Confession: I am a sex toy consultant who has had a table a CHURCH vendor show. Pick your jaw off the floor. This is a true story. And, yes, they knew who I was and what I did before I got there that day. Here’s how you too can get into a vendor show when you have “that kind” of business.
There are a lot of misapprehensions on the part of some show organizers about businesses like ours. They are very concerned that allowing us into their event will result in wildly inappropriate displays that will upset their other vendors, sponsors and visitors. If you are a respectable business (and are following Pure Romance corporate policy), you know that your vendor table needs to be ‘mild’ in content and looks no different than most bath and beauty product displays, but they don’t know that. The trick to get past their defenses and reassure them before they get a chance to reject you.
Here’s what I do:
Step 1: Make a wise choice in shows. Vendor and bridal shows are your best bets. Craft shows are iffy. They usually attract an older crowd more interesting in buying inexpensive handmade products rather than people looking to book parties to be held in their home at a later date. I also usually rule out events held in schools, but – surprise, surprise – I have done a show in a church.
Step 2: Make a friendly inquiry over email using *just* your first name. Basically, you want to get the event organizers into a dialogue with you before you tell them about what you do. Lead with Pure Romance and they may shut you down before you’ve even gotten a chance to reassure them. Use a personal account and delete any signature info that includes your business. Here’s my sample inquiry:
I would love to participate in the Spring Bridal Show! What information would I need to get to you to apply for a spot?
Grace Ellis Barber(724) 974 – ****
I would be interested in participating in your show as a vendor. Do you have more information about the costs and application process?
Within a day or so, you will likely get a reply to the following effect:
Thank you so much for contacting me regarding our upcoming 2015 Clearview Mall Bridal Show!
I wanted to ask what type of business you are hoping to promote at the show, just to confirm that it is not an exact business that we already have (Avon, Mary Kay, etc.)
Thanks so much again, and I look forward to hearing back from you,
Step 3: Introduce your business and immediately reassure them that you are a professional. In my reply emails, I like to include an introduction that includes an emphasis on our bath and beauty products, a reference to our corporate policy regarding showing only mild products at vendor shows and a personal statement of my concern and commitment to being sensitive and appropriate especially when children might be present. Here’s an actual response that I send:
I’m a senior consultant with a company called Pure Romance. At parties, we show a line of bath & beauty, relationship enhancement and women’s sexual health products. However, at public events like a vendor show, it is our corporate policy to only display the bath & beauty and other ‘mild’ products. We also have a special limited catalog for such events. My baskets typically include items like a bath oil or body spray, a lip gloss and a reusable heat pack that is shaped like a heart. I’m including a few pictures so you can see what our tables typically look like at vendor shows.
I know this is a long winded answer to your short question but I am aware that some coordinators are skittish about including companies like Pure Romance or Passion Parties because of concerns about inappropriate materials or behaviors. I just want to assure you that I am a professional businesswoman and I have two young sons (3 &6) of my own so am very sensitive to necessity of being clean and appropriate when little eyes and ears are present. I’ve done three vendor shows so far (two in Hermitage and one in Grove City) and am scheduled to do one next weekend in Mahoning Township and another at a church south of Butler in September. So far, I have had only positive responses.
Let me know if everything looks okay and we can go from there!
Step 4: Include sample PICTURES of your table (and references if you have them). I think the pictures especially are KEY to getting into a show. I’ve had women tell me that they’ve said all of the things I said in the above response and still been rejected. When I asked if they sent pictures, they say no. Having someone say they’re table is going inoffensive and actually being able to judge that for yourself makes a huge difference. Here’s some pictures I have included in my response emails:
Responses I’ve gotten:
Sorry I am just getting back to you-today was my kind of weather to do yard work! I don’t see anything that would beinappropriate-we look forward to meeting you and having you there!! You may even get a party from some of the volunteers!!!
Grace, We would love to have you. Vendor info is in the mail. There is usually interest in your product at our shows. See you at the show.
Step 5: Be professional and polite when further questions are asked. Sometimes coordinators need to check with the site or other committee members before saying yes.
Okay, this is a church event, so let me get permission. Also, I will have more information after the last week of June.
Okay, if it will help, please tell them that I am a Christian and attend All Saints Lutheran Church in Slippery Rock. One of the reasons I chose this company and business is to offer a safe, pornography free environment for women to ask questions and buy these types of products. I just did a party for some ladies in my Bible Study last week.
I am sure it won’t be a problem. Your presentation is very tasteful. I’ll let you know soon. 😀
And a few days later…
Hi Grace,You have been approved for the vendor event at C Church. In a week or two I will send more info.
Yes, my friends, using this method I, a purveyor of goods related to *SEX*, got into a show AT A CHURCH! – where, I might add, I was very well recieved.
Step 6: Follow through and be professional at the show. Dress professionally – even at outdoor events. Put only mild items on your table (unless it is an event specifically geared toward women, like a Women’s Expo or Bridal Show, I ONLY put out bath and beauty products). Be friendly and appropriate in your approach to guests that come into your booth.
For more information about what to do to make the most of your vendor events, see my previous post: Getting leads at Vendor Shows.