Last week I road-tripped with a couple of friends from Los Angeles to Seattle, cramming the trip into a couple of days so we’d make it in time for the second annual GeekGirlCon. I have to say, it was a different beast than last year’s convention. The organization went up about five levels, the location was more centralized and in the actual downtown part of the city, and the scope in general was beyond what you might expect from a con only in its second year.
But it was a completely new experience for me, since this year I decided to go as an exhibitor.
Due to some bureaucratic mix-ups, I was originally wait-listed for a booth in the Exhibitor Room. Then a couple weeks before I was set to drive up north, I got a note on Etsy from a fellow seller who was looking to share the space and cost. It took some maneuvering to make sure everyone – including the con administrators – were all on the same page, but in the end I packed up uGeek and brought my goods to Washington.
It was my first time ever selling at a convention, or craft show, or anything like it, and I am not a natural salesperson. My main reason for doing it was that geek girls are my target market, so it seemed kind of ridiculous not to give it a shot. I’m very grateful to have had Sarah from Threnodi’s Threads as my booth-mate, and it was wonderful to hang out with her during the weekend. The very first lesson I learned: You can never have too many displays. Also, creativity in displays definitely helps. You want to be as eye-catching as possible, and my table definitely lacked drama. Though it felt like I had a ton of jewelry when I was packing it, my inventory was on the small side for that kind of show. (If I did it again, I’d go for an Artist’s Alley table instead of a booth.)
In some ways the experience reminded me of the lemonade stand I had as a kid, though thankfully I have more confidence now than I did then. I’ll never be great at salesmanship – I just don’t like forcing things on other people, even with good intentions. Once people came to the table, however, it wasn’t that hard to strike up conversation, since we all shared the same interests. I made sure to greet each person, ask about their day, respond to their comments on my jewelry. Even if I didn’t sell anything, I was perfectly happy when someone took a business card, or lamented that she didn’t have enough money to get everything she wanted. ‘Shiny’ was a word that was used a few times to my delight. As with any sort of exhibition room, there were slow periods, and there were ‘rushes.’ My friend Brianna helped out a lot; she’s a natural born carnival barker.
In order to draw people’s attention when Brianna wasn’t around, I used my iPad as a digital portfolio/gallery when I wasn’t using it to take orders, and I definitely recommend it. (A digital picture frame would work just as well for those who don’t have iProducts.) Speaking of which, I bought and used a Square card reader so I could take credit cards, and it was probably the best move I could have made. Not that people didn’t pay in cash, but Square comes with an app that lets you make an inventory list (I went overboard, as usual, and included pictures), and simplifies the selling process. I tracked what I sold both by card and by cash, could e-mail receipts, and it was all incredibly simple. The reader itself was 10 bucks, but there’s a rebate. All you’re paying is the small processing fee per item. Money was delivered to my account on Monday morning.
The absolute highlight of the weekend was an adventure that began on Saturday, when a woman with two young girls stopped by and caught sight of my flash drive necklaces. The mother was particularly excited since her eldest daughter was entering the fifth grade, and a USB drive was on her school supply list. In the fifth grade. Welcome to the future.
The mom had worried about her daughter losing the drive – and since that was one of the primary reasons I started designing the flash drive necklaces, she was really into the idea, and so was her daughter, whose eye was caught by the one painted to look like a TARDIS. They decided to think about it, though the girl swore that they would return the next day, “to this exact spot. This spot, right here.”
And sure enough, they did – with dad in tow to foot the bill. I was really so happy that the necklace made the girl happy, and I just loved the fact that she was getting it for school that I gave them a discount. Then to my immense surprise, they came back a few hours later so the girl (proudly wearing the TARDIS) could get her picture taken with me. A little odd, but pretty much the coolest thing ever.
I was also happy to sell my Farnsworth pin pendant to a woman who chatted about Warehouse 13 with me while I swapped out the leather cord on the flash drive necklace she bought. (I told her I think Artie will become his own evil in his attempts to prevent his fate.) All in all I did pretty well for my first con, and I enjoyed the experience of sitting at the table, watching cosplayers go by, listening to nerdy conversations, and sharing my crafts with others.
Even if it was utterly exhausting.