Sue Sullivan and Carol Bosworth never dreamed their Sweet Heat Chipotle sauce would someday be distributed in stores nationwide. But now, the sauce they created for a catering gig can be found in specialty stores across the country and in Canada.
Hot Squeeze founders Sullivan, 46, and Bosworth, 60, found that getting the word out at trade shows was a key part of their Atlanta-based business' success. When they attended the New York Fancy Food Show, they met a variety of retailers and amassed a list of contacts that helped them land their first regional distribution deal with Whole Foods. They also learned the differences between buyers and brokers and discovered the benefits of being a woman-owned business--including waived slotting fees at Kroger.
It's critical to incorporate trade shows into your overall marketing scheme, says Susan Friedmann, author of the Secrets of Successful Exhibiting book series. "Every industry has a trade show," Friedmann says. "Depending on what industry you're in, you have to pick the show or shows your target market attends," such as shows for food retailers or pet-product stores. You should also decide what you want to get out of the show. Sullivan and Bosworth wanted industry contacts so they could make future sales. Their efforts are paying off for Hot Squeeze, which projects 2007 sales of $75,000.
To keep costs down, Sullivan and Bosworth shared an exhibitor's booth with another entrepreneur. However, Friedmann says sharing a booth can be tricky because people may not know who is doing what, so make sure there is a clear delineation.
The most important step, though, is just to be there. "If you want to have a successful product," says Sullivan, "you need to do these shows."