Indie Beauty Expo: Survival Guide

Indie Beauty Expo: Survival Guide | Three Ships

Hey everyone, it’s Connie!

I’m writing this post on the flight home from Indie Beauty Expo LA, and can’t believe it was my THIRD show! Meeting buyers, press, influencers, and industry professionals was amazing, but the highlight of the trip was chatting with fellow vendors. I was shocked and touched to have 8 founders approach me, saying they’d been convinced to attend after reading a blog post on my experience at IBE. Throughout these discussions, I realized that I’ve had the chance to pick up many more learnings since our first show, and thought I’d share them here. If I’m able to help even one person, that’s success for me! 😊 (If you haven’t already read it, I recommend checking out our first post here).

indie beauty expo

Things to Bring (that weren’t mentioned in the first post) 

  • Band-Aids – keep them handy if you or a booth neighbour has uncomfortable shoes.
  • Hand sanitizer - you’ll be shaking a lot of hands!
  • Lip balm – to soothe your lips after all the conversing.
  • Scissors – probably the most-borrowed item among booths (for opening sealed boxes/booth materials)
  • Packing tape – to re-seal boxes at the end of the show
  • Pens + notebook + scotch tape – more on this later
  • Kleenex or wet wipes – to remove product from attendees’ hands after demos
  • Change of shoes – for those of you brave enough to wear heels, definitely bring a pair of flats or sneakers for the end of day.
  • Snacks – protein bars or your nutritious snack of choice to tide you over between meals.
  • Sweater – temperature in the venue can fluctuate, so it’s best to bring a cardigan in case you get cold.

indie beauty expo

Tips for an effective show

  • Bring a notebook to collect business cards – I saw someone do this at Indie Beauty Expo in New York and thought it was genius! Just keep a notebook, pen, and scotch tape handy. When you receive a business card, immediately tape it in your notebook for safe keeping. You can then write notes about your interaction (e.g. what samples they requested, things you discussed) without forgetting any pertinent information. Once you have time post-show, transfer the contact info and notes to Excel, and delegate follow-ups with your team.
  • Book early – you are allocated a spot in the order of when you signed up, so it’s best to sign up early if you’re set on vending.
  • Walk the show floor – it’s tempting to want to stay in your comfort zone at your booth, but we’ve found it super beneficial to walk the entire show floor multiple times. Not only do you get inspired by other brands, but you’re able to make connections for co-promotions and giveaways. We also take this opportunity to find inspiring female founders for our #HerHustle interview series.
  • Don’t bring too many products – save money and space by bringing a focused assortment. We brought 5 of each top-seller, and 1 of every SKU. We told retailers who were interested in samples at the show that they could receive them on Day 2, so we could keep our display intact. The majority of buyers were more than happy to have samples shipped to their offices post-show. This saves you on expensive shipping and storage costs pre-show, and gives you a great reason to follow up with buyers!
  • Refine your pitch – get it down to 20-30 seconds, then have extra talking points to discuss if the buyer gives you more time.
  • Be kind – buyers, press, influencers, vendors and industry professionals are all distinguished based on the colour of their lanyard. I was surprised by how many vendors were quick to disregard people who weren’t wearing the blue buyer lanyard, or eagerly only staring at the name badges of large retailers. The show is tiring, but smiling and being respectful to everyone goes a long way.
  • Plan your meal times – try to buy meals during off-peak times. Lines can get really long during the lunch rush, especially if there are limited options in the venue.
  • Book accommodation near the venue – you’ll save on transport to/from the venue, and you’ll thank yourself for finding an Airbnb so close after full days of being on your feet!
  • Email existing buyers – find the attendee list in advance of the show, and let your existing contacts know you’ll be there! I’ve found that my buyers always appreciate this gesture, and make the time to come by our booth.

I hope you found this Indie Beauty Expo summary useful! As always, feel free to reach out in the comments below, or DM us on Instagram.

Until next time!

Connie, Three Ships Co-Founder


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