin to building the runway as you fly the plane, but that’s to be expected when you’re- quite literally- trying to “reinvent wholesale.”

 

Getting started with Faire is deliciously straightforward. Whenever I speak to artisans within the Lucky Break community, the onboarding process is something that earns rave reviews. Co-founder Max Rhodes has often boasted about how easy it is to use Faire.

 

“Makers can apply to join Indigo Fair, and once accepted, they just send us their product catalogue to get their profile up and running. Most makers receive an order within a week, and they get paid as soon as they ship the goods.”

 

HOW ARE ORDERS RECEIVED THROUGH FAIRE?

 

Buyers shop through the Faire interface from a seamlessly curated selection of products that are chosen for them based on an algorithm that considers numerous factors. While only the Faire executives and the software development team fully understand the mechanics of the algorithm, we do have some clues about how the system works. The aesthetics of the shop and the frequency with which any particular brand is ordered factor into which products are displayed for any specific buyer.

 

Faire dispatches an email notification to the brand once a buyer places an order. Brand owners then log into the system to discover several options at their fingertips, including:

  • Accepting the order and selecting a ship date.
  • Editing the item availability to backorder an item.
  • Canceling the order.

 

Payment for orders is settled upon shipment. Because buyers often enjoy trade credit (commonly known as “net terms”) via Faire, brand owners can pay an additional 3% fee for immediate payment. If they choose to agree to net 30 terms to settle the invoice, then they can forego the additional 3% fee. In all instances, Faire guarantees payment even if the buyer defaults on their obligation.

 

HOW DOES SHIPPING WORK ON FAIRE?

Shopkeepers often enjoy free shipping on Faire, and I can confirm that there’s almost nothing that they cherish more than zero shipping fees. But who pays for that?

  • When you notify Faire that an order has shipped, you attach the tracking number for the parcel and notate the shipping cost. This has been the process since Faire’s launch.
  • Faire reimburses for the shipping fees alongside the settlement for the merchandise, according to the schedule you’ve selected. (Immediate payment for an additional 3% or settling the invoice in 30 days for no additional fee)
  • Faire passes the shipping charges on to the buyer unless the shopkeeper is taking advantage of a free shipping special. In that case, Faire absorbs the cost of shipping.
  • In February 2019, Faire rolled out an optional, automated process for printing shipping labels within the program.  This eliminates the need to manually input shipping costs and tracking numbers.  Swing by the Faire FAQ to read more about Faire’s new shipping program.

(more…)

A Friendly Tutorial on those Vexing UPC Codes

UPC1

In my work with makers and product designers, I field questions each week about those mysterious UPC codes…

 

What is a UPC code?

Do I need UPC codes?

What does a UPC code do?

Where is the best place to get UPC codes?

 

I decided it was high-time that I rolled up my sleeves and pulled together a UPC tutorial to shed some light on the subject. I hope it proves helpful!

 

WHAT IS A UPC CODE?

UPC codes are unique, globally recognized numbers assigned to products to provide critical information to retailers. Think about when you’re checking out at a grocery store: the clerk scans the bar code of an item and both the product name and current price pops up on the screen. As that item is scanned, it’s also deducted from the retailer’s current inventory count so that the shopkeeper can track sales and keep accurate stock counts.

 

Through this system, a gallery in San Francisco can scan a UPC and immediately identify the product and maker. A boutique in Baltimore could scan the same product and derive the same information.  So could a spa in New York or a department store in Ontario.

 

Every product registered for a UPC code is assigned a unique number. If you’re a jeweler with 43 different designs, then that tallies up to 43 codes. Your split fringe necklace will have a different code than your brass arc necklace. If you’re an apothecary maker with 8 varieties of sugar scrub, then you’ll need 8 different codes: one for each scrub formulation.

 

Each of these UPC codes is tied into a central system managed by GS1, an international nonprofit organization charged with developing and maintaining standards and issuing codes.

 

ANATOMY OF A UPC CODE

All GS1 codes contain twelve numbers, but understanding the nature of those numbers is critical. Each company registered with GS1 is assigned a unique company prefix and this series of six numbers is always placed at the beginning of every UPC code. The series of numbers which follows the company prefix identifies the actual product from the company. Freeze that information into your brain for a moment because you’ll need to recall it in just a minute.

 

UPC1

 

 

DO I NEED UPC CODES?

If you simply need an internal system for tracking how much inventory you have on hand, then you don’t need UPC codes.

 

If you plan to sell exclusively direct-to-consumer (whether that’s through Etsy or your own website, or at farmer’s markets or crafts fairs), then you don’t need UPC codes.

 

If plan to wholesale to small, independent shops, then you can likely skip the UPC process.

 

Most of these types of stores don’t require UPC codes, though some may. Many shops who are accustomed to working with smaller, independent brands may actually send their own barcode stickers which are exclusive to their store and not tied into the global UPC system. You’d then apply these stickers to their orders before shipment.

 

If you have aspirations to sell nationwide or through large, corporate accounts, then UPC codes will be all but mandatory. Department stores and grocery chains expect these codes. So do big national retailers like Target.

 

My recommendation? If you believe that you’ll need UPC codes in the next 12-18 months, then it’s wise to secure them for your products right now. Why? Because it’s expensive and a time-consuming pain in the tuckus to retroactively fit these codes onto pre-printed product packaging.

 

If you don’t already have UPC codes, but imagine that you’ll need them on your next run of packaging or printing, then go ahead and get them squared away now. Doing so will save time and money in the long run.

 

WHAT DO UPC CODES COST?

For many years, GS1 required companies to purchase a minimum of 100 codes at a cost of $760. That put these codes out of reach of many small businesses. However, in 2013 GS1 restructured their packages and the new offerings are delightfully small-business-friendly. You can now reserve a UPC package based on how many codes you ultimately need without meeting that 100 code minimum. Remember that each individual SKU will need its own code, so if there’s a variant in color, size, fragrance, etc. then each product will be assigned its own UPC.

 

UPC2

 

If you have a petite collection, you can get started for $250 with just 10 codes.  
While it’s important to note that you can’t “add capacity” to a UPC package, you can reserve an additional company prefix if needed and grow our collection that way. However, if you envision launching a substantial number of new products in the future, then it would be wise to do the math and see what will ultimately be most cost effective…

 

a)    Secure one company prefix now and another as you grow the collection

b)    Buy a bigger-than-you-need-right-now package under one company prefix

 

HOW TO SECURE UPC CODES

The process of obtaining UPC codes is fantastically simple.

 

1. Begin by filing an application with GS1 and submitting your payment. The entire process can be completed online in just a few minutes.

 

2. Next, GS1 will issue a unique prefix which is specific to your company.

 

3. Registered users can access GS1’s free “Data Driver” software to simplify barcode creation. I promise I’ve done it many times and it takes nothing more than a few clicks and virtually no knowledge… it’s deliciously straightforward.

 

4. A UPC code is then automatically generated and you can either print this bar code on a small label that you attach to the product or you can incorporate that UPC code into the printed product label or tag itself.

 

You’ll want to make certain, though, that you renew the codes annually. If you ever fail to renew, then you’re legally obligated to destroy all packaging which displays the codes. Make certain this is a commitment that you plan to honor moving forward.

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH UPC CODE RESELLERS

The internet is awash in sellers of inexpensive UPC codes which can be purchased one-at-a-time. Prior to GS1 repackaging their codes to be more small-business friendly, many makers went the way of these resellers.

 

Innovative, forward-thinking companies purchased bulk codes through GS1 and resold them individually to small businesses for as little as $25 each. Prior to August 2002, there were no annual renewal fees, making this a pretty lucrative business venture for resellers.
The major advantage of purchasing single UPC codes was obvious: small brands needn’t tie up their cash on codes they didn’t need at the moment. Remember: the old standard was a 100-code minimum to play in GS1’s sandbox.

 

However, there are several disadvantages to using these companies and I strongly advise against them.

 

1. Several large national retailers require that the company prefix belong to your company, which rules out the possibility of using resold codes. These companies include: Kroger, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Wal-Mart, Sears, and JC Penney. Other companies may adopt the same requirement, which would immediately invalidate your codes.
2. You could inadvertently be given a code that’s already been issued to someone else. What would happen if two people were each given the same code by a reseller and you built that code into the design of a label, box, or hangtag that’s professionally printed in a large quantity? Would the UPC code reseller own their flub and step up to the financial plate to rescue you and cover the reprinting expenses? I don’t know. And I don’t want to find out the hard way.
3. The internet is, unfortunately, populated by opportunists and I’ve heard more than a few stories of young brands who purchase codes from a reseller that turn out not to be genuine codes. Which means that they’re absolutely worthless. If you spent $100 on 4 fake codes, then eating that $100 would be irritating, but likely not fatal. If you had to reprint thousands of labels or tags or boxes, then that financial pill could be intensely painful to swallow.

 

If you’re buying more than a few handfuls of codes, then the cost-per-code from GS1 is now much less expensive versus going through one of these resellers.  Forty codes at GS1 will set you back $750. Forty codes through a reseller at $25 a pop will run you $1,000.

 

When in doubt, go direct to GS1.

 

The difference between a distributor and a sales rep

DistributorsVSSalesReps

The difference between a distributor and a sales rep

 

I often see two concepts confused with one another + I thought it might be helpful to explore these two avenues of getting your product out into the world on a larger scale. Are you game? Hope so!

 

Distributors are companies that purchase products + house them temporarily in their own facilities, before reselling them to wholesale buyers. They employ their own in-house sales reps who cultivate brand awareness + build relationships with wholesale buyers in a clearly defined territory. Distributors can be key allies domestically and, most especially, when working overseas.Distributors always receive preferential pricing- a price point that’s below wholesale- though the actual pricing structure will vary by product category + order volume.

 

Sales reps are seasoned sales professionals who represent your brand to wholesale buyers with whom they’ve already cultivated a relationship.They make the introductions, answer product questions, make the sale and offer post-sale support to wholesale stockists.  That support might come in the form of helping merchandise your products in-store, keeping buyers aware of new product launches + promotions or passing on product feedback to the maker. They collect a commission in honor of their efforts. For most of the creative brands I work with in the apothecary, paper, housewares + gift space, that commission is typically 15% of the order total.

 

Let’s take a peek at a few graphics that will hopefully help you better imagine these sales avenues…

 

The RETAIL sales model look like this:

ManufacturerEndConsumer

The WHOLESALE sales model look like this:

ManufacturerEndConsumer2

The WHOLESALE sales model that involves SALES REPS look like this:

ManufacturerEndConsumer3

The DISTRIBUTOR sales model look like this:

ManufacturerEndConsumer4

 

 

One important thing to keep in mind: distributors actually take possession of the product. They warehouse it + employ their own sales team to promote it.Because they are actually handling fulfillment + sales (and because they’re ordering in large volumes), they receive better-than-wholesale pricing. Sales reps, in contrast, never stock product, so they’re not involved in order fulfillment.  They most often represent a whole stable of complimentary brands + help develop a territory for those brands, but they simply pass the order onto the maker + collect a check for those efforts.

 

DistributorsVSSalesReps2

 

Keep in mind,too, that everyone in those sales models (save for the end consumer) is working in order to realize some sort of profit. What does that mean for you? Well, as links are added in the chain, then one of a few things needs to happen:

 

1. As a maker, you might elect to decrease your profit margin (which isn’t the best solution) in order to build in enough margin for the other links in the chain. That means you make less money on each sale

 

2. This can often be balanced by higher prices in overseas markets. For example, I’ve been selling my apothecary brand through overseas distributors in Europe + the Middle East for many years now. Their retail price in those countries is always higher than the retail price of my products here in the U.S. Their costs are higher, too, thanks to increased freight costs, import duties + taxes, etc.

 

3. If you’re working with a domestic distributor and you don’t want to carve into your own profit margins, well,then it’s time to fire up the economies of scale and get those bad boys working in your favor. By ordering my raw materials in bulk, manufacturing in larger quantities and refining my creation process, I’m able to offer distributors significant discounts over wholesale costs, while still clearing wholesale-style profits.  Added bonus? Because I’ve ramped up production of my apothecary products to meet distributor levels, I reap even more profits on those same products when I sell them domestically through traditional wholesale or retail arrangements.  Huzzah!

 

I’m not aware of many small creative brands who use a distributor. Because they work in high volumes + receive preferential pricing, many startup brands either aren’t ready to work under this sort of arrangement or they’re unwilling to accept this type of pricing structure because they aren’t pricing correctly to begin with. But I implore you not to count out distributors out if scaling your company or exporting overseas is part of your long-term game plan.

 

Wish you could tag someone in to help you dig deep + connect with the core of your brand?  I happen to teach a knock-your-socks-off branding course for creative entrepreneurs.

 

Interested in polishing up your wholesale program to make it attractive to buyers + sales reps alike? LBU, my seven week, how-to-wholesale-intensive might be right up your alley.
If you’ve been approached by sales reps + distributors, what questions do you have about making that leap?

 

How to Design a Trade Show Budget

how to design a trade show budget

April is all about trade shows here at the Lucky Break blog. Last week, we chatted about how to find the right trade show for you before shelling out the big dollars. This week? It’s all about budget, baby.

 

One of the biggest mistakes new exhibitors make when preparing for their first show is failing to properly budget. Many makers look at the booth fee and think “Yea, I think we can swing that, ” but the booth fee is just the tip of the iceberg! (click the image below for a mondo-sized version which is much gentler on the eyes)

 

Trade Show Budget: How to plan for expenses

 

Who doesn’t love a good pie graph, right? Below is a visual representation of where the money typically goes in within a trade show budget. It’s of paramount importance that you put pen to paper, whip out that calculator and design a realistic budget for each show.

 

trade show budget breakdownA good rule of thumb? Take your booth fee + multiply it by three to arrive at a total trade show budget. 

 

For example: a booth fee of $2700 x 3 =  $8,100 total trade show budget

That figure will vary, of course, depending on: how elaborate your booth design is, how many materials you need to ship in, how far you must travel and if you’re staying in the swankiest joint in town. But failing to design a target budget now will almost certainly lead to a financial panic later as miscellaneous expenses add up over time.

 

Let’s walk through an example…

Imagine that we’re going to exhibit at the National Stationery Show in NYC.

The show lasts 4 days and we’ll need 2 additional days for set up + take down.

That necessitates 5 nights of hotel accommodations.

Two people will be manning the booth and we’re all the way in Kansas, so we’ll be flying in.

I’ve upgraded to a hardwall 8×10″ booth at $43 per square foot and I’m going to pay the $400 upcharge for a corner booth.

 

$43 per square feet x 80 square feet = $3,440

 + $400 booth upcharge = $3,840 total booth fee

$3,840 booth fee x3 = $11,520 total show budget *

$11,520 show budget

 

How might we spend that $11,520? So very glad you asked!

$2,304 for travel expenses (20%) 

$1,728 for show services (15%)  

$1,728 for booth design + furnishings (15%)

$1,152 for printing + promotion (10%)

$1,152 for shipping + related services (10%)

 

These are simple approximations and I’m committed to staying in budget, though I may need to make adjustments within that allocation. For example: I have $2304 reserved for travel expenses, but two plane tickets to NYC at $400 each and 5 nights hotel at $300 each already puts us at $2300. I’ll need an additional $600 to allow for $100/day in meals and ground transportation for the 2-man team.  But my hardwall booth already has electrical services included, so I can pull $600 from the kitty reserved for show services in order to bulk up my travel budget. Viola! Still in the black.

 

Play with your numbers until they feel good to you, but- whatever you do- don’t fail to sketch them out. That’s how makers who thought they were biting off a $5,000 show end up choking on a $20,000 commitment.

 

Click here to download my free “Designing A Trade Show Budget” worksheet!

 

Need help designing your trade show budget? Click riiiiight up there to access my  fancy + free worksheet. It will help you wrap your head around the process of planning trade show expenses in a way that might just save your sanity + your tuckus.

 

Was this post helpful? I certainly hope so! It’s excerpted from my LBU: Secrets to Wholesale Success program, which just-so-happens to be opening for enrollment on Tuesday, April 22nd. If you’d like to know how to wholesale, then I’d love to give you a backstage pass to my empire. I sell my Bella Lucce products through more than 1200 shops worldwide and my 8-week LBU mentoring program shows makers of all stripes how to crack the wholesale code + get their products out into the world in a big, big way.