Proof to Product: You Can Be Successful with Wholesale without Trade Shows

Proof to Product

It's Michelle here, coming to you live from our HQ in Albuquerque, NM!

Katie recently had the chance to talk with Katie Hunt on the Proof to Product podcast! 

Listen here: Part 1 You Can Be Successful with Wholesale without Trade Shows

Now that I've had the chance to listen, I thought I'd add my own two cents. Kind of like the fact check on Armchair Expert if you're familiar. 

Even though Katie didn't do a tradeshow until this April and still has not worked with any sales reps, I think three main factors contributed to Odd Daughter's wholesale success over the last 10 years:

  1. Launching in 2013
  2. Consistent Outreach
  3. Joining Faire in 2019

Launching in 2013

Odd Daughter got started in a time when the market just wasn't as saturated with other brands and makers. Even Etsy Wholesale didn't exist yet. So even though the line started small and Katie didn't work with sales reps, she was able to stand out and get Odd Daughter cards in front of local retailers. It also probably helped that Katie had a strong Instagram presence -- again, before there was as much competition (and definitely before the algorithm!). 

Consistent Outreach

Here's where I come in! After Katie participated in Tradeshow Bootcamp (now called Paper Camp) in 2015, she was much more prepared to handle wholesale and I started compiling a list of retailers (leads) to pitch. Before we set up a CRM in 2019, I had a google spreadsheet with over 650 retailers on it! I would use canned emails (templates) in gmail and ghostwrite pitches on Katie's behalf. I would research each shop and rank them according to which were the best potential fits.

How did I find all of them? Great question. Back in the day, *THE* tradeshow to attend in the greeting card world was the National Stationery Show and everyone attending would send mailers to current retailers and leads. This still happens for other shows, but at the time it was very popular to post photos of all the mailers before sending them. So like the sneaky little sneak that I am, I would troll the #NSS posts and would take screenshots to see all the recipients. (This was probably really common but I felt oh-so-clever!) I would also just look up a city on yelp and start looking for gift shops and stationery boutiques. And slowly but surely, I built up the list!

This method worked well enough but it was still pretty slow growth...until...

Joining Faire in 2019

For better or worse, Faire was actually quite helpful in growing Odd Daughter's wholesale reach. By 2019, Faire was not exactly new but it was certainly not the massive platform it is today. The competition was still intimidating (and I would sometimes go the the stationery section and click for pages and pages before Odd Daughter showed up) but it didn't feel impossible for retailers to find us. So it actually provided a steady stream of new retailers and some turned out to be consistent customers over the years! 

So there you have it -- that's my assessment of how Odd Daughter was able to grow and be successful with wholesale without doing a tradeshow for 10 years. By the way, I would also like to point out that this "success" was very slow and for a long time Katie was not taking home a regular salary. Just in case you thought owning a slow-growing paper goods brand would provide a real life of luxury. Success sometimes means just continuing to exist and sometimes it means a livable wage. :)

Check out Part 2 Hiring Family & Creating Boundaries in Your Business (spoiler alert: I come up even more in this episode!).