Michael Adams Green Mountain Mustard and Gredio

Michael Adams, Owner
Green Mountain Mustard & Gredio

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Experience Summer Fancy Food Show

My Experience at the Summer Fancy Food Show (numbers inside!)

Whew! That was crazy. My family and I just returned from the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City.

It was 3 days of pure madness. It felt like everyone and their sister came to try our mustard. In the end, I got an enormous list of contacts to follow up with and even a couple orders I’ve got to pack up (more on that below).

We arrived Friday afternoon to hand-carry everything in (no way was I going to pay the HUGE handling fees charged by the union laborers). My parents and I set the booth up and hit the hotel to crash for a little bit. I had a gyro the size of my face for dinner. It was amazing. On Saturday, my parents and I hit up three different bakeries before my first business builders meeting (speed dating with food companies and buyers). It was with a large catalog company looking for small jars of mustard which I don’t make anymore (but with the right volume, I could be swayed). I returned to my booth to put the finishing touches up. At 5pm, our booth was setup. We were ready to go.

Then it all came crashing down, quite literally.

The shelf holding 32 jars of mustard fell to the ground, breaking one jar and denting 16. It was front-heavy so we adjusted the support and made the dented jars samples. But, I lost it. The stress of the event built up. I thought it was over. Luckily, my family came to rescue, assuring me everything would be ok. Anyway, let’s not focus on the disasters and get to the important stuff that you want to know. First, the sales numbers and connections we made:

Sales from the Fancy Food Show

We wrote 6 orders at the show for a total of $975.24. Keep in mind this isn’t a selling show. Yes, you can write orders, but you can’t sell product right off the show floor. I’ll likely get a few more orders in the coming weeks from the show. My goal wasn’t sales, though. It was simply to build relationships that would lead to much bigger sales. Here’s just a sampling of who we talked to at the show:

  • Amazon.com
  • Overstock.com
  • Crate&Barrel
  • Christmas Tree Shops
  • Earthfare
  • Fresh Market
  • Southern Season
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Central Market
  • Plus, many super-cool independent retailers

Plus, most surprising to me was the number of places who wanted to export our product:

  • Canada
  • England
  • France
  • The Philippines
  • Puerto Rico

How did we get these people to talk to us?

It was quite simple, actually. Everyone has a badge with their name, company, and role. They were easier to read from a distance, so we simply roped them in. If they were a big player in the industry, they walked around with their badge turned around, as to hide their identity. Before the show, I saw a panel of trade-show experts mention “people won’t come to you — you need to go to them”. I took that to heart and bought small trays that held small pretzel cups. Here’s how it played out:

  • My brother would pull someone in to try mustard
  • My  parents engaged with them and passed important contacts to me
  • My sister-in-law kept the engine running with samples and mustard

Everyone cycled through different jobs throughout the 3 days (it was significantly slower on Tuesday aka “feed-the-exhibitors-day”. My brother was best at pulling people in. He had learned the basics of the business enough from hearing me talk, so he was able to answer questions when I was busy. My parents are awesome conversationalists, so they kept people engaged and talking (even if it wasn’t about mustard). And my sister in law is super observant and was an efficient behind-the-scenes organizer. In total, I have 168 leads to follow up with. While not all sales leads, some are ingredient suppliers, packaging suppliers, and some business services (all of which went to the bottom of the pile). One thing I found helpful handling all the leads was to prioritize who I needed to get in touch with first. The stack of business cards was 2″ thick. We separated them into “priority” and “not priority” when we got home. An easy way to target the big fish, Now, on to the costs — which to everyone is usually a big shock.

Here are all of the costs I incurred:

  • Show Fee: $3,750 (10×10 booth)
  • Hotel: $1,225 (4 nights, plus parking & “fees”)
  • What’s New/Hot Showcase & Advertising: $650
  • Lead Scanner: $396.06
  • Print Materials: $801.59
  • Pretzels & Cups: $278.96
  • Misc. Supplies: $266.08
  • Public Relations Firm: $2,000
  • Transportation (driving from VT): $201.32
  • Food & Meals: $296.59
  • Sample (Goods) Cost: $53.40
  • SOFI Awards Submission: $95.68
  • Booth Design: $197.56
  • Sweat Equity of my Family: Priceless

Total: $10,212.24

This was not cheap. It blows my mind I had money in the bank to keep the business running. (Side note: barely. There was one point in the process where so much money had gone out, I had less than $200 in my bank account. Welcome to a food start-up). Now, I know you have questions. So, here’s a list of the ones I asked myself:

1. Why did you exhibit in the first place?

I needed to get my product in front of eyes outside of Vermont. Vermont is a small state – just over 500,000 people. It’s nearly impossible to own a food business and survive with distribution exclusively in Vermont. To get in front of almost 30,000 people who might be interested in your product line, it was worth it. I also went to validate what I was trying to do with Green Mountain Mustard. I make a super-premium mustard that’s been validated in Vermont, but what about the rest of the nation?

2. What on earth did you print?

When I added up the printing costs, I was shocked. Almost $1,000 worth of printing? Holy crap. Here’s a short list of what I printed:

  • 5,000 business cards
  • 2,000 sell sheets (double-sided, full-color, glossy)
  • 1,000 postcards promoting new fall flavors
  • 250 press & media postcards
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1 big banner (which I had to throw out)
  • 11 laminated & magnetic flavor signs
  • 3 Point of sale signs
  • 1 easel-back for the press office

Keep in mind, many of these marketing materials can be re-used after the show for our own selling purposes. But, still. After walking the Winter Fancy Food Show in January 2014 (my second time, mainly because I love San Francisco!), I noticed everyone had upped their game. Everything was beautifully printed. Keeping up with the Jones’, you know?

3. $300 worth of pretzels. Umm…what?

Oh, sampling. I can’t count on my hands the number of times my family and I disagreed on how we should sample our mustards. Should we have it open? What about behind the counter and people ask? But, then that turns people away because it’s annoying. And what about tasting spoons? Pretzels? Gluten free folks? There were so many variables. Normally, we sample with pretzel sticks shaken out of a container. It works for farmer’s markets, but not one of the biggest industry trade shows. Ultimately, I sampled with waffle pretzels in small sampling cups. This kept the germs at bay and gave attendees an opportunity to taste a couple mustards. I kept the mustard cold on insulated coolers (more on what we built in a later blog post) because consumers are going to eat almost the entire jar cold from their fridge. Plus, who likes warm mustard? I’m hoping to adapt this sampling method to other events in the future where health department officials are a lot more strict. We purchased the waffle pretzels in two large 27 pound boxes. This proved to be a problem because they kind of went stale by the start of day 3. I got called out once for it by another vendor, but ultimately we just kept running with it because there wasn’t much we could do. Lesson learned: just buy bagged pretzels. Oh, and don’t buy that many because we probably only went through about 10-12 pounds. Want pretzels?

4. Do you really need a lead scanner? What about business cards?

Yes. Yes, you do. Everyone at the Fancy Food Show gets a badge with a barcode on it. The lead scanner lets you scan those badges when someone is interested in your company or products. You can then classify those leads (send samples, retailer, distributor, broker, press, etc). Then, you can print them out and write notes (or if you got the mobile app, you can store all of your leads electronically). For me, that meant not losing coveted leads and the ability to quickly take care of event attendees at our booth. Sure, I got PLENTY of business cards, but the lead scanner was a life-saver. The day after the show, all the leads I scanned, plus leads from the What’s New What’s Hot showcase got emailed to me. I downloaded them, put them in a Google spreadsheet, and went to work following up. This kept it easy to track.

5. The big elephant: Why $2,000 on a PR firm?

Hear me out. As a food business owner, things fall by the wayside. You’re the cook, accountant, cleaner, director of operations, salesman, marketer, tech guy, etc. Something is bound to just not happen. For me, that’s PR. I’ve always ignored it. Over 800 press and media signed up to come to the Fancy Food Show. Yes, I had access to the list, but to get in touch with all 800 about my new & innovative mustard company would have taken me weeks. Five weeks before the show, I broke down. I was overwhelmed with everything that was not finished. That’s when I sent an email to a long-time friend who owns an amazing PR firm in Burlington, VT. The firm excels at placing specialty food clients in the media. After our first meeting (which was like a backyard BBQ), I was convinced. The deal: My account executive would pitch Green Mountain Mustard to all 800 media, coordinate sample requests, schedule booth appointments, and do the follow up with everyone who stopped by to meet me. Not going to lie, this was a weight lifted off my shoulders. And well worth the $2,000.

Did it pay off?

Yes! During our first couple meetings, I learned that I had to showcase something new. I casually said “oh, well we have these cool new fall flavors, but I’m not making them until the fall months.” “BRING THEM!” one of the partners says to me with passion. I was planning to bring my regular line up of 8 flavors to the show, but buyers, retailers, and media LOVE new products. So, with four weeks to go before the show, I scrambled to make our fall flavors. As I planned, I realized, these new, never-before-seen flavors were what was going to draw traffic to my booth. Slight change of plans for the better. We received media interest from small and large outlets – blogs to magazines and a couple websites. Things will take time, but I think I’ll land somewhere and in good praises! I sent samples left and right. My account executive was stellar. She helped me with a lot of prep for the show in terms of how to get the most out of our first appearance. This isn’t the firm’s first rodeo, so I knew I was in good hands.

What I’d do differently next time

Nothing ever goes smoothly. Ever. And I’m starting to get used to that. Here’s a couple things I’d do differently next time.

1. Have a hard deadline two weeks before the show.

No matter how many lists I checked off, it came down to the wire the night before we left for NYC. My parents and I were still putting together final touches on the display. A delivery happened three days later than it was supposed to. Such is life. I also screwed up the size of what was supposed to be a big banner at the back of our booth. Out $120. Plan B. Next time, we’re setting a deadline that’s 2 weeks before any big show. That way, we have time to plan for what didn’t happen. (Of course that didn’t eliminate the trip to Duane Reade to get batteries!)

2. Better training for my team (aka my family)

If I was hit by a bus, we’d pretty much have no Green Mountain Mustard. Sure, my parents could continue it at a much smaller scale, but there would be no crazy guy (that’s me) leading the effort. With that being said, there were several times our booth was swamped and I was already talking to someone. That meant my parents, brother, or his wife, would have to talk to people. And buyer’s rapid-fire questions you need to know the answers to on the fly. I didn’t do the best with training my family. They knew pricing, but not the intricacies of how the business operated, the ingredients we used, etc. I created a flavor cheat sheet for them, but it was only a couple days before the show. Next time, I’m going to develop a better process for training new and current team members. They’ve got to know everything about GMM.

3. Move the table to the front of the booth (which we did the last 2 days)

I started out with our sample table at the back of our booth. This made it so attendees could walk into my booth and have a discussion. It felt more open. But, when my PR firm reps stopped by they mentioned I wanted to get mustard in everyone’s mouth and to push the table forward. For Monday and Tuesday we did that. While it created a barrier between me and the customer, it definitely got more people trying the mustard.

4. Ship booth contents on a pallet and fly down

This is assuming money is no object (which it totally still is). Hand carrying was great going in, but not going out. Not only was it 95 degrees packing up, but it was rush hour in NYC and, to top it all off, the escalators and elevators stopped working. That left everyone hand-carrying all of their dollied stuff up the escalators. Thankfully, we all helped each other out and got through it. And parking was another story. It was a MESS. Everyone in my family was incredibly frustrated with the situation. The show ended at 4:00pm. We left the city at 6:30pm. It normally takes us 30 minutes to pack up. Not this time. To alleviate all of this, I’d love to pack everything I need on a pallet and ship it down to my booth. Then, I’d fly down. Again, if money were no object…..

In conclusion……

I had an amazing time in NYC. Yes, it was long.Yes, I still can’t feel my feet. And yes, my immune system hates me, but it was so worth it. We connected with people I never thought would even taste our product. Really, I was looking for validation that we were doing something right. That we had a product more than just Vermonters loved — and we did. It was exciting to see the energy around our booth, the love for our packaging design, and how much people appreciated what we were doing as a family in tiny-town Vermont. The follow up has already started — phone calls and emails. The follow up is 90% of the show. I’ve shipped the orders we got at the show and have moved on to landing the larger accounts we connected with. Wish me luck! Did you exhibit at the Fancy Food Show this year or in the past? What was your experience? I’d love to hear form you! Also, if you have questions about exhibiting at the  Fancy Food Show, I’d be happy to answer them.

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48 Comments on this post

  1. AUTHORTom Haupenthal

    on July 8, 2014 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Wow! Thank you for this great info! I have been debating with myself if this is something we should do. I completely think it is now. But I wonder if we should check out either one of the shows before exhibiting and then exhibit or just jump right into it. We are in Wisconsin so no matter what we are going to have to fly. The cost is one thing that really scares me at this point though…..I know we can’t afford $10,000 + right now. Plus, we are only a year old, is it to soon for us? We aren’t even known throughout Wisconsin, just parts of Metro Milwaukee.

    As an aside, I would love it if the blog notified me of comments after I have commented on a post. Did I miss that option somewhere?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Tom! I think it’s a requirement to walk the show at least once before exhibiting. And to have a couple years under your belt before showing up because then you’ll have a better lay of the land and can talk the buyer lingo. And you should be getting notifications from my comments. I can check my blog settings.

  2. AUTHORBuck

    on July 11, 2014 at 12:00 am - Reply

    You really deserve kudos not only for doing the whole show thing but for taking the time to candidly write about your experience here. I think that for me, the writing it up part would have been harder than the show, and you did both. That’s really impressive and incredibly generous of you to share your experience in such detail. We often think about these shows and on the face of it, the cost doesn’t seem too bad, but I’ve considered the incidentals and that’s where it really hits you (as evidenced by the $7k you spent in addition to the show fee). Good on you!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Buck! I’m so glad you got a lot out of the blog post! Writing it all down, for me, was a way to help assess how the event went, what we’d do next time, and just put my thoughts on paper. Happy you found some value in it!

  3. AUTHORVermont Pickle

    on July 11, 2014 at 3:28 am - Reply

    Thanks for all the info. I may just go next year to walk the floor. I would love to do it. Not sure I’m ready just yet.
    I will probably call you to pick your brain soon too….

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Even just walking it is crazy. I’ll probably go out to walk the SF show again in January (and get out of Vermont in the dead of winter). And there’s not much of my brain left :p

  4. AUTHORLarry Bohen

    on July 11, 2014 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Michael; I really enjoyed reading your NYC Fancy Food Show odyssey.

    I am curious what role being a product of Vermont played in your marketing and at the show. Do you use Vermont to leverage your mustard? Are potential customers motivated by the Vermont brand?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Larry. We were in the Vermont section at the show. It seemed to help with drawing increased traffic, but very few people were interested in our product because it came from VT. They loved our product, packaging, and us as a family. Yes, the VT stamp on our packaging is great to have, but I’m not sure if it would have shifted more or less business had we been made elsewhere.

  5. AUTHORLinda

    on July 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    I found your Blog about this Food Show very interesting and heartwarming. Glad, though, I wasn’t there. We have had experience at Food Shows in our 3 years of selling our Gourmet Seasonings; and while you feel great and a star at the show, we have found positive results from the leads are hard to conquer.

    A lot of the time, people at the show are looking for vendors like us to increase their business. We live in Florida and during the housing boom, no matter what you wanted done to your house was going to cost you approximately $2,000-$3,000. Same thing seems to be happening at these events: $2,000 for the fee, $2,000 for the Promoter, $2,000 for the Printing, $3,000/month to a Broker to represent your product until it starts making enough money to equate to a % of sales, $2,000 to a Merchandiser to check up on your product once it gets into the store. Yikes!!!

    For entrepreneurs like us who are willing to work for minimal to no wages, risk our savings and available equities, and continue to somehow keep motivated with a smile on our face while we passionately talk and represent our products, I find that attending these shows is draining for the budget and physical well-being.

    A Broker recently said to me regarding selling at a Food Show, “Often buyers won’t buy from someone new the first year because they want to see if they are still around the second and third years.” I had another Broker say to me in regards to setting up a meeting with a Grocery Store chain we really wanted to get into, “It’s really best, if you get your sales high enough to the point where they call you.”

    As brutal and simplified as those two statements are, I believe we have to consider them as reality. If what they say is true, then I have to conclude these shows are not worth it unless you have a lot of money to burn or your product is selling so good that the people attending the show already know about it.

    We are returning to how we operated our business the first year, catering to small accounts that love us and finding Independent Markets like them that will appreciate the fact that we are a small family owned company that has a great product to offer. It’s the only way we can make money with the hopes of keeping our company growing a little each year until one day, a lot of people do know about it and maybe then the calls will come in from those “big guys” that we all want to receive.

    In the meantime, we love our Independent Accounts and Customer Base we have developed the past three years. We are going to work on increased Online Sales, attaining more Independent Markets, and networking with other entrepreneurs in our same position to keep smiles on our faces and motivation in our hearts.

    Good Luck everyone! At least we keep trying, right?

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:34 am - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      You make a lot of interesting points – especially your first one about not being around more than a year. The food industry is tough – no doubt about that, but there are deals and growth to be had. There are lots of food companies growing different ways.

      And there is something to be said for operating your business as if it were your first year!

  6. AUTHORChef Luis

    on July 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    Good day Mr Michael
    I really enjoy reading and learning from your experiences. I have been in business for 14 years manufacturing this unique and amazing potato products but i have no experience selling it. Thank you for taking the time to encourage small businesses to participate more and dream big. I appreciate that very much.
    Chef Luis

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:31 am - Reply

      Luis,

      So happy to read you’re finding value in the blog posts I write! Best of luck with your potato products!

  7. AUTHORAnne

    on July 15, 2014 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    This is wonderful. Pricey yes, but it really seems worth it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Thanks, Anne! Glad you liked the post!

  8. AUTHORRichard Brown

    on July 15, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Great info. I grew up in the restaurant design and equipment business and still take care past customers. So I dread doing trade shows as I done them for thirty years. But I can attest if done correctly the results can easily offset the show costs. See ya in SF!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Sounds good Richard! Looking forward to meeting up soon!

  9. AUTHORDiana

    on July 16, 2014 at 1:05 am - Reply

    thanks so much for this great post!!
    I am trying to start my own sauce business, and it’s been quite a learning experience. My family has 28 years in the restaurant business, but creating shelf stable items is totally different. You would think the internet would have more resources, and information! I really enjoy your blog and all your detailed and honest posts. I have not come across any other sites that have as helpful. thanks for sharing your tips with other small business owners 🙂

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:29 am - Reply

      Thanks, Diana! Yes – starting a food business is way different than a restaurant (I can’t even imagine starting one!) So happy you’ve gotten a lot from my blog. If there’s anything you’d like me to write on, let me know!

  10. AUTHORHesma

    on July 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    It was nice to read your experience. I myself attended this show on three occasions and have felt the rush. Sadly for me I was not able to capitalise on the interest because we operate from the Caribbean and people just weren’t interested in importing and those who were interested wanted a small order that would have been too costly to purchase. It really is a good show. It tells you where you are and where you are not in the industry. I admire the family assistance that you received. Never underestimate it as people are drawn to a booth where there is this homely atmosphere. I applaud your enthusiasm. Never let it fade as you may wonder at times why am I in this and not seeing the returns. Stick with it and listen to you voice as it’s the only thing that will matter in the long run.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Hesma! Sorry to hear about the import troubles you’ve been having. I appreciate your kind words about family and sticking with it — it’s a tough industry, but it’s also a lot of fun!

  11. AUTHORLouise

    on July 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    What a great post, with lots of info that can help other specialty food makers get prepared for shows. It is a lot of work and followup is indeed key.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 20, 2014 at 12:27 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Louise! And yes follow up is so key!

  12. AUTHORChef Marian

    on July 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Interesting. I am on the ‘buying’ end of things and always wondered what the hard costs were for you guys.

    And I never go back east in the summer for the Fancy Food Show. I only go to San Francisco in January. Thanks for confirming my good decision making! lol

    Thanks for the info and we wish you success!

    Best,
    Chef Marian
    800-Candygam.com

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Marian! It is a pretty expensive show for little guys like me, but well worth it in exposure. I might be out west for the winter show (walking – not exhibiting) — it’s nice to go to 70 degree weather in the dead of a Vermont winter!

  13. AUTHORLisa

    on July 20, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your insight. This was the most comprehensive “how to” I’ve read. If the mustard doesn’t fly, and I hope it does, you can always travel to schools and get on the lecture circuit!

    Seriously, I live in Los Angeles, so while I have access to more eyes, than you may in VT, the farmers market route has it’s limits. I’d rather pack the car and head to the SF winter show. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Also – I’ve had the opportunity to be on the buyer’s side of the show. I try to find unique small items – and 2 at the show I ordered from, but neither was prepared to actually fulfill the order – no labels, wrong size packages,etc. this wouldn’t have been a problem if they were candid up front – “hey it might be six months before I get the right labels…” Instead they seemed a little incensed that I told them to call me back in 6 months when they could put the right labels on…. “Really, so you don’t want he order now with the wrong weights on the label? We already filled it for you!”
    The worst part is they never did call me when or if they got the right labels … A lesson from someone else’s mistake… Kind regards, Lisa

    • AUTHORmichael

      on July 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Hey Lisa,

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the post! I’ve thought about public speaking of some kind — just not enough time in the day! And yes – farmer’s markets can only take you so far. For a lot of VT food companies, it’s hard to break out of their home state — in states like CA, there stores-a-plenty!

      And great pointers about not being “ready” for the show!!

  14. AUTHORTerri Maize

    on July 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Very appreciative! So great to know of others’ experiences. Thanks, Michael!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Terri! Happy to help!

  15. AUTHORSherry

    on August 5, 2014 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Michael, Thanks for sharing your experience. I am a small Co. like yours; I hand make dips, rubs and flavor salts. I know that I am not ready for a large show, I would have trouble filling large orders. We exhibit at smaller regional wholesale shows, the cost is about $1,000 per booth, you only have to print materials for about 3-5,000 buyers. The buyers are usually small retail stores and they place orders at the show. Some of the shows are Americasmart gourmet show, Biloxi gift show, Boston Gift show, and many more through out the country. We usually open 15-20 accounts and write about $5,000 in orders. After the show and follow up we usually get another $2,000 in orders. I hope this helps other small companies.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      Hey Sherry,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. We’ve looked into doing Americasmart and the Boston Gift Show (since that one is closer to home). Maybe we’ll have to look into them for next year.

      Michael

  16. AUTHORSara

    on August 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Wow. This is awesome. Thanks for being so generous and sharing your experiences! I’ve heard from a few start ups that FFS changed everything for them (in a good way). I hope the same for you!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      Hey Sara — it has been pretty wild since the show. Definitely a lot more learned which is coming soon in another post! Thanks for reading!

  17. AUTHORSydney

    on November 7, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Hey Michael-
    Great information in your Fancy Food show article. Your candidness is invaluable! As a small food business owner, I’ve applied as a member candidate (as we’re only in 3 retail stores and have been in business less than 1 yr.) to the Specialty Food Assoc. and I should hear back in the next few days whether or not we’ve been accepted. So here’s the question…if I get the member candidate status, should I show the product this winter? Is it worth the cost to show in the “special” area for smaller less established companies, or would it be prudent and money well saved to show our product when we’re allowed in with the “big boys?” Bottom line is I don’t want to go and spend the money and waste the time if buyers/retailers and distributors aren’t going to give us the time of day. And no, there are no deep pockets with this business…every penny counts! Thanks

    • AUTHORmichael

      on November 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Hey Sydney,

      Sorry it’s taken me a couple days to reply — congrats on getting member candidate status! Honestly, I wouldn’t exhibit until your product is proven in the market – 3 retailers isn’t enough. And you’ll be cash-strapped for years with such a big financial investment up-front. But, that’s just my opinion. Take time to learn the industry, nail down your product mix and talk to hundreds of customers.

      Does this help?

      Michael

      PS: Thanks for reading!

  18. AUTHORcaren

    on January 10, 2015 at 5:41 am - Reply

    It’s the eve of the fancy food show in SF. This post was a great refresher for me. thanks for that!

  19. AUTHORAlex

    on January 23, 2015 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Now it’s approx 6 months after the show. What do you think- was it worthy for you? Have you landed new repeating orders out of those leads?

    Thx

    • AUTHORmichael

      on January 24, 2015 at 2:01 am - Reply

      Hey Alex,

      I did pick up a large $8.500 sale from the show and a couple more stores after I published the post. In all, it was about $10k in sales. Not enough to break even, but if I were to do it again this year, I’d slice my costs all over the place.

  20. AUTHORPinkscarf80

    on June 20, 2015 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Hi! So informative! Would you mind sharing this PR firm? Sounds like something worthwhile!

    • AUTHORmichael

      on June 23, 2015 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Hi! We used People Making Good (PMG for short) in Burlington, VT.

  21. AUTHORDan

    on August 23, 2015 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Hello Mike,

    Great blog. I too am a new start up business and seeking advice on how to grow. Have purchased several of your books and review your blogs. The information you provide has been extremely valuable in helping me with my business. My plan is to get a foothold in the state I live in (Utah) before expanding. Was wondering if you or any of the folks reading this blog has any advice on show’s or events on the West Coast that would be helpful to attend. I don’t think I’m ready for the SF Fancy Food show but will take your advice and visit to be prepared in the event I want to participate the following year.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 25, 2015 at 10:43 am - Reply

      Hey Dan — great to meet you! I’m so pumped you’ve gotten value from my books and blog posts. Means a lot. As for West Coast events, I’d start with farmer’s markets, fairs, and festivals. You want to do something low cost that teaches you how your customers react to you product. Yes, it’s probably too early for you to do the Winter Fancy Food Show, but I definitely recommend walking it – it’s AMAZING.

  22. AUTHORVivian Olkin

    on March 18, 2016 at 4:19 am - Reply

    You’ve written the best information (absolutely the best) I’ve found regarding being a first time exhibitor at the Fancy Food Show in NY. You mentioned in a response to Alex, Jan 24, 2015 that if you were to do it all over again, you’d slice costs drastically. Where? How? We are a dairy/gluten-free, kosher, almost organic wholesale gelato company in Atlanta. We’ve been accepted as a vendor at Whole Foods though aren’t in the freezer yet, and have other customers in the area. We’re planning to be first time exhibitors at the Fancy Food show this summer 2016 and would love to know what/how you’d slice costs. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on March 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Vivian,

      Very cool — good luck at Fancy Food! I’m going to try and make it down this year to see some friends (and eat haha). As for cutting costs, I don’t think you need the PR. You don’t need a CRAZY display — just pay for what you can afford. And I would print a lot less than you think — not that many people will pick your stuff up. You may incur more costs because of the gelato being frozen, but it’s hard to know. Wish you well! — Michael

  23. AUTHORChristine

    on April 9, 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Michael,
    I just read the last comment that you thought you did not PR. I have noticed though that you got some results from this PR in the form of articles you have on your Green Mountain Mustard website. Did these articles have an impact on your business? On your online sales maybe? Prospect retailers?
    I am curious.
    Thanks in advance for the reply.

    • AUTHORmichael

      on April 29, 2017 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Hi Christine,

      Not too much of an effect, but it did help with promoting products and listing press. Credibility certainly helps!

  24. AUTHORKANCHI AGRAWALA-DOKANIA

    on July 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you very much such an informative write up. I now need to decide between doing the Fancy Food Show and the Green Festival. The Green Festival is in SFO this winter. I want to only do one for now. Have you any experience with doing the Green Festival. Which is the better bet according to you.

    Your thoughts on this matter would be much appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Kanchi

    • AUTHORmichael

      on August 9, 2017 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      Hi Kanchi – thank you for reading! I would do the Fancy Food Show – it’ll be the right people all in one place!

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