Paper Camp: The 411 on Running a Successful Stationery Biz

If you do stationery, you know that the mother of all tradeshows for your people is National Stationery Show (or NSS). Getting there and doing well can feel very intimidating once you see all of the amazing booth displays (and hear how much work is entailed!). That's why seasoned stationery pro Katie Hunt created Tradeshow Bootcamp (TSBC)-- to tell other paper people what it's like to go to NSS and run a successful stationery company. Katie offers a wealth of resources through TSBC and her signature event Paper Camp. We are lucky to call her a member! Tiffany Kuo, also a member, recently returned from Paper Camp so we asked her to share her experience.

Q: Introduce yourself!
A: Hello! I'm Tiffany Kuo and I design and screenprint greeting cards, prints and gifts for my company, Shifting Status Kuo. Growing up, I've always loved stationery and getting letters in the mail. Then when I attended SAIC, I discovered and fell in love with screenprinting because the technique is so versatile. I combined my two passions and launched Shifting Status Kuo in Chicago during 2011. Then in 2013, I moved back to California in 2013 to set up my own screenprinting studio. 

Q: How did you hear about Paper Camp?
A: I admire many stationery brands who have exhibited at National Stationery Show (NSS) and always research how they've prepared for this huge undertaking. Shayna Norwood of Steel Petal Press mentioned Tradeshow Bootcamp in her blog so I made a mental note of it. Katie Hunt, the founder of TSBC, is also an Academy of Handmade member so I always take note when she shares new events and promotions for members.

Q: Why did you decide to attend?
A: Having walked NSS twice, I knew that Shifting Status Kuo really needs to exhibit there one day to meet buyers and establish relationships within the stationery industry. BUT... I had so many questions and it was all just too intimidating! A key reason why I decided to INVEST in Paper Camp is that so many paper companies that I look up to are alumni of the program. It was also crucial to me that the material is focused specifically on the stationery industry and NSS v.s. some general business workshop. 

Q: Who is it good for (and who is it not)?
A: Paper Camp is great for anyone who wants to sell stationery & related goods (greeting cards, wedding invitations, notebooks, coasters etc.) and want to learn industry standards of wholesale terms, working with reps, and what NSS entails. I wouldn't recommend it to makers & designers who only want to sell at retail price and would never consider selling wholesale. 

Q: What surprising information did you learn?
A: There are so many things but one thing that jumps out is that there are some buyers who intentionally wait around 2-3 years of seeing your booth at NSS before ordering from you. Even though they may be interested in ordering from you the first year, they want to make sure your company can stick it through the first few difficult years. 

Photo credit:   Hello Pinecone Photography -

Photo credit: Hello Pinecone Photography -

Q: What was the conference like?
A: It is two fully packed days of presentations, roundtable discussions and meals. We had eight different speakers and a combination of them would tackle specific topics that are being presented. On the second day we each had 10 minutes of 1-on-1 meeting time with two of the speakers. There were so many details like a personalized binder with notes and resources, we were sat in a "U" shape so everyone can see each other, our seats were switched up after break so we can sit near different speakers, and sometimes we were surprised with goodies! 

Q: What was the most valuable piece of information?
A: I tend to have a hard time following up with prospective buyers and stores because I feel like I'm bothering them or being an annoying sales person. My biggest takeaway is that the art of following up is to "add value" at each contact point. Never follow up "just to check in". Instead, provide them with new catalogs, new samples, promotions, more customer service etc. to add value. 

Q: Did you think it was worth the price?
A: It is definitely an investment in your business but I think it's worth the price. I felt like so much information was thrown at me that I couldn't process it fast enough to ask all my questions. Luckily, as a Paper Camp alumni, I can still ask questions and learn from other alumni through the exclusive Facebook group. {Oh, and don't forget Academy of Handmade members get a special discount!}

Q: Where can people find your stuff?
A: On my website:
On Etsy:
On Instagram: @ShiftingStatusKuo
On Facebook:
On Pinterest:

Q: Anything else?
If you can't fly out to to attend Paper Camp due to budget or scheduling constraints, also offers a variety of webinars that you can take! 

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