Dear Design Doctor
We are planning to exhibit at a trade show for the first time this year, with the intention of launching our newest product.
It can be very costly to exhibit and I wondered if you can point me in the direction of any loans or bursaries to assist small, newish companies like us to exhibit for the first time.
‘To be honest there is very little specific funding around for trade fairs, but there are some ‘hidden’ ways of getting a subsidised stand.
Firstly it’s important that you realise how funding works, and what business aspects get funding, so that you know how funding actually works. You also might like to look at some of our previous blog posts around funding such as Where can I get funding? and Busting the myth of funding.
Some design and craft business support organisations have selling and exhibition opportunities, that will allow you to share a group or individual stand at major trade shows in the UK and abroad at a subsidised level. Check out in particular our Design Trust partners Design Factory in the Midlands, Design Event in Newcastle, and Designers Makers in London.
If you are a first time exhibitor then many trade fair organisers offer special support and discounted stands. These are often part of a special area, and you will more likely get a smaller stand or are able to share with somebody. For example giftware and interior accessories tradeshow Top Drawer has the Spotted area curated by Charlotte Abrahams, gift fair Pulse has the Launchpad area, and 100% Design has the Emerging Brands section.
I always would suggest you inquire about these first time or new exhibitor options with the trade fair organisers. Very often you are able to negotiate a cheaper deal (especially close to when the show opens). The organisers can also advice you with which design or craft business support organisations they work to offer additional support.
Be aware that calls for exhibitions and trade shows often happen months in advance, so make sure that you know when to apply for a stand or space. For an up to date list of what is available check out our opportunities listings on a regular basis.
Check our full listing of selected craft and design trade and consumer fairs, which include all the dates, descriptions and contact details of our favourite shows in the UK and abroad.
Interestingly enough, sometimes it is easier to get funding and support for a trade show overseas than it is here in the UK. If you want to show internationally then you need to get in contact with UK Trade & Investment, who provide a wide range of workshops and business support programmes to visit international markets or exhibit at international trade shows. For more information see the UKTI website.
You also might like to read this guest blog post about exhibiting successfully at the Milan Furniture Fair. This post is really useful for anybody who hasn’t exhibited at an international trade show and event.
Or for an alternative point of view …
Start to look at funding from a different perspective. For example Scottish jewellery collective Vanilla Ink recently managed to crowd source over £8,000 to show their work at the prestigious International Jewellery London show in London.
Trade shows are very expensive, and their nature is really changing … more and more trade shows are about networking, researching the latest trends and designers, and less about ordering and selling.
Also many new designers and crafts people might not be able to sell wholesale yet, because their cost price is too high. You really need to consider carefully if you are ready to sell wholesale, and which trade shows are the best for you before you apply to any trade show.
This is very common, and actually approaching retailers directly might be a far more effective way for you to start selling to galleries, shops and retailers. You will find our blog post where 7 retailers and gallerists talk about how they want to be approached probably very useful.