Mind Body Soul exhibition Part 1: Preparing for a Big One.

In this post I have decided to give an overview of our experiences as traders at the Mind Body Soul exhibition at the Olympia. I want to discuss what undertaking a big show entails, and the amount of preparation involved. For the sake of narrative, and my own inability to construct an essay, I’ve decided to arrange this post like a ye olde school report, segmented this into three parts entitled rather usefully Before, During, and After.

Part 1: Before. (Or preparing for the Big One)

Look where we’re trading…

So, we finally completed our first ‘high profile’ exhibition, and a couple of weeks since we are still basking in the glow of a sense of a achievement. After years of enjoying our markets and developing ourselves through small shows and festivals, we finally decided to go for the Big One. Those Known Festivals that people seem discuss around the water cooler in their offices when they ask a colleague how they spent their weekend.

The Mind Body Soul is one of the largest complementary health exhibitions in London, taking place at the Olympia. It covers a variety of philosophies that invite people to explore alternative ways to live, covering spiritual well-being, personal growth and all those shades in between. Here you will find meditation, past life regression, divining the future and organisations promising a New Age where you can discover the TRUTH! (Capital letters were intentional)

This festival sells 20,000 tickets to people all over the country who converge to learn, heal and develop; and as a burgeoning business that promotes health and well-being, trading at such an event was something we had been aiming for over the last couple of years, and this year we felt we had the brand and quality of product to grasp that nettle – which makes a tasty tea by the way – and trade at such an event.

A house full of stock

The reason we left it a few years before doing the Olympia, instead of rushing headlong, is that we really wanted to make a good impression on those who spent time and money on getting a ticket. It would also have been disrespectful on the organisers and fellow traders who had made an effort, if our stall and products looked amateurish and shabby.

Lots of stock

The first really big challenge, especially for us since we make everything from scratch in the kitchen, is making enough products to sell. When you think of the math, that there is the possibility that twenty thousand people could possibly come through the doors, you mind begins to literally boggle. You think, ‘Wowsers! (I actually say the word ‘wowsers’… please don’t judge me) We need to make twenty thousand teas, in twenty thousand bags with enough ingredients for twenty thousand people. In short, HELP!’ However, once the initial boggle recedes, you then begin to think a little more doubtfully, ‘Wowsers… We’re not likely to sell to twenty thousand people. They have other traders to see as well as workshops, so though we need to make a lot, twenty thousand teas in twenty thousand packets seems a little excessive… BUT we still have to make enough to sell to meet the cost of three day pitch in the Olympia… In short, HELP!!’

 

Building the stall. Not too shabby…

Other considerations then start to float in, things that you generally try not to worry about. For example, we’re normally very confident about our pricing. It’s affordable, reflects our view that healthy and organic shouldn’t mean expensive, and we still make a bit to make it worthwhile. Suddenly, you realise that, at £3.50 per packet of tea, you need to sell a lot of teas to break even.

And then another voice kicks in – a slightly stern old headmaster voice that reminds you that it isn’t all about making money. You are in a high profile festival, and a lot of people will see you and perhaps think of you when it comes to buying gifts. And besides, these sorts of festivals are a an investment, something that in time will pay off in the future…

Everything but the car… 

Jo and Lyn planning the journey

Oddly enough, one of the bigger challenges for us was organising our travel. We rely solely on public transport, and we carry our entire business in a suitcase and two rucksacks. For the Mind Body Soul, this was not a viable option for us as not only would we be transporting a hell’uva lot of stock, but the actual stall itself including shelves, tables and chairs. The cost of renting a ‘man with a van’ worked out to be more than the cost of running the stall over those three days and it was not – and I really hate using such a corporate phrase – ‘economically viable’. With only a few weeks to go before the big three days, options were running thin, but a very dear friend of mine came to our rescue. Lyn Rajah, who is a Reiki healer and musician offered us the lift and transport all our stock and stall up and back. You can learn her wonderful music here, which we used in Jo’s workshop.

So, having organised the travel, paid the pitch and advertised our presence at the event to as many people as possible, the last big hurdle was the creation of the stall itself. Our stall would serve two purposes: to be as accessible as possible to enable browsing and to look absolutely lovely. I wanted people to look at us and see how professional we are, take pride in what we do, and at the same maintain our personality and not become sanitised and too commercial. So, instead of a table and surrounded by very expensive load of marketing, we went for the ‘shop’ you see below. I was very proud of how our stall turned out and wished I could bottle it and take it home.

If you are reading this and planning to trade your new fledgling business at a large event these are the things to consider:

  • Have you got enough stock? You will need loads, even if no one buys, people need to see a presence.
  • How much of a loss are you willing to make, should it come to it.
  • Pricing – do you do special ‘show’ prices or packages?
  • Publicity – take loads of leaflets and brochures.
  • Create something that encourages interaction at the stall.
  • Travel. The cost of travelling and how you will be transporting your wares.

in Part 2, I will be writing about the three days itself. The nerves, the hard work, the challenges, the victories and disappointments.

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