5 min read
Last month was the most exciting month in a while. At first, I wouldn’t say I was excited at all… more like extremely nervous and stressed. So much so that I got a stress rash that is just now fading! Before heading to Atlanta all I had on my mind was how many sales I would make, if any at all. I had no idea that the women I met during the mart would have the biggest impact of all.
Let’s back up first…way back to four years ago when I was only one year into business. I received an invitation email from the founder, Vanessa Bruce, of a newly launched initiative, Dough, a platform focused on amplifying the voices and reach of small, women-owned business while spreading the word on value-based commerce. After some research I filled out my profile, submitted my photos and was featured on their social channels. During the next three years I received awesome opportunities from Dough such as joining their direct-to-consumer shopping platform amplifying my reach to the West coast. Later, I was invited to participate in a virtual shopping event led by Stacy London and afterwards was featured on TheSkimm Mother’s Day Gift Guide, an activation led by the connection with Dough. So many opportunities.
I’ll be completely honest; I was more focused on the opportunities than the community that Dough was building. As with many entrepreneurs there are only so many growth groups, morning coffees and think tanks you can be a part of. I thought it was awesome they were highlighting diverse women-owned businesses, but I had no idea about the group of amazing women it was bringing together.
Late last year I received an email from Dough notifying me that their retail platform would be closing as they moved on to other efforts. I was bummed since Dough orders usually had gift note requests which were always nice to handwrite when packaging up orders. Time passed and it wasn’t until earlier this year that I learned that Dough was acquired by International Market Centers (IMC). It was exciting to see such a great initiative be acquired, but I quickly thought, well there goes that avenue of sales… oh well time to find a new one.
Yet again, I was mistaken… I received an email from Vanessa, now at JuniperMarket- IMC’s newest wholesale platform for retailers and brands around the world inviting me to join the platform and to join JuniperMarket at AtlantaMart.
I remember reading the email several times and already feeling sick to my stomach.
Was I ready?
As I re-read, I kept focusing in on “you’d only have to bring yourself and your samples, we’ll take care of the rest!” I didn’t get it. Why would I be invited to participate at market basically for the cost of airfare and hotel, when the cost of a space and display hovers around $10,000?! Could this be? And why was I not instantly saying yes?
As I discussed the possibility with my husband I was met with reality when he asked me, “Why wouldn’t you go? Isn’t that your job?”
I don’t like to say this often, but he was right.
What was I waiting for? Within a few days I was committed and ordering sample display material to make sure that my display would showcase the pieces I was bringing appropriately, and everything was tagged, business cards and line sheets printed and the well-liked chocolates in an on-brand bowl ready to attract the buyers needing a quick sugar rush.
Arriving in Atlanta was surprisingly easy, no delays and no lost bags. Setup was a cinch since JuniperMarket had all our gorgeous displays, branding and marketing décor ready for us. We were in the atrium of building 3 right near the stage where there were daily presentations attracting various market attendees. Because setup was throughout the day it wasn’t until day 2 that I met all the other women.
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the brand showing across from me was owned by another Peruvian, Johana of JJ Paperie. It’s not common to meet another Peruvian entrepreneur in the States so it was an awesome way to start the show. Johana, and I automatically clicked, talking about where our parents were from, favorite foods and much more, we were already joking around by lunchtime.
During the market lulls I’d venture around to the other vendors and met everyone else including Venezuelan owned brand, Gleam Eyewear, the “makes your body feel as soft as a baby’s bum, Becalia Botanicals and would hit up Salut for free samples every two hours or so.
It was so nice to be able to chat over what systems we used, what marketing strategies were working, what wasn’t, sharing contacts and celebrating when anyone would get an order!
For those who haven’t been to market, the whole process is exhausting! You must be “on” from 9-5pm and barely have time to eat lunch or go to the restroom in fear that you’ll miss a buyer stopping by and wanting to learn more about your products. It’s also very surprising how quick some buyers choose to place an order, one second, you’re pitching them your product and discussing your favorite vacation destination, the next there are placing a “little” order of $1,500.
Unlike showing at market independently, because all our brands were near each other whenever we did run to the bathroom, we would cover for each other. Since we listened to each other pitch at least 100 times a day, it was pretty easy to educate potential buyers in each other’s absence. Seriously, how many people do you know who would leave their display/business to pitch someone else’s business?! That’s how amazing these women are.
As our last day of market approached, I was a mix of emotions. Happy because I was able to meet some amazing people in the TV, magazine, and retail space, I was coming home with a bunch of content including press, professional photos and videos all gifted to me and thrilled to have expanded my customer base.
Tired because you can only be non-stop “on” for so long.
And sad because I would miss my newly made business besties.
They really got me. They have gone through what I have gone through, questioning what they are doing with their lives, dealing with trying to explain their non-traditional career choice to friends and family, thinking about their business 24/7, having a love-hate relationship with social media.
They have similar dreams, goals, and ideas for their business and impact. And best and most unique of all they are willing to share in skills, successes and most importantly are genuinely sincere and caring. That is hard to find with other entrepreneurs. While writing this post I realized how hard it is to really express the impact this event and new relationships had on me as a business owner. All I can say is that it turned out to be so much more than going to market and it was exactly what I needed to motivate me and boost my morale.
As I rush to join our newly created monthly catch-up session with these ladies—yes, I could find time to join another catch up group, it’s time to start dreaming up our next collaboration, thinking holiday gift boxes… stay tuned!
Oh, if you’re curious about who I’m referring too, here ya go! These are all amazing businesses with authentic founders who are absurdly passionate about their missions and are genuinely kind people working to grow their brands and make and impact. Check them out!
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