On the road with UNFI: how a little renegade company like Outlaw Soaps ends up in grocery stores
Posted on May 31 2017
Last week, Ruth and I went down to Long Beach to participate in a trade event.
You may or may not have noticed this about us, but Outlaw Soaps isn't really a conventional brand. We haven't traditionally gone to the dog and pony shows that other, bigger companies go to. It just kind of isn't our scene, and before now, I haven't really thought of us as slick enough to really fit in. Most of these people have pre-printed signs, with fancy packaging, and actual sales people -- heck, some of them even have brokers.
It's pretty intimidating, to be honest.
But we've been working with Whole Foods for more than a year, and they work with UNFI, which is the largest natural food distributor in the US. When Whole Foods announced they'd only be working with UNFI instead of working with a bunch of independent suppliers (for efficiency reasons), we decided to see if UNFI would take on our little brand.
As it turns out, they were just launching a division to handle companies like ours! What luck!
So when they invited us to be in their Tabletop show in Long Beach, of course we accepted! It seemed like if there was any industry event to attend, this probably was a good starting point.
Well, we signed up for it.
I asked our amazing designer to work on some cards and brochures specifically for the event, but we weren't really sure what to expect:
Our contact at UNFI did advise me to bring someone along. Russ isn't a huge fan of standing for hours upon hours, and Ruth has wanted to go do shows since the beginning of time, so we naturally decided Ruth should join me.
About a week before the show, our contact at UNFI had a call for all the new people coming to the show (of which there are many). She talked about what we could expect and what size table we would have. We expected 4' wide, which would be an 8' table shared with a neighbor. It wasn't a lot of space, but that made it kind of less intimidating.
I was able to start envisioning our booth, and it was going to be more work than I expected... Russ got to work putting stuff together, but I was totally dissatisfied with our banners and signs, so insisted on redoing the whole thing.
UGH - just look at that... the banner, which looked great when it was horizontal and wide in our Renegade Craft Fair Booth, now just looks pitiful stretched across 4'.
So rather than just declaring it "good enough," I rallied myself and redid the sign and mural:
I knew most of the other companies were going to have a super slick display, but we didn't have time or money to order one of those (nor did it really feel like "us"), so it only seemed natural to have a more primitive display. Here it is set up at the show:
Tomorrow, I'll write about how the show went, because really, this was just the pre-starting line stuff.
It was pretty crazy...