Although participating in the California Gift Show was difficult, frustrating and expensive, there was something positive I took away from the experience: connections with my fellow exhibitors. From the moment I arrived, every exhibitor I met there was extremely kind, helpful and friendly. It didn’t matter if they were total newbies like me, or seasoned sales reps who had exhibited for over a decade. Contrary to the competitive environment I had envisioned, there was in fact a strong camaraderie between exhibitors, as if we were fellow soldiers on the battlefield. Perhaps this comparison is not so far-fetched considering that we were all making ourselves vulnerable, even if some of us were killing while others of us got shot down.
My experience was not unique. When I went to say goodbye to Sepi and Gerardo of Yep Yup, all of the exhibitors in their aisle rushed up to me holding out cameras so that I could take photos of the entire group. They called out to each other to gather ‘round as familiarly if they had all grown up together. It made me think there is a bright future for American business — at least in the gift and design worlds. Business owners are apparently much more interested in supporting one another and building relationships than in tearing each other down. This might even turn out to be better for business than good old-fashioned competition. According to this recent post on Sellout, being entrepreneurial and symbiotic is the pathway to financial success in the arts. Therefore, in that spirit of symbiosis, I would like to present a few members of my CGS family in the hopes that you will support these small artisans and designers. They are, after all, not just the antidote to the cold, impersonal, and low-quality world of the big boxes — they are good people.
This is Susan of Natural Paradise. She makes all-natural bath and home products — herself! Every product, down to the packaging, is made by hand in her house. Her surfer’s paradise lotion is fantastic. It smells like a tropical vacation and disappears right into your skin. No greasy residue whatsoever. Susan’s booth was right across from mine so we spent the slow hours shouting jokes and making faces across the aisle. She was my show sister.
These lovely ladies (from left to right) are Nichole, Laurie and Susan of Pursehook, LLC. Nichole, along with her sister, Natasha, are the founders of the company, and Laurie and Susan (their aunts) are sales reps. When they found out I was at the show alone, they simply declared “You’re coming with us!” and took me to the show’s Hollywood mixer. They gave me advice, support and of course, a pursehook, which is one of the niftiest little pieces of female engineering I have ever seen.
This is Gerardo and Sepi of Yep Yup. They have an unusual business in that they sell both pet products and stationery. The line is really well designed and also cohesive. This was their first show, too, so we did a lot of comparing notes and providing encouragement to one another.
This is Lee from Scentimental Decor. He and his wife make all kinds of beautiful home accessories that smell great without being overwhelmingly perfumed. The second I started to put my booth together he looked concerned about me. Perhaps it was just that his paternal instincts recently kicked into high gear with his new baby boy around, but he offered lots of assistance during my first hellish night. He helped me lift and turn over a totally unwieldy piece of acrylic plexiglass and came to the rescue when I ran out of wood screws.
This is Lacey. She’s a spokesmodel for Dr. Yermian beauty products (yes, that’s her in the poster to her left). She’s like Los Angeles antimatter — a person who is a model and a television actress to pay the bills while she works on her real dream of becoming a 911 dispatcher.
I don’t have pictures of these folks, but I also want to give a shout out to Victoria of Correia Art Glass, who was my show mom and was so helpful she would physically steer buyers with whom she had relationships to my booth; Diane and Jackie of Purple Rock (they sell beaded bra straps — tons of them); Lauren at Soul’s Calling, who sells items with inspirational messages that are actually cool-looking; and Jerra and all the ladies at Sugar Hooker Entertainment, a feminist D.I.Y. clothing line, record label, Internet TV station and lifestyle company.