Bernadette Casey is creative director of The Formary, a Wellington-based firm that develops sustainable textiles and is currently exhibiting as part of the World Exposition 2015 in Milan
How did the opportunity arise for you to be part of the World Expo?
The theme of the expo is ‘feeding the planet/energy for life’. Our Mibu yarn was selected by France for their exhibition called ‘Textifood: where food and textiles intersect’, which focuses on textiles made from bi-products of food production. It’s a huge honour for our work to be recognised and to be invited by another country to be part of their exhibition.
What opportunities has the experience brought about so far for your business?
The world’s population is predicted to grow by another 2 billion people in the next 40 years, and food production will need to expand rapidly to meet that population demand. In turn, that’s going to result in an increased volume of the fibre waste that’s generated in food production. So solutions need to be developed to deal with this increasing waste stream. It’s anticipated 20 million people will attend the expo, so we hope this exhibition will encourage others to explore resource-efficient projects within their own industries.
For us, this exhibition is great for building our brand exposure not just in Europe but also further afield because the expo attracts visitors from all over the world. Once this show is over the exhibition will be packed up and taken to France where it’ll be on display until the end of the year.
More generally, what role do trade shows and exhibitions play in growing and developing your business?
We don’t usually exhibit at trade fairs; that’s the role of our distributors, who are more market facing than we are. We research and develop new products, trademark and patent those new products then partner with distributors to tap into their customer bases and distribution networks.
However, we do attend as many trade shows as possible to support our distributors because it gives us the opportunity to understand and meet their customers and get a good understanding of market demand and possible opportunities.
What strategies do you have when you go to these kinds of events that you’ve found produce good results for your business?
I think the ground work you do before a trade show is crucial. For high profile events we leverage the opportunity to build our brand awareness through a combination of PR, social media campaigns and invitations to attend the event.
Connecting with people before the event is important. Trade shows and exhibitions are great meeting points, especially when your customers or potential partners are located in different cities and countries. Inviting people who are important to your business to attend, and meeting with as many people as possible during the event I think is key.
What advice do you have for others wanting to get the most out of trade shows or other kinds of exhibitions?
It’s important to attend shows to understand what’s happening within your industry, how the market is responding to your products, and to keep an eye on what competitors are up to. Plus they’re always great networking events.
My take is that it’s all in the planning, so my advice is don’t underestimate the value of good set design for your exhibition space. Trade fairs are highly competitive places and you need something special to stand out from the masses and draw people to your exhibit. And support all your good efforts on the stand with interesting and engaging social media coverage.