Two years ago Quinn Popcorn was just an idea, Kristy’ss idea in fact. We knew nothing about the food industry so we finagled our way into the Natural Food Expo, Expo East, held in Boston that year. It was a pretty mind blowing experience with lot of brands making some seriously good food. It was intimidating, but at the same time we couldn’st help but imagine when we would be one of those brands. Last week we were.
Expo East is ginormous. There are three main rooms, and each one would take hours to navigate. Every 10 foot space is occupied by a different brand working for you attention. Actually, it’ss a lot like the supermarket shelf…if all the boxes talked.
This year Expo East was held in Baltimore and it was our first time attending a show as a food company. I spent 3 weeks building the QP booth in our neighbor’ss garage, while the rest of the team worked to line up meetings with some of our key stores. We were all nervous. It was just one of those times when there would be little insulation/protection. We were going to put ourselves out there in a big way, and it was either going to resonate with stores and industry folks or it wasn’st.
It resonated. The butterflies went away, and we had a blast.
Our homemade booth and our t-shirt wearing team was perfectly out of place. When our booth was crowded with buyers and friends it looked like we were all playing house. Sarah kept cracking up at the scene it created. All of the seriousness was stripped out!
As for the popcorn, most were already very familiar. A few times I heard someone else explaining our popcorn, what’ss different, and why it matters. They were doing a great job. I asked and a few had heard about us in seminars the day before. We had no idea that was going to happen. I wish I had gone to that seminar!
The most important part of these shows are the people you meet and the impression you make. That’ss pretty difficult to measure in the short term. One thing that is more measurable is winning best new food product…which, unexpectedly, we did. That felt really good for all of us!
We did learn a few things though the experience:
>> Map out where everyone is located well before hand. This will help you choose your location and it will help you build the list of folks you want to meet.
>> Bring a big crew. Interest breeds interest and you don’st want your booth to ever look empty or static. All 6 of us went and we kept the booth busy at all times.
>> Rent a house. It’ss way more fun and cheaper than the nutty hotel rates.
>> Get a bigger space if you can fill it with something interesting. It’ss so hard to stick out in this kind of setting, and it’ss even tougher when you are in a standard 10’sx10’s slot. It’ss expensive, so don’st do this unless you can really use the space.
>> Have reasonable expectations. It’ss unlikely you will pick up a bunch of stores. These things are about adding depth and texture to your company. This will help buyers understand your values.
>> Make sure your crew gets customer service. By the end of the second day all anyone wants to do is sleep. The thing is, you spent a billion dollars to pull this together, and that unassuming man who walked up is a big national buyer. Our team was amazing, but I saw a any that were less so.
>> Walk around and meet people. I suck at networking, but everyone in food is so easy to get along with. We met those behind some of our favorite brands, and they were excited to meet us too. Pretty cool.
This is the first post in a while. We have all been heads down busy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the blog is going get more love. What do you guys think of the new site?! Let me know if you find any bugs and/or typos.