Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Anatomy of a Doll Show by our Guest Blogger, Sandra Birkett Kean Bullock

My definition of a show is basically a twice a year mass business venture that usually takes six months to plan for a one day to set up, only for it to close 6 hours after opening the next day.  Average Promoter recovery time…one week.       

With 10 shows now under my belt, I initially believed that in order to promote a show, one only needed to love the product.  How dumb I was!  As many promoters may relate, what can go wrong often does.  Many times we attempt to do the best we can to overcome seemingly impossible odds.  One of my worst personal experiences was being notified a week before a show that the hall was 80 tables short and that I need to “go find some”.  That in itself caused me to question my reasoning in even taking on this effort.  We all live with anticipatory grief and do the best job we can to make the best of any bad situation because we know that some ill-fated “surprise” is right around the corner.   At the last show, my Porters did not show up and we all stood outside the building after 7:00 a.m. show day waiting for doors to be unlocked when the person with the keys decided to sleep in.   

Photo by Sandra Birkett Kean Bullock, of Alora's  Dolls Booth

I truly thought this idea of managing a show would be a wonderful challenge.   After all, how hard can it be???  As I trudged on in my ignorant bliss, it did not take long to feel my initial self-confidence slowly slipping away.  I assumed my company work experience of 35 years in Systems, Marketing, and being a dealer would be enough to pilot my “wonderful new show”.  I quickly learned that much more was involved then just love.  I also realized technology got ahead of me and when it became time to build a web site, enlisting the help of the 16 year old kid next door was imperative.    

Behind the scenes, one would never believe the battles that occurred when the booking agent replaced my first show date with a wedding while I was out passing out flyers & dealer contracts.  This is when I learned that my new show life was totally at the mercy of the “Hall Sargent” and that sending flowers went a long way in securing my future dates.  I do have to add that this is a very difficult thing to do when one would rather do great bodily harm to that person instead.        

After paying for the bride’s wedding cake in trade for that first show date and the “Great Hall Battles” subsided, a new realization quickly set in called “COST”.   Hall and table rentals, delivery fees, hall set up, and catering food guarantees, and l .  Health inspection fees all come into play.  Aside from that, my biggest prayer was that the Fire Marshall would not walk in and shut me down because a 36” doll was covering a fire extinguisher.   Locking in hotel rates also requires a contract agreeing pay 80% of each room’s cost that is not booked.  Hiring security a must to help offset the high price of liability insurance.  Developing magazine ads, printing contracts, flyers, and post cards as well as thousands of stamps are just the beginning.   

I like most dealers started out as collectors and my first experience at being a Dealer was sometime in the early 80’s.  Throughout the years I met many of the dealers that did the show circuit.  Thankfully, several jumped in for my very first show.  I give them credit for having faith in me to pull it off and still wonder if those friends actually did that first show because they actually felt sorry for me.  Something did work and about 600-700 people showed up.

Would I do it all over again and would I encourage others do this?  Absolutely!  Seeing all the eager customers coming through the door and seeing all the wonderful Dealers putting their fabulous displays together is such an indescribable and rewarding experience that I would not give up for anything.             


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