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Life and Work with Katie Hunt

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Hunt.

Katie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After exhibiting at the National Stationery Show in 2009 for my stationery line Kelp Designs, I wrote a blog post where I outlined tough lessons I learned as a first-time exhibitor. The post sparked a number of comments and emails from fellow stationers who were considering exhibiting at a trade show but didn’t know where to begin. As the emails came in, I kept seeing the same types of questions over and over — how much product should I bring? Where can I get this product printed? How much does a show really cost? How do I get everything to the show?

I realized there was a need in our creative community for business education. I was strong on the business side, whereas my colleagues were talented artists and designers (I was self-taught). I knew that if we shared our collective knowledge and resources, we would all grow our businesses faster. And, soon thereafter, Tradeshow Bootcamp (http://tradeshowcamp.com) was born.

Launched in the Spring of 2011, Tradeshow Bootcamp programs focus on educating independent designers and product-based business owners who are interested in growing their product line, selling to the wholesale market and exhibiting at wholesale shows. What started with four teleconference calls has grown into a multi-faceted education business offering in-person conferences, online courses, coaching programs, and our podcast, Proof to Product (http://prooftoproduct.com).

Had you asked me in 2011 what I’d be doing today, I probably would have told you that I’d be running Kelp Designs full time. But looking back, being a business strategist and mentor for creative entrepreneurs is the perfect fit for my skills, expertise, education, and passion for helping others. Aside from running my stationery business for eight years, I also have a earned a dual MBA in marketing & finance and spent over a decade in the corporate world with marketing and business development.

Over the last seven years, we’ve helped more than 800 brands strengthen their product lines and get their products on the shelves of retail stores like Target, Anthropologie, Container Store, and independent boutiques internationally.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Entrepreneurship is far from easy, but I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Speed bumps and all. For women looking to break into the product world or entrepreneurship, I’d offer the following advice:

– Focus on creating a strong product line with a unique point of view before everything else. Most entrepreneurs want to start with branding, building a new website or marketing themselves on social media — the fun stuff of starting a business! But, if you don’t have a strong product to sell, there is no sense in spending time, money and effort on marketing plans and business operations. Focus on your product first.

– As you’re creating and brainstorming your products, think of your end user, the person who will be wearing, eating, wearing, using what you’re making. What problems are you solving? What needs are you filling and how are you going to positively impact your customers lives with what you’re creating? Think of the benefits, features, and ways in which your customers will use and engage with your products.

– Slow, steady growth is how strong businesses are built. Companies that look like overnight successes on Instagram have likely been working at it for years behind the scenes. Be patient, be intentional with your decisions and be open to opportunities.

– Stop comparing yourself to other entrepreneurs. I know this is not new advice, but it bears repeating. Please please please don’t compare your brand, your products, your processes, your social influence, or your success to those who have been in business five or ten years more than you. You are on your own journey, on your own schedule and reaching for your own stars. If you spend too much time watching what everyone else is doing, it will detract you from your own progress.

– You get to set the rules for your business. You get to decide what products or services to offer, how you spend your time, which social media platforms you’re on, and which projects you say yes to. YOU DECIDE. And, that is an amazing and empowering thing.

Please tell us about Tradeshow Bootcamp.
At Tradeshow Bootcamp, we aim to provide our students with three essential tools: community, collaboration, and education.

Our primary focus is on providing the necessary knowledge, tools, and mentors for product-based business owners to prepare them for the wholesale market. But it doesn’t stop there – we support our alumni throughout all phases of growth from building a rock solid business foundation to streamlining and scaling their operations.

The benefits of our community, the resources we share and the education we provide continue long after our programs end; and I think that is something that really sets us apart from other online communities and education platforms for business owners. We’re a collaborative family of creative entrepreneurs, many whom are women.

I’m very proud of the community we’ve created and am honored that hundreds of brands have allowed us to play a small part in their success. We may have provided them with tools, resources, and support – but they did the hard work and I’m so proud of what they are each building.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
My team and I use Asana to manage all of the projects we’re currently working on for Tradeshow Bootcamp and the Proof to Product podcast.

There’s also a lot of podcasts out there that share amazing free information that’s great for any entrepreneurs and business owners.

A few of my favorites are Productivity Paradox by Tonya Dalton (great for actionable strategies to help you create a life centered on your own priorities), Creative Biz Rebellion (another excellent podcast for product-based business owners) and even my own, Proof to Product. I’ve learned so much from the interviews I do and the feedback I’ve received from both product-based and service-based businesses has been overwhelmingly positive.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Hello Pinecone Photography, Jamie Larson Photography

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