A private man’s inner turmoil can be hidden with a smile! There is no doubt that in the run up to Naidex I was in turmoil. As a result I would like to start this article by expressing my thanks to a few special people.
Firstly, to everyone at i2i Events, in particular Peter Borg who showed tremendous commitment and faith in the belief that we would indeed be able to attend the exhibition and provided all the time needed to ensure that we did so. To Dean Wronowski, the ridiculously talented graphic designer who’s skillset we utilize to make our brand possible. To The Blue Badge Company, aerobility, Invictus Active, get living it, Oliver Wright of Globaleather– who as an able bodied person wears our t-shirts in his office, At Home Mobility and all the other exhibitors who made us feel so comfortable and displayed such outward joy when viewing our products at Naidex.
I’d also like to extend my thanks to everyone who supported us and propelled us to where we are now, with their belief and relentless championing of our brand and ethos. These people are: Dawn Robinson- Walsh, Debbie Cousins, Mark Gregory of Pirate FM and Alison Johns of BBC Radio Cornwall.
My final and most heartfelt thanks must go to my friends and family for proving the strength of the bonds we share both now and forever.
This may seem a little extreme but what these people have provided is support towards a shop window like no other, providing a platform for our very unique and ethically strong business to go from strength to strength. We will grow exponentially from now and for that I thank you.
The First Time Exhibitors!!
We and be we I mean me, made a couple of naïve assumptions. I won’t divulge how much it cost to undertake this particular exhibition but needless to say I expected a table to be included with the price of my stand. So, there we were at 6:35 on Monday 27th April, in hall 19 of Birmingham NEC with what can only be described as a broom cupboard of a stand without a table or single power source.
All this after the most cramped journey of my existence. Regularly 7 of us would travel from Bracknell to Cornwall on holiday, with enough luggage to fill the QE2 and yet I still felt less cramped than our Naidex voyage. I actually thought of putting a sign around Dean’s neck, ‘please buy our products and make his return journey more comfortable’. Kudos to my brother in law however, who saved us an immense amount on courier costs.
Needless to say I, as well as feeling hideously unwell, was feeling somewhat dejected on Monday evening. Fortunately all would change for the better- thankfully.
Those of you reading this who know me, you will know I not a fan of the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is a meal consumed out of necessity, nothing more. If it comes across that I have a real dislike for eating early in the morning, then my objective has been achieved. However, during my daily ritual of trying to tell myself ‘breakfast is good for you’, I met the ladies from the blue badge company. If you are unaware of the achievements of this company then please click here. They were incredibly nice, liked our products instantly and reassured us that Naidex was the nicest exhibition you could attend. ‘A real family atmosphere, everyone is so kind and it really is a useful platform for a business in this sector. High and reassuring praise indeed and from some very experienced exhibitors to boot. So, with renewed vigour we headed off to sell Devilishly Disabled Clothing.
Firstly, I must give praise to the contractors at Naidex, when we arrived on Monday, the carpet hadn’t yet been laid and yet overnight it was transformed in something quite spectacular. Again this may seem to be an over exaggeration. However, as a first time exhibitor that exactly as I would describe it.
How do we play this what’s the plan, what do we do? And then those words Naidex 2015 is now open. Oh boy did the nerves kick in.
You see it is one thing to be hidden behind a website, getting praise from people you are never going to meet, it is quite another selling the premise of your business face to face. Particularly, in view of the fact that its target audience is under one roof! Lets not forget we also have quite a unique disabled clothing brand.
Now I have been disabled my whole life and I can honestly say that I have never seen such a diverse range of disabled people in my life. The best bit of the whole exhibition was that I didn’t meet a single disabled person without a smile. But the question was, would they get my brand, would they see it as derogatory or worse still derisory? Or would they see it as it is intended to be- empowering?
A Nightmare Start
The hall is awash with people, most glancing in amused amazement, their smiles providing evident reassurance. Yet they stroll or role past without further engagement. What going on? Are we supposed to stop people? I didn’t know but for the first time in my life, I cannot strategically place my wheelchair in order to get attention. Why- because, I was likely to get steamrolled out of the way by an excitable charge of ridiculously expensive wheelchairs!
Then an exhibitor called Aerobility came over and said relax, people do a circuit first, browse, take their time and comeback. Pheeew! ‘Oh and I like your designs by the way, I think their just missing a plane.’ And so began a very successful show.
What did we learn?
- Take your own table, a £53 additional cost is not funny
- It is sometimes necessary to queue for a disabled toilet
- Don’t take so much stock, one it is not fair on Dean and two you will always make more trade connections than you will sell products.
- Exhibitions are more tiring than you could imagine
- Prepare any visiting relatives to the exhibition so that they don’t become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of oncoming traffic.
Well the hard work starts here. I now have a very clear direction in which I want to take the business. There are three main areas I wish to focus on and indeed given the feedback I’d be foolish if I didn’t. I think what has been achieved just to get to Naidex is immense, now I must utilise the experience of the experts with whom I spoke to propel us forward again.
Since returning from Naidex the website has been completely revamped and children’s clothing designs are being formalised. We look forward to an expansive future. So watch this space because, we are here, we are awesome, we are Devilishly Disabled.
Thanks for Reading.