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National Stationery Show Tips From Inklings Paperie

by Arianne Foulks

August 11, 2016

National Stationery Show tips from Inklings Paperie. Learn what to expect at the NSS, NY NOW, or other gift or trade show. Tips on booth setup and wholesale relationships.

Are you headed to NY NOW this summer, or any other trade show, market, or craft fair? Or even planning for next year’s National Stationery Show? We’re going to be sharing tips from creative stationery and gift businesses as you prep.

Today’s contributor is Lindsay Henry of Inklings Paperie, who we chatted with at the National Stationery Show this spring. Her pop up and scratch off cards were standouts at the show, and her booth looked amazingly polished and professional. You must watch the adorable “how-to” videos on her website.


Lindsay Henry of Inklings Paperie
Lindsay Henry, photo © Inklings Paperie

National Stationery Show tips

How many years have you been in business?

We first opened our Etsy shop in 2010 on a whim, but didn’t start selling products there until 2012. In the years to follow, our shop would grow organically. Our tagline, “Love in the little things” continues to influence every aspect of what we do. We’re relentless about pouring love into every detail of our products, from the sustainably-sourced papers and vibrant soy-based inks we use to the details in our packaging. But it goes beyond ink on paper. We want to inspire kindness through both the products we create and how we operate as a company.

Roughly what percentage of your business is wholesale vs. retail?

Currently, the breakdown is approximately 75% retail and 25% wholesale. Before we exhibited at NSS, we really had not been very aggressive about building our wholesale business. We wanted to first lay a solid foundation for the brand, with a strong sense of who our customer is and what retail partners would be the best fit for us!

This was your first year at the NSS. do you feel like you were ready? What did you learn? Will you attend next year?

I’m a firm believer in doing something well or not at all. My husband and I walked the show in 2014 and left with the plan to lay the groundwork and exhibit in 2016! As part of our preparation, I participated in Tradeshow Bootcamp (an online series of webinars designed to help with the logistics of exhibiting and wholesale). This was invaluable to not only answer my many questions, but it also provided a rich and incredibly supportive community of people and fellow makers who would also be exhibiting at NSS. When it came time for the show, I couldn’t have felt more ready. We left the show already talking about the next show, and we look forward to exhibiting again and seeing many of our new retailers again next year!

Do you do any other trade shows, markets, or craft fairs?

Markets and fairs really aren’t the best fit for us, primarily because we have two young kids and weekends are all about family time for us. We focus instead on connecting with our customers online through our Etsy shop and through Instagram and Facebook (@InklingsPaperie). We love to receive their feedback on our products, and their reviews mean the world to us. We’ve received over 6,600 reviews, and I read each and every one of them.

Fruit cards by Inklings Paperie
Fruit cards, photo © Inklings Paperie
Scratch off cards by Inklings Paperie
Scratch off cards, photo © Inklings Paperie

Would you like to share a mistake you’ve made or a problem you’ve had at a trade show, and/or your smartest tip or best moment?

While the show itself went smoothly for us, our booth setup had a bit of a rocky start. An talented carpenter who happens to be a good friend of ours back at home had built a custom booth based on a sketch I provided in the weeks leading up to the show. Due to time constraints, we didn’t have the opportunity to do a “dry run” booth setup from home. We were so tight for time that we were literally painting our crate as the freight company was scheduled to arrive.

My husband was confident about how easily (and quickly) we could put our walls. The mistake we made was that we didn’t have a diagram of the plans, so when my husband became ill with food poisoning on day one of setup, I was at a total stand-still. I knew how the finished product was supposed to look, but I had a pile of wood and no plans before me.

Fortunately, a kind stranger (now, a friend) helped me piece together the puzzle, and it came together beautifully. My recommendation to others would be to do a dry run and build as much efficiency into your booth as possible. Things will always take longer than you expect. Go into it with a clear plan to minimize down time (and pack snacks and water in your crate)!

What does your business get out of attending the NSS?

The show is an incredible opportunity to connect with new and existing retailers, to meet members of the press who you might not otherwise have met, and to participate in awards and competitions that can garner interest in your line. We had many retailers come to our booth who had seen our cards in the Louie Awards display, and others who had received our pre-show mailer and made a point of visiting us.

My recommendation to others would be to make the most of every opportunity leading up to the show. Research your dream retailers, and drop them a line. Send cards to members of the press ahead of time. Post sneak peeks on social media, and put yourself out there.

So interesting and helpful, thank you, Lindsay!

Ultimate trade show packing list

I have a bonus for you today! 14 stationery companies shared their own trade show packing lists with us, and we’ve compiled it into a master list. You can also peek and see each business’ exhaustive list, with things like how many catalogs they bring, etc. The one thing everyone agreed on was to bring at least four different kinds of tape! Want this? Sign up and nab it below:

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