(Writer’s Note: I apologize for the photos from my Blackberry. Not the best all around resolution. iPhone update?)
Two (2) days.
Two. The two most important days in my business to be quite frank. That is the length of “LaxCon”. I started The Art of Lax™ in the fall of 2008, launching the business to the public in January of 2009 at the U.S. National Lacrosse Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I have been a regular at “LaxCon” ever since and each year I always do my VERY BEST to include new material and product to existing and new customers. While lasting just a meager two days as an exhibitor/vendor, the event is a great chance to establish new business relations, ventures, popularity and above all, GROWTH.
(My humble beginnings. The Art of Lax™ at the 2009 LaxCon in Baltimore. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING THEN. Notice that the Power-Tek Gear Company was the booth next to me.)
This year’s 2012 event was a quick 2-hour drive from NYC to the “City of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia. I brought with me 40 images for sale, over 20 of them being new content to The Art of Lax™ business portfolio. My Holiday sales just weeks prior to the event were the BEST so far and my new licensing relationship with the Power-Tek Performance Gear Company as the OFFICIAL MANUFACTURER of apparel, was an exciting goal to have closed 2011 and to physically open to the public for 2012. The new business venture enabled me to be in Power-Tek’s booth, which this year was a 300 square foot space, a massive increase than the prior event years. This was to be a very exciting one!
(My art on Power-Tek’s product! They are made of GREAT stuff!)
(Ricasio doesn’t have the letter “c” in it. But it reminds me of former UMASS stand out goalie, Sal LoCascio!)
Upon my arrival to the Philadelphia Convention Center, my hotel, The Four Points by Sheraton was literally “spitting distance”. The process of unloading product to set up at the event was “cake” – the easiest and fastest I have ever done! When setting foot on the exhibitor floor, I was amazed to find the signage of Power-Tek’s floor space displaying our new venture for spring of 2012, The Art of Athletes! It was better than any of my signage, which was simple and low-key. It was incredible and mind blowing! Credit to Jim & Tom Lalli, of Power-Tek Performance Gear – they do amazing work and have such great product!
My designated space was a 10’x10’ area and the design set up was inspired from that of the many NYC-museum gift shops; framed/original art in the front for display and stack piles of reproductions hugging the sides of the interior for purchase. The goal was to stop and attract the eyes of the customers with the art and then, invite them inside for the purchase. Once the public was allowed, I hardly stayed in the booth due to not wanting to take up space for customers to enter. I have learned that most customers should be left alone from interaction. They DO NOT want to be forced into making a purchase and if you do it’s an annoyance to them. Let the customer look at the product. Let the customer make the decision. The only time for interaction is when they have a question in mind and/or ask the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION pertaining to your business, “how much for this/these?”
But the purpose of ANY BUSINESS is to CREATE A CUSTOMER. Any persons that came to the vicinity of our area, whether they made a purchase or not, had a possibility of returning as a customer or creating new ones via “word of mouth”. In the past years, I learned that freebies such as containers full of strawberry flavored, Twizzlers have aided in grabbing attention and 4”x6” promotional cards have helped developing customer growth. If there is one consistent piece of advice from these events (actually, from Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group), it is to simply, LISTEN. Yes, LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS! Sometimes your customers have a bigger brain than you, the business owner.
Plus LISTENING doesn’t cost you anything… it is FREE!
(U.S. goalie, Brian Dougherty at the booth!)
The best part of being at these events, besides sales, are catching up with your existing customers, friends and fans from the social networking sites, industry, or just playing the best game on earth. They are important, too!
(With former Boston Cannon’s coach & UNC Tar Heel standout – Billy Daye. Billy Daye was my goalie coach back in the Johns Hopkins Blue Jay lax camp back in summer of ’93. Big time respect! @LaxSchool)
The Longest Day.
(One of my favorite movies about the “Invasion of Normandy”. A lot of business lessons in that book/movie!)
On Saturday, the final day for exhibitors, I made the mistake of arriving at the exhibition floor at 7am thinking the doors were the open to the public at 8am. It was to open at 10am. But that mistake gave me the time to do a couple of things that I wasn’t given the chance prior to or on the start of the first day. The vast and empty floor was an eerie silence, and I walked around up and down each aisle looking at the respective booths making up the lacrosse industry. I studied their products, layout and company mission. I wanted to know why and what made this company stand out from the other, among other things. I must have made a total of four trips.
I pulled up a chair and sat away on the aisle, facing my booth. I looked at the framed, original piece of “The Creators” which was the piece that started it all back in college as my failed attempt for a senior thesis and then looked at everything begat from it, which was being purchased. Looking back, the road was unpredictable. It was a finish to my 3rd year in business and my 4th time being at LaxCon as The Art of Lax™.
The funny way I look at it is this. Once September arrives, the weeks and months leading to the Holiday Season are my busiest, fulfilling orders to customers while creating new images for the addition to the portfolio. The responsibility is a slow ramp that curves up and gets steeper as the date for LaxCon approaches. I’m a prisoner to my work, really, but the explanation is that I’m truly obsessive to creating new work. As any entrepreneur, I’ve been obsessive to the growth of the business. Who would like to do all this work and preparation for an event that is only two days long? But ask an Olympic sprinter the same question – they take 4 years of preparation to compete in an event that lasts only 10 seconds!
Yeah, it makes sense now, doesn’t it?
Once LaxCon ended I returned home to NYC with a great sense of relief and accomplishment, but an empty feeling as well. Two days go just like that – a snap. But manifestly, LaxCon is the start of the lacrosse season and I just found out that LaxCon would return to Philadelphia for the next two years!
I have a bit over 350 days to prepare and GROW.