My Booth’s Theme is “Stationery:” Some Thoughts On NSS 2014

Hi guys!

So the National Stationery Show starts in six days, and we’ve been busy figuring out all the millions of things that go into that, from booth lighting to press kits to last-minute sample printing. I launched my line last year at NSS, but leading up to the show, I was kind of blissfully ignorant about what I was walking into. A year ago, I was stressed and overworked because I’d just finished designing 45 cards in 6 weeks, and two weeks before the show, I was frantically reading random blog posts, trying to figure out what else I needed to do. Press kits? Mailers? OH CRAP, A CATALOG?!

I didn’t even get to walk the show last year, since I was the only person manning my stuff, in my shared booth with my friends at Igloo Letterpress. I was like a booth subletter. I didn’t have show giveaways, or a fancy mailer. I didn’t even know what a show special was, until a buyer asked me if I had one.

Last year's NSS mailer: a postcard.

Last year’s NSS mailer: a postcard. Sent out, like, 3 days before the show.

This year, things feel different, because they are. I have a company now. We have our own booth (1544, holla!) and, unlike last year, people are paying attention to what we do. Which, for a while, was really stressing me out. As some of my retailer friends have pointed out, and as we’ve all seen on instagram thanks to the #nss hashtag, stationers REALLY stepped up the pre-show mailer game this year. I saw photos of so many amazing mailers, from custom-printed aprons to entire boxes of swag. We did a calendar poster, which a few folks asked to see in its entirety, so here you go:

The handy NSS hashtag also alerted me to the fact that some people are doing themed booths this year, which I didn’t even know was a thing. So I spent a few days stressing out about not having a booth theme, and having plain white foam walls, and OMG what if we didn’t do enough, and then I was like, dude, snap out of it.

Here’s the thing: the Stationery Show is small enough that buyers are going to see your booth, regardless of how over-the-top your pre-show marketing is. Don’t get me wrong: beautiful, themed booths are awesome. Crazy mailers are awesome. All of that stuff is great, and can be super fun to figure out. But it can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to all this.

Which leads me to my point:

...and super out-of-focus pictures.

…and super out-of-focus pictures.

Last year, I didn’t even have my own booth, and I DEFINITELY didn’t have a theme, or live demos, or a kitten-petting happy hour, and it all worked out fine. Because when it comes down to it, the National Stationery Show is about your work, and getting it in front of buyers. Are you happy with your work? Does your booth show your products well? Does it have walls and lighting? Is it in the Javits? You are good.

At this point, you can’t control what buyers are going to respond to (and believe me, there’s stuff of mine that I LOVE that nobody buys!), so you might as well try to relax, have fun, and be proud of yourself. Because if you’re headed to NSS to exhibit next week, I know you’ve worked your ass off to get there.

If you get a chance, come say hi! ┬áMy work and I will be in Booth 1544, and I’d love to meet you.


12 thoughts on “My Booth’s Theme is “Stationery:” Some Thoughts On NSS 2014

  1. My booth theme is stationery, too. Thanks for muffling my doubts about whether I’m doing enough for the show. I have lights. I have walls. And I have stationery! All good. Hope to meet you next week! I’m in #2367.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, Emily. You are a source of inspiration as always. I will be walking the show next week in the hopes of exhibiting in 2015! I’ll definitely say hi in person, if you are not too busy :) And by the way that calendar poster seriously rocks!

  3. Umm I cannot thank you enough for this post! It feels so good to have a reality check from someone who can relate to this crazy experience. Here it is two days before I’m supposed to leave and I’m up at 1:00 (which is early compared to the hours I’ve been keeping) trying to finish a catalog and put a new website up. I mean this thing is GRUELING i had no idea when I signed up what I was getting myself into!! It’s my first year at NSS and after reading your post I’m sort of wishing that I hadn’t done so much crazy research for the last few months and was able to have some sort of blissful ignorance to just relax and enjoy this experience. Anyway, I have been a huge fan of your work throughout the past year, keep up the good work! Hope to meet you at Javits, I’m in booth #1770!

  4. More isn’t always better. Smart is always better. You’re stuff is beautiful, but my favorite thing about it is that it’s SMART. I think that’s why a lot of us fall in love with each and every thing you do. (I’m not even in the stationery game and I pretty much want that calendar image as something to hang in my office. I don’t even get half the jokes BUT I KNOW THEY’RE FUNNY so I’m in.) So forget themes and bells and whistles and heck yeah just go get your gorgeous work in front of those crazy NSS’ers. (And sleep, don’t forget to sleep.)

    Anyway, just wanted to say you’re fantastic. And I think it’s delightfully refreshing that you share your self-doubt with us here on the blog. Makes me feel that much more connected to your work. Best of luck at the show!


  5. This is great advice for more than just NSS! It’s so freaking easy to get caught up in all the cool stuff your competitors are doing, and feeling like you need to do ALL OF THEM. And that is so not true. It’s about the work. :)

  6. Hi Emily! Thank you so much for this post, I just started my stationery brand last February and was unable to go to NSS last year and sadly I won’t have a booth this year either but I am going to be there for a day to check things out for next year. :) I have already been stressing about my booth and all the other things that go into the show so this post was really nice to read. I will definitely stop by your booth and say hello!

  7. I could not agree more, Emily! I shared a booth last year and this is my first year on my own, so I had some freak outs, and then I was like, just focus on your work….and everything will be okay! :) Sometimes it is good to put your head down, work in your own bubble, and stop looking at #nss or going on Facebook the week before you leave! It is what is keeping me sane!

  8. I LOVED your mailer! Its on my desk and I’m actually using it. Your cards are still flying for us and it’s really fun to see people read them and giggle.

    Best of luck at the show!

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