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Putting Together a Trade Show Booth: Giddy Paperie

by Arianne Foulks

August 4, 2016

Are you headed to NYNOW this summer, or any other trade show, market, or craft fair? We're going to be sharing tips from creative stationery and gift businesses as you prep.

Are you headed to NY NOW this summer, or any other trade show, market, or craft fair? We’re going to be sharing tips from creative stationery and gift businesses as you prep.

Today’s generous contributor is Leslie Chalfont of Giddy Paperie, who we chatted with at the National Stationery Show this spring. She gives us an overview of her business, then shares ten things she has learned about trade shows, including where to save money and where to splurge when putting together a trade show booth. Read on!

Tell us about Giddy Paperie. 

How Giddy Paperie came to be…

I am not your typical anything, I have a business degree and have painted since two years old. Now I get to combine both everyday.

It started with the conundrum of what to give for Christmas? I decided to make something and figured a calendar was fun to create and practical. The friends and family then wanted to give it to their friends and family and so it grew and grew. While growing up, my daughter would help edit the calendar, assemble and deliver the gifts with me. We always thought it would be great to work together more when she was out of college.

Now she is and now we are finally in business on a much bigger level. She is the marketing and PR expert and I am the artistic director. Our aim is to make art a part of everyday life: form and function is always the goal. We believe a good invitation will never go out of style and the handwritten note is always a treasure worth saving.

Our calendars are our flagship item and the number one seller.

How many years have you been in business? 2.5 years

Roughly what percentage of your business is wholesale vs. retail? 60/40

How many years have you exhibited at the NSS? Will you attend next year?  Two years in a row, undecided for next year… I waited until December for this past show to decide.

Do you do any other trade shows, markets, or craft fairs? Which ones, and how do they compare for your business? Yes, pop-ups at Lilly, West Elm and Pottery Barn have been great along with 3-4 holiday markets in the fall. Love connecting one-to-one with the customer and seeing their reaction to our designs. Most fun part!

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? Biggest mistake…not asking others for help before it’s too late and thinking I can do it all… it’s exhausting and stressful. Smartest tip… saying yes to people who want to help!

What does your business get out of attending the National Stationery Show? The exposure is amazing and unexpected.  The show also validates your business as being taken seriously as a company.  It takes a huge commitment on all levels to do the show and plugs you into the community right away.

Fun fact: we had food delivered several times during set-up via Uber:  one night we had “Taco-Tizers” that held us over until dinner.  Also had Amazon Prime Local on speed-dial for delivery of several things,  it was like having our own “assistants” but not!

Giddy Paperie calendar, photo by Giddy Paperie
Giddy Paperie calendar, photo by Giddy Paperie
Giddy Paperie ombre bee card, photo by Giddy Paperie
Giddy Paperie ombre bee card, photo by Giddy Paperie
Giddy Paperie zebra cards, photo by Giddy Paperie
Giddy Paperie zebra cards, photo by Giddy Paperie

10 things I know about Trade Shows


1. Best foot forward: No matter what, see your booth as a miniature store that is a reflection of your brand. Does it tell a story or give the feeling of your brand?

2. Be ready for anything: bring extra of everything. Although it may seem too much, you never know when you may have to give a sample to an important new client, or if something is damaged, you may need to replace it. I have to travel by plane and load all of our products and pieces on the plane in a very heavy carry-on bag. What do I choose…anything that cannot be easily reproduced or purchased in NY. The rest of our items are packed in large suitcases and travel with us. Waiting for them at the baggage claim is nerve-wracking but I know if my luggage is lost, I can replace anything in those bags.

3. It’s not cheap…although you can trade up or down where you spend your money. Since I do not live close, I chose to pay to have my booth set up and ready by my favorite display company: Manny Stone.

Some people send a crate with everything in it. From Florida, that is very expensive and by myself, I cannot put up the walls of my booth on my own. So once I arrive, my booth is painted and ready to go. I chose to buy my own foam flooring, shipped to my hotel and then we installed it, easy peasy. After the show, we gave it away to another vendor who could use it. My cost? $124. My shelves were pre-made with stained strips of wood, and L-brackets already attached and shipped in my suitcase. Easy to install and looked great. Cost? $16.

Décor: I rented vintage furniture from a local company in NY; this was my splurge but I think it separated our look from the generic offerings from display companies and I saved money. The pieces were delivered and picked up by a courier service.

Show time

4. All feet matter: take care of your feet with good shoes and a foam floor. Last year we ached all day, this year we were just perfect! You literally stand four days for 8 hours a day. We have always been told never to sit in your booth, not to be on your phone or to eat in your booth… all good advice. If our booth was larger, we probably would have a table for writing orders, but not so this year.

5. Make new friends: your “neighbors” around your booth are a great part of the show. We are all creative, all trying to grow our business and all from different places, and yet, we all are different in style and process. You can learn so much from each other about production, labor and business practices that are helpful. Plus, they will be able to help you if you take a mini break from your booth.

6. Show up with swag: We did new buttons and mini journals that people liked so much that they are now a part of our new products. It added excitement to the conversations and a good way to share new ideas and designs.

7. Be nimble: If you are talking to a prospective vendor, find out what they are interested in and if you don’t have the product but it is easy for you to do, try it! We picked up a whole new category of products using existing designs that met a need for several new vendors.

8. Recharge at night: This is the only time you really get to relax. We were purposeful in going to different parts of the city, seeing the sites and trying new spots for dinner. Every night was different and we stayed in an area that was still close but not as congested.

Last year, we were in the Times Square area and found it fun but very congested, hard to find transportation and created unneeded angst. This year, we stayed in the garment district and could still walk to the Javits Center or catch Uber or taxi much easier and cut down on unneeded stress.

Post show

9. Do nothing for 48 hours: Literally, nothing. Last year, I tried to hit the ground running and start filling orders and emailing too soon right when I returned. Not good. This year, I took 48 hours of nothingness and then was recharged to get the back-side of the show complete: filling orders, writing thank yous, sending emails and unpacking.

10. Be patient: I think we all envision a big client ready to swoop us up for the “next new greatest thing” and that may happen to some. However, if it doesn’t happen right away, be patient and see where the road takes you. We have learned so much about the business, the trends, the endless logistics and at the end of the day, some things arrive when you least expect it from a company you would least expect and it all works together.

The exposure you get from a show like NSS is invaluable and the intrinsic value cannot be measured right away. I will fill our new orders, try to stay connected to potential clients and keep painting all the way.

So interesting and helpful, thank you, Leslie!

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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