In part two of their guest blog, entrepreneurial sisters Catherine and Michelle reveal that their first experience at the Children’s Business Fair resulted in meagre sales of their 3D-printed products.
Undaunted, the duo went back to the drawing board to redesign the business. Here, they tell us how they improved their approach – and how they responded to being talent-spotted by a Silicon Valley tech company…
Read part one here
After setting up our stall at our first fair in July 2019, we faced our next challenge. Sales!
We were very excited at first. But as the day went on, no one was buying anything. People chatted with us, but most were interested in the process, not our actual products. At the end of the day, we had had a few sales but not many. It was devastating. We felt like we hadn’t achieved anything.
After the fair, we realised there were three important areas for improvement.
Our table – We originally put everything on it. This was not a good idea. It just looked cluttered and messy. Looking back, we shouldn’t have put so much on the table.
Our sales pitch – We didn’t push our products enough and didn’t convince people to buy. We were very shy at first and would only answer potential customers’ questions with short answers.
Our products – We didn’t have the right products for this type of environment. Our products were good, but as it was mostly parents buying for their children, our pencil pots didn’t sell as well. We noted that our limited supply of fiddlers sold much better than expected.
So, with the next Children’s Business Fair coming up in November 2019, we started to improve our approach
First, we decided to focus on toys and fiddlers which were much more exciting and original. We also worked on our stall presentation. We set up a test table at home and tried layouts we liked. We were careful not to put everything on, but made sure all of our products were on show and that there was space for customers to test out our products.
Finally, we worked on our sales pitch. We knew we had to persuade people to buy our products but not directly tell them that our products were the best. We worked out our story and made sure we didn’t reply with one-word answers. Also as people were interested in the 3D printing process, we made a video of the printer in action to help us explain how it worked and hopefully attract more customers.
After fixing the business, we thought we could just settle down and get printing. How wrong we were! We received an email offering us an opportunity to speak at the GLAM (Girls Leadership Academy Meetup) event – a London event run by a Silicon Valley tech company to promote tech leadership to girls. We were asked to deliver a 20-minute speech to over 100 teenage girls!
We worked hard. The event was the day after Children’s Business Fair, so we had to juggle writing this speech with printing our products. We wanted to tell GLAM attendees how the improvements were going to pay off. But as we didn’t yet know, we had to leave that area of the speech blank and improvise on the spot on the day. This was terrifying. Improvisation is not our area of expertise. But we knew the fair would be fresh in our minds. We were determined not to mess it up.
As the day of the business fair approached, we were nervous – but we were ready. Today, we could finally test out our improvements. Would the changes work?
Once we had set up our table at the venue, our choices were correct. The table looked amazing. And once the public started to come in, we knew right away that our new product line was a success. Customers were engaged and buying our products. Our new sales pitch also seemed to be a great improvement. Orders were rolling in. Our new products bought in so many sales, it was unbelievable!
By the end of the fair, we were so proud of our improvements. From a slow start at our first fair, we had managed to increase revenue by 167%! Also, having not made any profit first time round, we made a 77% profit margin at our second fair!
Exhausted but happy, we then travelled to London the next day to deliver our speech at the GLAM event. We think it went pretty well!
Check out Catherine and Michelle at November’s GLAM London event:
Want to launch your own business at the Children’s Business Fair? Apply here!