This year I attended Essence Fest and it was truly an event to remember! I was invited to attend Essence as a vendor and I traveled along with Shop Zuvaa the African Inspired clothing company that hosts African designers from all over the world to sell their products through Zuvaa Marketplace. I packed up my paintings and my husband and I embarked on an 8 hour drive to New Orleans to experience Essence Fest for the first time. Of course I took notes of everything I learned, things that inspired me, and market research regarding products and art. Please keep reading if your interested!
What Essence Did For My Business?
1. Worldwide Exposure
Essence is the destination for black women looking to enjoy some time with their girlfriends, eat as much cajun food as you can handle, and shop, shop, and shop some more! People traveled from everywhere to be at the event. I met women from Paris, Jamaica, Canada, and Los Angeles looking to purchase creative pieces of art and wearable art for their homes and bodies! I set up shop in the One Canal Shops at Essence Fest with Zuvaa. The Convention Center was about 2 blocks away from the popup shop I was vending at. We received plenty of traffic because we were on one of the hottest food strips in the area. The exposure I received just from being at the event was unimaginable for me as a small business owner. Social media is great but it doesn't compare to the face to face interaction you get from your clients in person. I made some amazing connections, I got to talk to other creative small business owners, and most of all I got to enjoy the event with people nationwide!
2. Client Feedback | Face to Face Contact
In addition to meeting amazing people from all over the world I received amazing feedback about my pieces. New clients got to touch the products and hear from me first hand why I created the pieces, the inspiration behind my art and style, and why I decided to create Poetically Illustrated. Now I get to do this at my local shows and this is also amazing, but getting to hear from people I wouldn't otherwise have face to face contact with is truly humbling. People who have been following my art since college, or my first post about leaving my job to pursue my passion full time got to see my products first hand. They got to hear my journey and we got to build a relationship. I was also pleased to network with other small business owners, we've planned and scheduled collaborations and events to host together later this year and next year! Essence was truly an eye opening and humbling experience for me.
3. Marketing, Promo, Staging
Everything at Essence Pops out at you! At the Convention Center where the vendors are setup there is a pool of vibrant colors, fabrics, art, hair, natural products, and more! The major sponsors like Creme of Nature, Ford, As I Am, McDonald's, etc. have huge setups and screens that grab your attention. There are tons of free giveaways, amazing food, and connections being made. I took note of things the big businesses did to draw in a crowd as well as the small businesses who were slaying there booths. I noticed that everyone was going big or going home! They brought there A game, the best products, the best assistants to help draw in the crowd, the entertainment, the live streaming, and social media posts to ensure you stayed connected with your customers. Some vendors were hosting celebrity talks, others were hosting there own giveaways, or passing out coupons and cards to those looking in and not stopping. These are all things that have inspired my booth setup for next year! I can't wait for you guys to see it!
4. Collaborations + Sponsors
Many of the sponsors of Essence Fest also sponsored creative businesses as well. Offering the products of small businesses as back drops for photoshoots, art printed on free tote bags, free product stuffed inside bags, small business shout outs and free hairstyles, and dance battles! The list goes on! Many startup companies were featured and sponsored to speak on panels about black business as well as health, prosperity, and inspiration from celebrities to keep pushing for there dreams. I took notes on what I heard and saw, I'm speaking with brands, pitching, and brainstorming on how I can contribute to their setups next year and how they can contribute to mine. This event shows you that the sky is not the limit. Anything you can think in your mind, create with your body, its possible with dedication, perseverance, and patience!
5. Boost in Sales
The last benefit I will cover is my boost in sales. Yes, I sold alot of product at the Essence Fest Popup! I cherish the connections I made more than the money because these are lifelong relationships that I am building with fellow business owners and clients who really enjoy putting my work in their homes and offices. But yes I received a boost in my website views, social media following, and my shop salels+commission work. Profiting from your passion is always a great feeling. I prayed specific prayers into the universe this year for my business and I am so thankful that they are coming to light! Essence brought me over 200 page views per day which is still holding on even a week after the event. I sold out of product just by walking the New Orleans strips holding or wearing my art. I made amazing connections with business partners which will allow me to travel and spread my work even more. I'm so grateful for the experience! I know next year when i'm actually set up in the Convention Center I will be sponsored and I will foster even more new clients and career opportunities for Poetically Illustrated.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope this inspires you to go for your dreams. Invest in yourself and believe that you can achieve anything. Thank you Essence for the chance to sell to your crowd! Until next year....