1. Paper people are my people
As a solo entrepreneur, I've found that it can often be a lonely experience, which has only been heightened by the pandemic. While I've been able to stay connected and deepen relationships in the stationery industry through online communities and group chats, February's NY NOW was my first tradeshow and in-person event with a lot of paper people since before the pandemic.
Being at the tradeshow reminded me of why I love this industry so much. From the first day of setup through the four long tradeshow days, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie among the exhibitors, with everyone freely trading tips and double-sided tape, taking turns watching each other's booths, and celebrating whenever anyone received an order. We also just had a lot of fun.
It was also so, so wonderful to see so many of my retailers. It honestly felt more like catching up with friends rather than greeting business partners. It's special that we can talk about SKUs and wholesale terms, but also share updates on our personal lives and families. I'm grateful for the friendships I've made in this industry and cherish this community.
2. Kwohtations isn't for everyone (and that's great)
Tradeshows are pure sensory overload, and it can feel like you have to be the shiniest object in a football field of shiny objects to get noticed. During the tradeshow, there was a point where I felt disheartened by so many buyers passing by my booth without a second glance. And while I know that tradeshows are overwhelming, everyone is exhausted, and not every product is the right fit for every shop, it's still hard not to take it personally and wonder if I'm doing something wrong.
But then I reminded myself that my cards aren't meant to be flashy. They're intentionally made so that someone has to lean in close and take the time to read them. And then I thought about every buyer who did stop and read my cards, and with whom I felt an instant and personal connection. My cards are basically me—my life experiences, my heart, my worldview—laid out on small paper squares. So when someone gets my line, Kwohtations, it feels like they get me, Janine.
In my ideal tradeshow, makers and buyers would sit down together and leisurely read cards in a quiet room over a cup of hot tea and chocolate biscuits. But I love that I can find my people through Kwohtations, even in a large, noisy, chaotic arena like NY NOW. And I wouldn't want to have it any other way.
3. Kindness sells
At a glance, there didn't seem to be a common thread through the bestselling cards at the tradeshow—they were of different designs and for different occasions. But then I realized that the top sellers were all really gentle cards—more sweet than snarky, more kind than funny. I think that we are all still wanting a bit more gentleness in our lives, and I'm glad that my cards can be a source of that.
Here are some of the top sellers from the show: