Stickers on the Mic Podcast with Tradeshow Bootcamp
Tune in as we chat with Katie Hunt, founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp, and host of her own podcast, Proof to Product. For product based businesses in the wholesale market, Tradeshow Bootcamp helps product makers learn the tools they need to find success, navigate the challenges of growing a business, and getting started in the wholesale environment.
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[00:00:32] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic Podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thanks for tuning in as we talk about business, growth and marketing with our customers.
[00:00:46] Megan: Hello and welcome back to the StickerGiant's Stickers on the Mic Podcast. My name is Megan and I'll be your host for this episode. I'm very happy to introduce our guest, Katie Hunt, founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp and a host of her own podcast Proof to Product. Katie, welcome to the show. Please kick off things by just introducing yourself and Tradeshow Bootcamp to our listeners.
[00:01:10] Katie Hunt: Sure. Well, Megan, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. My company is called Tradeshow Bootcamp and we work with product-based business owners to help them create a product line specifically geared toward the wholesale market. Our audience wants to see their products lining the shelves of their favorite retail shops like Anthropologie, Target, Container Store and independent boutiques internationally and we help them do that. We also help them prepare for large scale trade shows like National Stationery Show in New York now or Atlanta Mart like the bigger gift shows. That's what we do in a nutshell.
[00:01:46] Megan: Fantastic. Is there any particular type of gift show that you specialize in? I know I saw a paper camp and that looks very much scrapbooking, high-end craft paper world, but then you just mention gift shops. What else do you cover?
[00:02:05] Katie: Sure. We actually don't work with crafters or do-it-yourself or anything like that. We work with artists that are producing their products in large volumes that are selling to retail stores. A lot of our companies are in the stationery and gift industry and that's why we have our paper camp conference because that's where we teach them all about how to take their paper business to the next level.
Our people make greeting cards, and calendars, and planners, and gift wrap, and candles, and jewelry, and textiles, and it's more home gifts, personal gift and then paper realm are kind of our niches. With our podcast starting Proof to Product, we've seen a lot more people in a wider variety of industries following us and working with us, so we're definitely expanding who we're working with.
[00:02:53] Megan: Fantastic, it sounds like you are definitely working with a lot of variety. In terms of what you do to organize your boot camps, are they different for each industry or area that you're going into or do you really keep them a little bit more generalized to reach all of your different attendees that might be there?
[00:03:18] Katie: Let me backup a little because we have two arms of our business, Tradeshow Bootcamp is where we talk specifically to the stationery gift industry and under that, we have our Paper Camp program. We do that in both, an in-person conference, it's two days and we do it in an online format. We also have some other programs that are online that are for really any industry but that Paper Camp program is primarily for our stationery gift companies.
I've also taught classes for CreativeLive and that's where I send people that want general, not industry-specific information and that's where my wholesale programming can be found there. We also have our podcast, Proof to Product, which I mentioned and that's where we talk about business operations, scaling transitions in business and we talk about not just creating the product and selling the product but all the things that go on behind the scenes of running our business; so hiring people, marketing strategies, money stuff, tech stuff, all of that operational side of things and that's where we're seeing a lot more people come into our programming.
We do have some courses and things under the Proof to Product side of things for operational things and that's where we're talking to a wider range. Our product-based stuff for paper world like the Paper Camp stuff, that is primarily stationery and gift. If people want more broad-based stuff, not as industry-specific, that's my CreativeLive classes.
[00:04:38] Megan: Wonderful. It sounds like you've got a lot out there for people to learn from you and also branch off of their creative side and get into that organizational element which has to go hand in hand for a successful business but may not always go hand in hand with that creative personality.
[00:05:01] Katie: Yes. That's actually why I started Tradeshow Bootcamp because I have a business background and I had started my own stationery line. I was struggling with the art because I was self-taught in the art side and looking around at my colleagues and friends and they are trained artists, they're making amazing things and I'm struggling with my art but they were struggling with their business.
I thought, "You know what? I can help them in different ways and they can help me and if we put our brains together, share what we know, share our resources, we will all grow stronger companies that are reaching our definition of success faster." We've been at it for eight years now and we've worked with almost several hundred, about 800 brands at this point. It's really a place of collaboration and community and just sharing everything we know and teaching everything we know.
[00:05:51] Megan: That sounds like some fantastic synergy and just a great way to keep growing and bringing all of those different perspectives in. Let's pivot over to some marketing and advertising chat for a moment. What are some of the strongest channels that you find you can reach new people with to continue growing all of these fantastic things that you're doing with Tradeshow Bootcamp, Paper Camp and all of your online courses?
[00:06:20] Katie: Sure. Our number one referral source are word of mouth, so people that have come through our programs they're telling their friends and that's our number one source. Our second source is our podcast Proof to Product, we include ads and details in our show, notes about what we have coming up, and that's driving a lot of traffic and a lot of people to our programs. The third one is Instagram and that's usually where we hang out, our audience is a very visual group and so it makes sense that that's where they're hanging out and where they're following us.
It's been interesting. Before we had our podcast, it used to be word of mouth and then Instagram and then a bit more with Facebook and some of the other platforms, but the podcast slipped in there in number two when we started it in 2017.
[00:07:07] Megan: That's interesting to hear about that growth of your podcast especially in such a short amount of time. That's fantastic.
[00:07:15] Katie: Thank you.
[00:07:16] Megan: Is there anything specific that you think you've done with your podcast to help you really jump things off or is it just sheer luck of the talent that you get on as your guests and yourself?
[00:07:30] Katie: Well, thank you. I think that it is a combination of things. I think we're talking about things for an audience that isn't really talked about. There's not many podcasts out there that are for product-based businesses so I think that has been a help. I think too, as I mentioned earlier, my community and my company are all about each other. We're focused on collaboration and community and education as our core values.
The podcast is a stem of that. We're telling the stories of our alumni and also some other industry colleagues and different friends in the industry, but we're doing it in a way that's educating everyone that's listening and I'm highlighting our community members. I'm telling their story and I'm lifting them up to show not only their successes but some of the transitions and pivots they made, but how they made it through to the other side and people want to hear that. They want to hear because they can resonate with that.
Running a business is hard and we all fall down at times, but it's how we pick ourselves up and how we continue on that makes for a really great story. I've just been honored that so many of our alumni are willing to come back and share their stories of how they started and some pain points along the way, as well successes that they've had so that we can celebrate those as well.
[00:08:45] Megan: I agree. It's so wonderful to hear too. We love telling the stories of all of our customers from that side of what are they doing with their artwork, in their logos, and how are they getting their business out there with their creativity and their stickers. One point that you said too is really important of sharing the pain points because, like you said, businesses fall down sometimes and there's so much to be learned from hearing about colleagues and other people in your industry about how they came through those pain points and succeeded and pivoted in changing and growing as a company.
[00:09:22] Katie: Absolutely. My audience, they're primarily micro-businesses. They're one or two person shops, maybe some of them have a small team but they work alone a lot of the time. When they have a setback, big or small, it feels like a really big deal to them and it is, but if they have a community of people that they can talk to or if they could hear from a podcast that somebody else has had similar issues of how they navigated that, that's a huge inspiration. It's a huge connector for people that are working alone most of the time and feel like it provides a connection they need.
[00:09:59] Megan: For sure. We all need connection even if we're just [crosstalk] about to run our own business, it seems. That's fantastic. What are some of the things that you find as trends or different important points that either you give to your audience and your attendees and your different event ventures, or some of the things that your alumni have said that have resonated with you?
[00:10:29] Katie: Well, one thing I'm always telling people-- again, we work with physical product makers. They need to focus on their product first. That needs to be the first thing that they ever focus on. I know it's super exciting to worry about branding, and develop a brand new sparkly website, and to do all the things that are a fun side of business and product development is fun too, but they need to develop a strong cohesive brand within their products. Their products need to show who the brand is before anyone ever sees a logo or a website or any of that stuff.
I always tell people, "Focus on your product first and then focus on making that product line unique to you. Make sure it has a unique point of view and that it's telling a unique story that's not already out in the marketplace." In terms of trends, I want to see everyone doing things differently. I want to see things doing things that speak to their own aesthetic and their own heart and what they want to produce in the world. Ultimately, I'm always telling everybody, "Focus on your product first, because that's what you're selling, and make sure it really resonates with who you are and what you want the brand to be."
[00:11:37] Megan: Very true. I feel like it can be a little easy to get lost in the mix of, like you said, the fancier more fun things of just diving into a website and then you get lost on that creative element of actually building out your product line.
[00:11:55] Katie: Yes.
[00:11:56] Katie: Absolutely.
[00:11:57] Megan: - wonderful. We've talked about so many things already. What do you have coming up next? Where can people find what you have coming up?
[00:12:14] Katie: Sure. You can always catch our newest episode of Proof to Product every Tuesday, we release a new one. Then we also have a Paper Camp Conference coming up again in early 2019. If you're interested in learning more about that, you can head over to tradeshowcamp.com and click on Paper Camp and we’ll have information about both the online course as well as our in-person conference.
[00:12:39] Megan: Wonderful. Is Paper Camp something that you have limited to a certain number of attendees to keep it more of an intimate setting or is that a wider event that you have open to a larger audience
[00:12:54] Katie: I'm glad you asked this, Megan. We keep it small. We limit it to 30 people. We set a new shape and it's very much a conversation. We cover a whole lot in two days, but it is an intimate group. We want people to interject with questions as we go. We want them to connect with each other. We want it to be a real community bonding experience, as well as a true immersion in what we're teaching. We do our in-person conference, typically, twice a year and then our online course is offered two to three times a year.
[00:13:26] Megan: Wonderful. With the online conference, I know you just said that you want to keep it intimate. Is that in a chat group setting or some forum setting that enables that same type of community feeling for your online attendees as it does for your in-person ones?
[00:13:44] Katie: Yes, we do offer a community portion for that. For the online program, it runs for four weeks live, and every Monday new content is released, a new set of do-it-yourself videos that they watch on their own. Then we have a group coaching call later in the week, it's usually Wednesday or Thursday. It just depends on whatever one works for everybody that's coming. That group coaching call includes myself and usually a guest expert. We give them a few days in between getting the videos so they can watch them, jot down any questions they have, and then we can discuss it as a group later that week.
We also have a Facebook group that we use, it's just private to those enrolled in the class. We also cap the number of people that attend our online classes, because we really want to give them our full attention. We use that group to discuss things throughout the week. If things pop up, we can be there to answer whatever questions they have. Then when they finish our course, they are invited to our all alumni group, which has been going now for eight years. It's just such a rich forum for information and resources and support. They get it both during the course as well as after.
[00:14:50] Megan: That's wonderful. I imagine it's a group that's just continuing to grow with everyone that you offer.
[00:14:58] Katie: Yes, absolutely.
[00:14:59] Megan: What a wonderful way to grow a community.
[00:15:03] Katie: Thank you. It feels like a happy accident in the way, but in some ways, it feels like it was a natural progression of my skills experience and what I wanted to build within our community or with our industry rather.
[00:15:16] Megan: That's fantastic. I have spent many years in the retail industry, so working for a very small two-person owned business and listening to you talk about the large trade shows and the gifts shows from that wholesaler perspective sits near and dear with me coming from the side of going to those trade shows and seeing all of the catalogs from the vendors and these new gifts come on to the market from that wholesale perspective and the excitement from the retail side is really wonderful when you see those new creative things come into the catalogs or onto the shelves and the booths at those trade shows. It's always a lot of fun.
[00:15:57] Katie: It's a lot of fun. It's lot of work. It's funny you mentioned the catalog. I would say your catalog and your mailing list and continuing to develop new product are the three probably toughest parts of having a wholesale program, because they're just big projects that require continuing maintenance. They're important too. They're your sales tools really.
[00:16:21] Megan: Exactly. They can help build partnerships for ongoing sales too as your new products come out, I imagine.
[00:16:28] Katie: Absolutely.
[00:16:30] Megan: Well, is there anything else that you would love for our listeners to know about Tradeshow Bootcamp and all the different things that you have going on?
[00:16:46] Katie: I just appreciate being here. I want to thank you guys for the support you've shown our community. Your products have done a lot for our world. We use things in packaging and product, just everything [laughs]. We use your stuff all the time. Thank you for all that you do for our world and our community as well.
[00:17:06] Megan: Well, thank you. We love supporting everything that we can, especially creative ventures, getting out there with your new products and helping other people do the same. It's a great spot to be in.
[00:17:17] Katie: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I think there's a lot of exciting things happening in the product world right now. There's a lot of ways that people can take their products to market. It doesn't just have to be wholesale like I teach. It could be retail or licensing or dropshipping and other things, lots of e-commerce options. If somebody does have a product-based business, I just want them to know there's options for getting their product out in the world and just to keep plugging along because success will come. It just takes time and hard work.
[00:17:47] Megan: Yes. Kind of like a little bit of a turtle race. Slow and steady will win the race, but if you stop, you will never get there.
[00:17:56] Katie: Very true.
[00:17:56] Megan: Well, before we sign off today and let you get back to your day, can you get the go ahead and let all of our listeners know where they can find you, give us a shout out with some of your handles on any of the social media pages that you would want people to go see more information about you on?
[00:18:15] Katie: Absolutely. Our website is tradeshowcamp.com. Our social handles everywhere are @tradeshowcamp. It's the same and then our podcast, you can find us at prooftoproduct.com or @prooftoproduct on Instagram.
[00:18:32] Megan: Wonderful. For all of our listeners out there, if you'd like any more information on the topics we covered today, there will be links and information available on our website over at stickergiant.com/podcast. You can download this episode there and make sure to hang on to all of this great information that Katie has shared with us today. Katie, it has been so great having you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us today and it's been great to meet you as well.
[00:19:01] Katie: It's my pleasure, Megan. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:19:03] Megan: Thank you so much.
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