Clerkenwell Design Week 2022
Back in May, I took part in Clerkenwell Design Week. A HUGE deal for me and my small business born out of lockdown, as this was the first time I would be debuting my collections at a design trade show. Aside from my online customers, it was also the first time prospective clients and customers would be seeing my furniture in person.
I dealt with so many set backs in the lead up to the event, ranging from supplier issues to an unexpected 5 day stint in hospital - all of which could've been enough for me to pull out of me exhibiting but there was just absolutely no way I was going to let that happen. I wanted to show my hard work off!
Nervous and exhilarated at the same time, I knew I was ready to meet the people that could help elevate my brand to new platforms and have exciting, insightful discussions about the ever changing design world - and I did!
For any small businesses/designers out there looking to do the same and take a chance on themselves, I thought I would share some of the most important things I felt I learnt during my 3 days exhibiting at the Light & Rising Stars exhibition.
- The value of good old fashioned newspaper coverage - my SPACE collection side table was featured in the Evening Standard during the event so I had members of the public intentionally seek out my stand after getting off the tube, to view the collection in person.
- Know your market! An obvious one and the area of your business you should know before anything else and yet I was still surprised when around 90% of visitors asked me 'Who's your market?'
- Be open to ALL opinions, the good, the bad and the downright rude. Yup, this was a tough one for me as of course my business is my baby and SO personal to me but I quickly learnt the importance of knowing and believing in your brand whilst remaining open to critique against viewing it through perfect, rose-tinted glasses.
- Never waste a conversation. This applies to any networking situation you find yourself in but is especially important at trade shows. I only had so many seconds to keep someones attention and so I had a rehearsed (but organic!) statement to share with passers-by.
- Make friends with fellow stall holders/industry peers. Another obvious one but worth mentioning in case you're finding it hard to build a community for support - this is a great place to start. No one will understand your struggles and wins more deeply than a small business buddy. I was also pleasantly surprised at how friendly and inviting the UK design world was. Lots of shared insights and constructive conversations were had!
- Sustainability. The topic that came up in Every. Single. Conversation. And rightly so! I learnt what interior designers and clients are expecting from designers and brands right now in terms of sustainability practises and contributing to a circular economy. I was put in touch with a studio that works with a wide range of sustainable materials including 100% recycled plastics, leading to an exciting collaboration that's underway for me!