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Little fish in a big pond...Part 1

I thought I would write a blog about my experience of trading at the NEC, Ive shared my journey with you since the shop was a concept so I will bring you with me on the next part of the journey. Part one is about the before.  I will write part 2 when I get back to tell you how it went and what learned (which Im guessing will be a lot lol)

As I type this the fair is three full days away! Oh chrikey that is soooo scary to type!

Firstly lets go back a few months… I had the idea that I would like to attend a large Mind, Body and Spirit event. I have been attending small ones for the past two years so I thought I would try a biggie.

I contacted the team and had a great chat with them. I went into it with my guard up as my thinking was they are going to make it sound wonderful and get you to sign up no matter what. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was no hard sell, to be honest I think I did the majority of the talking (yes nothing new there) I was offered a standard stall and everything was explained. Once we had gone through everything I opted for a slightly larger stall ( more on that shortly) I then kind of pushed it to the back of my mind, I think this was through sheer fear!

 I have attended various events at the NEC so had an idea of how the stalls would look, but it’s the NEC… Im a little fish, am I really big enough to have a stall at the NEC??????

So fast forward a few months and I had a huge panic moment, in my head I got my sizes all wrong! The stall is 8 meters squared, ie 4 meters by 2 meters ( I may have got those numbers wrong due to my number dyslexia, which is what got me into a blind panic in the first place) I rang the team up saying I couldn’t do it, the stall was too big! (Like I say, I got my sizes wrong, at this point I thought the stall was bigger than my shop! Can you see where the panic came from lol) They were amazing, they talked me through the sizing and the best way to set the stall up to the best advantage for the day.

Like I say I have been attending various stalls over the last two years, the shop started out as a stall so you would think I knew what I was doing by now. Technically…yes BUT the NEC is a whole different ball game. Firstly its HUGE then theres a bit more planning involved.

A normal stall for me is a one day event, the NEC is a three day event so I have to be sure I have enough stock with me to see me through the three days because I cant just nip back to the shop on an evening. Then there was the hotel, its surprising how many hotels near the NEC that don’t have their own parking. They advertise as having parking, which they do but it’s a NCP car park a little walk away. So the search began for a hotel that was close but had its own parking at the actual hotel. Because it’s a three day event I wanted a hotel near a supermarket too so I could source my lunch (trying to save money and not buy lunch in the NEC)

Next step was my business cards and any flyers ect… I realised I was nearly out of business cards so I took the opportunity to revamp them and changed their design. Ive also had posters made up. At a normal stall I have a banner to say where the shop is but as Im so far away from home I wanted something that shouted website.  I was also advised that we all basically have a white box so to do something to make my stall pop. Sounds straight forward doesn’t it… nope! We are not allowed to fix anything to the walls using anything other than double sided Velcro. No blue tack ect just double sided tape. So any decoration needed to take that into account. I think I have came up with a solution that is right for me.

Then theres planning the layout of the stall, normally its just a 6ft table, this time it’s a 4m b 2m box that has one back and one side. So I need to ensure I have the correct furniture, that also needs to fit in the car with all my other stock. Again I now have a plan in my head, Im glad I have been to various events at the NEC because I have a rough visual base to help planning. Im basically trying to create a mini shop not just a stall. Speaking of things to take which I normally wouldn’t, I need to remember to take a chair too! This needs to be a folding chair purely for the logistics of fitting in the car.

On the logistics front… Birmingham is a few hours drive away from me so I need to set off early enough to allow for traffic hold ups. At a normal event I would rock up, park, unpack and possibly shift the car to a better parking space. At the NEC it’s a tad different! You have to book a unloading slot. You are given a one hour time frame. If you go over its an automatic £80 fine (they take your card details on booking the slot) So its basically land, throw everything out into your stall space, grab your full parking pass and go and park the car, then wonder back in to actually set up. So that’s my Thursday fully accounted for. We have until 7pm to set up, Ive got three hours from landing. It normally takes me a hour to set a stall up. This time I need to shift the car, get back into the NEC, find the right hall then set up. I think some of the set up may be done on the Friday morning!

Then it will be back to the hotel and price up the new crystals, yep on route on Thursday Im booked in to chose some new crystals to ensure I definitely have enough stock with me.

Then there is the event itself!!! Three days of the largest crowds I will have ever traded in!

For the trading days I have bought myself a bum bag. Yep 16 year old me would be horrified lol. Is a HUGE bum bag too! At a normal stall I sit behind my table and have a wee table made out of my boxes to keep my cash box on. But as my set up will be very different and space is of a premium, I bought a bum bag to keep not only my cash in but my card machine too. The card machine isn’t small either! I have a small wifi one and my big wifi one that will take card payments when there is no wifi, as there are so many stalls and so much competition for the wifi I thought it best to take the big one.

When the show finishes you have three hours to pack up and leave, sounds a lot…. But you have hundreds of people doing the same thing, and you need to bring your car back to the loading area in that time slot, as were all loading at the same time too rather than spread out through the day Ive been warned its manic! So three hours might be a push!

Then theres the three days of super being super busy, chatting away and hopefully lots of sales and pointing people towards the website…. But I will write about that in part 2 after the event.

For now, with two full days before I travel down and set up, and three full days before the event itself I have lists and lists of stuff to pack, lists of stuff that I need to take from home, lists of stuff need from the shop, then lists about lists. There is also a very thick pack I have printed off which contains my hotel details, my booking and passes for my unloading slot, all the info needed for the event and maps of the venue.

I honestly can not begin to tell you how much effort and planning has gone into this! It may get easier if I do another as I would have the experience behind me but for now all I can do is plan, plan and plan! I will let you know if I would do another after the weekend….

I honestly feel so excited but at the same time I feel as equally petrified!

I feel like a little fish about to jump into a big pond and play with the big leagues! 

Part 2... Next week (after the event)

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