This year I will be exhibiting in two trade shows. Both shows are in New York and are only three weeks apart. Fortunately I only need to design one booth for both shows as both supply the same display system. At the Licensing O8 show I will be a near neighbor of Studio Espinosa! Hopefully the traffic goes by my booth first ;-)
The past year has seen steady growth of my licensing business. After six years of doing SURTEX, I am getting greater industry recognition and most important, a solid track record of strong sales to the general buying public (yes, they really love me!). The momentum is building. In addition to obtaining new customers, I have decided to work with an excellent agent/product developer, Dan Cowherd. Dan brings many years experience in developing and managing the creative and business end of licensing. He will be an invaluable partner in furthering my licensing career.
SURTEX is a great way to do business. The art of doing business at this trade show is interesting on many levels. The intensity of the show is invigorating for artists who are used to spending long solitary days, doing their marketing by remote. One can feel the kinetic energy of commerce in the aisles. Preparing for the show has its own intensity (and a little stress to get you motivated!).The booth is a 10x10x8 blank white space to be designed and filled with your work. The intensity continues on set up day where the trick is to design your booth for ease of assembly and to get out of the JavitsCenter so you can enjoy a NY day and night before the show. The show itself is three days of feedback about your work: the art buying attendees are not going to stop and chat at your booth if they do not see something that interests them, and conversely if they do stop, they are qualified leads; the comments I get are invaluable and help me to learn how I can create better images and better images that sell; and there are the other artists in the show who are a great bunch of folks and after five years in the show, I have developed many new friendships.
This year I am recycling two of the three walls from last year. The new panel this year is my ‘holiday wall’ which based on comments from last year, most needed to be redesigned. The other panels will have many new images pasted right over the old drawings.
Seven years ago I began researching the licensing industry. I visited SURTEX and the Licensing Show, took a couple of “how to” seminars, and talked to veterans in the industry. The one constant I heard over and over was that one needed to put in five years into SURTEX (and/or the Licensing Show) to establish oneself as a licensing player. I was told to expect only one or two new customers per show for the first four years and that the fifth year should be a breakthrough year. This was my fifth show and I am happy to report that these predictions are exactly right. I got a tremendous response to my work this year and the quality of the new leads are an order of magnitude better than ever before.
My five year goal was to create really cool and interesting work for a market that bought mostly soft, fuzzy and traditional art. I needed to demonstrate that art that is both decorative and witty can work. This year’s successful response from the industry was the culmination of everything that I have learned and created in the past five years: I learned how to produce a better booth design; I learned the licensing industry’s visual language. The buyers at the show saw instantly how my work could relate to their products; and I worked my ass off to produce the best work I was capable of.
The variety of industries that expressed a strong interest to begin licensing programs impressed me. Primarily, I attracted ceramic (table-top), clothing, and stationery companies whose customers are high end retailers who want cool stuff for their customers. There were interesting responses from educational and fund raising companies as well. Not all of these contacts will turn into direct work. But the response alone demonstrated to me that I am now a starter in the Majors. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me following up on contacts, establishing new relationships, and collaborating with exciting new customers to produce my best work. And finally, it is the buying public who will ultimately determine my success; do they really love me?
I am looking for someone in the NY region to help me on Sunday the 21st to assist me in the booth. It will be from 9 to 6 and I always find it cool to meet both the attendees and the other booth people. The inimitable Hal Mayforth will be my able assistant on Monday and Tuesday.