f How To: Build A Trade Show Booth on a Budget – Pepper Pop Paper
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How To: Build A Trade Show Booth on a Budget

national stationery show nss small business life trade show trade show booth

As you may or may not know, 2017 was our first year at the National Stationery Show.  And it was.....awesome! This was before we re-branded so that's why you see it as The Cove Company.  We'll be showing at 2018 as Pepper Pop Paper. If you're reading this and you're about to make your debut at the National Stationery Show, don't worry - I know exactly how you're feeling. 

When I signed up for the show, I was still working my full-time corporate job, so that thousands of dollars that was due for the booth location? Pshhhhh no problem. But then I left my job in January to take my business full-time so I'll just say, building a ridiculously extravagant booth was simply not in the budget. So, if you're in the same boat as I was or maybe just want to save some money on the booth building portion - come with me!

First, I'll say I had the cheapest booth size for my first year. Which I definitely recommend if you want to get your feet wet for the first time.  So I had a 6x10 spot that I needed to build a booth for.  Here's what my final booth looked like (the pink carpet is courtesy of NSS, not me)

Let's start with the walls.  Now, if you're like me, this blog post might just be one stop on your journey of reading every.single.article about the National Stationery Show.  You may see that a lot of people that build hard walls, separate their walls into a bunch of small panels (usually 4x4).  This is because most people ship their booths in a crate. I live outside of Philadelphia so I drove my booth into the Javits Center.  I say this because that's why my walls aren't broken down into smaller pieces. I just went to Home Depot, bought sheets of 4x8 plywood and that was that for one wall.

The nice part about this is that you have a lot fewer seams than everyone else.  But, if you're shipping your booth, like most people are, then you'll want to cut these sheets in half. 

Plywood For Booth Wallsframes

I needed 3 full size sheets of plywood plus a smaller sheet (I'll get to that next) to fit the 6x10 size.  Next step was to frame the backs of the plywood sheets.  I bought 2x4s and cut them in half to nail to each side of the plywood sheet as you can see in the photo above.  Why? This helps sturdy the frame. But more importantly, this is how I clamped the booth walls together.  *Technically* (major air quotes) you're not allowed to use power tools in the Javits Center.  I've seen it done but it was my first year so I wanted to make sure I followed all the rules.  So I used C clamps to hold the walls together that attached to the frames.

Guys, that's LITERALLY all I did. Attached halved 2x4s to the back of 3 plywood sheets, plus one smaller sheet. 

Booth Walls

For the shelves, I bought as many of these as I needed from Home Depot 

I just cut a lip in them in order to hold the cards and left them the raw wood since I liked the look of it!

Card on Shelf example

One thing I want to point out for this is that shelving. Make sure you lay your cards out before cutting the shelves.  This ensures you have enough space for all of your designs before you cut and you can get a feel for the spacing between each card.  I knew I wanted all of one category on one long shelf - so I made sure the length was correct first. 

Cards laid out for spacing

For paint, I used Behr Creamy Mushroom. I wanted something neutral that allowed my cards to stand out. Bonus, my parents had used it in their living room so I knew I liked the color and I used their left overs :)

For furniture, the two cubes are purchased from Ikea. These were great because it allowed me to add some decor as well as a space to hold my catalogs, samples, business, cards, etc. I picked them out in a neutral color so that I could use them the next year.

Table top and chairs are purchased from Amazon.  I wanted something plain so that I could use it for other years if I needed to. This was a great space for retailers to sit down and write orders/information.

For all the wording I used vinyl that I had from AC Moore. I actually brought my silhouette machine to the Javits center and cut it there.  This was so much easier than trying to put up the letters before hand and have them stay on during transit. For my SKU numbers, I used clear sticker paper and printed sheets of each sku, minimum quantities and price.  THIS IS A MUST for retailers to quickly see the stats on each card.  

SKU numbers on shelves

The only thing I splurged on was the flooring. I bought it from the same place that everyone had recommended for trade show flooring.  Just foam tiles that lock into place and I picked a neutral color that I could use for years to come. 

For lighting, I bought clamp work lights and spray painted them a neutral cream color. Again, so I could use them each year! Or even spray paint over them if I wanted to.

 

The grand total?

4 full sheets of plywood: $20.92 X 4 = $83.68

5 shelves: $3.39 x 5 = $16.95

Paint = free

Ikea furniture: $130

Tabletop and chairs:  $120

Flooring (17 tiles for 60sqft) = $87.72

Clamps: $4.97 x 16 = $79.52

Lights: $8.97 x 5 = $44.85

TOTAL: $562.72

Now this may seem like a lot to some people but the best part? I don't have to spend a dime for NSS 2018. Except the paint and a new sign for Pepper Pop Paper. I've heard if you rent foam walls from Manny Stone, you may need to chop off an arm and a leg for them. AND, it tore my heart out to watch them just rip those walls down and throw them out.  The bonus about building hard walls is that you get to use them each year with a fresh coat of paint. 

Finished Trade Show Booth

I hope that helps calm any first-time jitters! Let me know if you like these types of posts or want to hear more about the show!



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