Welcome to the world of mobile embroidery. In this type of operation, you take a machine (or machines) to specialty events, trade shows, craft shows, etc. and produce custom embroidered items on the spot. With the right event and product line, you will have the opportunity to bring in some excellent profits and gain valuable exposure for your business at the same time. But just like any other business decision, you need to do the necessary research and preparation before jumping in with both feet. So, let’s take a look at what mobile embroidery is all about.
Starting a mobile operation is much like starting a new business It takes research, planning and some investment. Though having a commercial machine onsite is a must, it will take more than that to be successful.
When you step back and take a hard look at mobile, you will see that you are creating a retail operation. Thus, retail principles need to apply. Merchandising, displays, quick turn-around, effective pricing, adequate inventory, are just some of the areas that must be addressed.
Also realize that you are working away from all the comforts and conveniences of your shop. You can’t take it all with you, but if you forget an important item your business may suffer. Thus it makes sense to limit what you will do onsite at an event, and then build your mobile shop around this.
The Elements of Mobile Embroidery
Element #1 - Event Identification and Selection
Element #2 - Market Research and Analysis
Element #3 - Inventory Selection and Management
Element #4 - A Simple Pricing System
Element #5 - Payment Policies and Procedures
lement #6 - Sales Tax
Element #7 - Displays, Fixtures and Layouts
Eement #8 - Transportation
Element #9 - Insurance
Element #10 - Setup and Breakdown Process
Element #11 - Onsite Operation
Element #12 - Electrical Needs
Element #13 - Generator Basics
Element #14 - Sales Follow-up Methodology
Element #1: Event Identification and Selection
The first step in preparing to go mobile is to select the proper event. This may take more effort than you realize. Start by examining your own business. Do you have any niche markets or specialty items? If so, look for events that relate to those subjects. And, if it’s a specialized event, make sure that you have knowledge of the subject matter. It’s important to be able to "talk the talk" and "walk the walk". For example, if you do a lot of work for the equestrian market, you might want to consider horse shows. But make sure that you understand the "language" and know the differences between horse species. There are no generic horses! In addition, you must have plenty of pertinent designs available, the more unique, the better. If your horse designs aren’t biologically correct, they may not sell.
Some events to consider are: boat shows, dog shows, car shows, fire colleges, air shows, soccer tournaments, craft shows, and so on. The list is almost endless, so be creative.
Rule #1: Attendees should be serious buyers who share a common bond. The key is to find events where all the people are drawn together by some common bond that is the premise for the event.
Rule #2: There has to be an opportunity for custom products and personalization. The event needs to give the attendees a reason or need to "make a statement."
Rule #3: You should be familiar with and focused on the subject matter of the event. Niche Markets and Mobile go hand-in-hand.
Types of Events
There are a wide variety of events that are suitable for mobile embroidery. However, different events have different characteristics, which may require modifying your setup in order to be successful. Typically any given event will fall under one of the following categories:
• Consumer trade shows
• Dealer trade shows
• Enthusiasts shows
• Festivals & craft shows
• Conventions, meetings, seminars
Tips for Event Selection Criteria
When considering an event, ask a lot of questions before committing to it. Here are some basic criteria on which you can judge an event:
• There should be other vendors "selling" products
• Paid admission means serious attendees
• A professional location and facilities
• Compact is better than spread out
• Professional show management
• Vendors should be "juried"
Element #2: Market Research
Knowing your market (target audience) is perhaps the single most important aspect of mobile embroidery. A Mobile operation is a short-term, temporary setup that can have many faces. You will be able to tailor your look, inventory and prices to each specific event that you attend. But if you don’t know your customer, then you probably won’t be successful in fulfilling their needs.
If you plan to "wing-it" with a machine and an odd assortment of garments and designs, then you will be in for a rude awakening.
The real beauty of Mobile Embroidery is the ability to charge "top-dollar" for your products and services. However, customers will pay it only if they can:
Get what they want, the way they want it, when they want it.
But if you don’t have a clue as to what they want, as well as what they will pay, then you can’t meet their needs, thus sales will suffer.
Sources of Information
So how do you obtain this type of information? Unfortunately experience will be the best method, but you can do some preliminary research. First of all, visit the chosen event as a spectator, not a vendor. Walk around, look and listen. What are people buying, what are they saying? Eavesdropping isn’t considered to be polite, but it may yield some wonderful data. People tend to voice their likes and dislikes in large crowded places where they aren’t overly concerned about being heard. Second, look at what people are wearing. Do they tend to be clothed in high-end merchandise, or cheap T-shirts? This may offer a clue as to their spending habits. Third, are they spending money or just looking? Here are a few ways to obtain attendee data:
• Ask the Show Promoter for Attendee Market Research and Demographics.
• Review Magazines and Websites that cater to this particular market.
• Visit the Target Show before signing up to be a vendor.
• Visit similar shows that cater to the same market.
• Talk to a member of the Market.