Indie Beauty Brand Founders Spill On Their Best Trade Show Investments

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 15 brand founders and executives: What’s the best investment you’ve made for a trade show?

Aisha Shannon-Bates Founder, Coil Beauty

The best investment we made for a trade show was completely outfitting our space. We have tablecloths, stand banners, step-and-repeat banners and a great showcase for our products. The best thing about getting all this stuff is, once you have it, you can just reuse it until you’re tired of the design, but it's essentially a one-time fee for everything, and it makes you stand out from other companies and brands.

Drea Gunness Groeschel Founder and CEO, Beautiac

Lighting. Lighting. Lighting. I’ve participated in hundreds of trade shows over the last decade, and I can certainly say that most shows are not well lit. To ensure your product stands out and is the best possible visual experience for the buyer, you’ll have to bring your own lighting or rent it, and it’s worth every penny!

Feisal Qureshi Founder, Raincry

Location. Location. Location. Many beauty trade shows are vast, cluttered and very busy. Participants often claim that, after a while, it can be overwhelming as their eyes start to gloss over and they are unable to see the trees amongst the forest.  You have to ensure that your placement at the show is ideal and doesn’t get lost in the crowd.  

Work on simple booth merchandising and sparse fixtures to provide a safe haven for buyers to come and not be bombarded by tons of product or people.  It will provide them with a calming retreat, meaning they are inclined to take more time with you and learn about your products.

PATRICK KELLY Founder, Sigil Scent

Beautiful letterpress for print collateral really pops for buyers. Always invest in gorgeous flowers. Otherwise, less is more for us: minimal clutter, clean lines and lots of storytelling placards.

Melissa Boerema Director of Marketing, InstaNatural

Samples have been one of the most costly expenses for us when exhibiting at an event. However, they are the most valuable as well. Having a keepsake for buyers, press, influencers or consumers to take home and experience is a must. 

We like to bring deluxe samples so that people can enjoy our products for at least three to five uses. Also, they're a great piece to showcase to retailers that like to do gift with purchase. Overall, having enough samples to go around can be costly, but definitely worthwhile to ensure the best chance of getting your product in the hands of the right people.

Moe Kittaneh CEO, Herbal Dynamics Beauty

We’ve attended several trade shows in the past couple years, including Indie Beauty Expos in New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. While each one sees a slightly different audience, I think the best investment we made is bringing along our dedicated and knowledgeable team to each show. 

People interacting with us at the booth see firsthand each person’s passion in the products. For the most recent IBE NY, we also invested in a custom display, which helps the brand look more polished and makes setting up the shows much simpler.

LUISA WIESCHE Founder and Business Director, De Lilou

Definitely the decoration elements that tell the story of our origins by themselves. They not only give the booth a genuine and authentic touch and look, but they also bring life into it. They stimulate all senses: watching, touching, smelling. These storytelling elements work in a unique way that motivates people to talk to us, ask questions and try the products. 

In our case, exhibiting the Brazil nut shells, the bowls used to produce the vegetable milk and awesome pictures of local communities during work gave us a deep base to exchange and interact with many buyers, journalists and consumers.

IDO MAGAL Founder, Lavido

From our experience, we’ve learned that it is invaluable to be well prepared. Take the time to research attendees and contact them prior to the show. We like to send potential partners information about the brand and invite them to our booth, creating that personal connection ahead of time.

The other major investment is in the size of the booth. Larger booths draw much more attention and help establish the brand as an authority in their industry.

BRIAN OH Founder and CEO, Venn Skincare

The best investment when it comes to a trade show has been participating in IBE. (IBE is operated by Beauty Independent parent company Indie Beauty Media Group.) We didn’t invest much in terms of decorating the exhibition space since our brand is very minimal. But the relations that we’ve built with retail partners, including Neiman Marcus, through IBE, and the support we’ve received from IBE have been priceless and have really helped propel the brand’s growth.

Evelyn Subramaniam Founder, Bija Essence

Choosing the best investment at a trade show as a first-time exhibitor and startup can be daunting. I had many questions. Do I hire a sales rep, furniture rental company, printing company, tech rep...?

It finally came down to asking myself. What does my brand stand for, and how do I want to connect with my customers and potential customers? We are about bringing back the power of touch [and] paying tribute to familial traditions while using all-natural products to bring balance to our health. We are about creating lifelong healthy human bonds. Therefore, I invested in hiring a massage therapist to offer gentle hand massages to everyone that came to visit us. This was a big hit! 

If you have been to a large expo show, you know that it can be exhausting and draining, and to have someone offer you a seat and a hand massage, well, that is pretty generous, kind and thoughtful. People loved it. Some who were interested in our products had an opportunity to learn more about us and get to know me. Others who didn’t know we existed discovered us in a pretty unexpected and safe environment.

Overall, I find that investing in a hand massage therapist was a successful investment. Not only did we pamper our guests, but we created a community of togetherness and some bonding relationships through the power of touch.

BEATRIZ DURANGO Founder and Managing Director, Novellus Skin Care

Investing in our people proved to be one of the best decisions we made when running an exhibition space at a trade show. Having enthusiastic, engaged brand ambassadors representing the values and passion of our company was priceless. The audience can identify with the energy, and it makes it incredibly easy to tell your story and send your message to consumers who may have never even heard of your brand before. 

The most recent trade show we attended was on short notice, and we didn’t have the time to prepare the way we would have liked to. We made a conscious effort to really engage with everyone who showed an interest in our stand, answering every and any question with thoroughness and passion. 

The result was amazing, we ended up engaging a lot more customers than we could have hoped for and ended the day with significant growth to our email list and plenty of products in the hands of new customers.

Lissette Monzon Founder, Lilly Be

I like to keep my exhibition space clean and focused on the product. With that said, the best investment I made to be trade show ready was in my rebranding. I literally launched the new look at a trade show and the response was overwhelmingly amazing! People were drawn to my space. I was even featured on our local news South Florida health series.

Packaging is incredibly important, and it should communicate the ethos of the brand and the quality of the product. I spent a year or more on the rebranding, and it paid off tremendously at the show and continues to do so.

Mila Juristovski Bosnic CEO and Founder, Nala

To be honest, our first trade show involved minimal investment in our exhibition space. As a small brand, we wanted to test the waters before jumping into this world. At Nala, we strive to be smart, resourceful, and kind. With this philosophy in mind, the best investment was simply extending our friendship to other exhibitors.

Our neighbor ended up giving us their stand since they didn't have enough products to cover it. It was extremely generous and helped us showcase our Nala free-from deodorants beautifully. The takeaway: Get to know the other creatives around you, and don't underestimate the power of being nice. 

Selmin Karatas Co-Founder and CEO, Kazani

I have done many exhibitions and displays at various events for different causes. The one thing I realized that draws customers attention to the table is a statue we've invested in of an ancient female bust as well as a copper kettle. The bust and kettle are part of the brand story and makes it interesting for our customers. I also put flowers in the display since that looks very attractive, too.

Ada Polla CEO, Alchimie Forever

Good lighting! It’s impossible to showcase product well without having great lighting. It can make or break the whole experience.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].