Travel, Trade Shows and Teachable Moments at the Mid-Atlantic Home and Flower Show.

11/23/09 Daily Flower

The Daily Flower

I have wrapped up the first ever convention appearance of The Photo Garden Bee.  This past weekend, while my own town is blanketed in 30 inches of snow, I escaped to the slightly more hospitable Virginia Beach area to attend the Mid-Atlantic Home and Flower Show.   I’m now back at the hotel and piecing together what I’ve learned as photos from the weekend download into my mac.

The bee arrives © Britt Conley

The Bee arrives © Britt Conley

Lesson One:  Just because the event has the words Home and Flower in the title doesn’t mean people are there to buy pictures of flowers for their home.

Signing each print © Britt Conley

Signing each print © Britt Conley

I came to the show with high hopes and almost 300 personally signed, printed and matted photographic prints.  Printing and painstakingly assembling these took more than a week. They filled eight boxes.  I knew something was amiss when after the first 10:00am – 9:00pm, 11-hour show day, I had sold precisly zero prints.  As my husband sometimes says, this “raised a red flag.”   This is probably the first time in my life that I have been truly underwhelmed.  I mean literally, I was knocked over by how unsuccessful this was.

The Photo Display © Britt Conley

The Photo Display © Britt Conley

What I didn’t know before arriving at the convention was that I would be surrounded by every manner of info-mercial merchandise from the Swiss Star Peeler and Sham-wow to “space age” mops and garden hoses.  And what wasn’t info-mercial related included everything from landscaping equipment, gutter systems, hot tubs, satellite dishes, and even actual full size, below-ground swimming pools upended on their sides for full viewing.  And, of course, almost 300 personally signed, printed and matted photographic prints of flowers.

Britt talking about the photographs © Steve Conley

Britt talking about the photographs with two wonderful women who loved the photographs. They helped make the show great. © Steve Conley

Lesson Two:  Not all successes are measured in sales.  Thank God!

One of the first people to offer some advice was Jim from Virginia Gardener Magazine.  He is great.  We talked repeatedly over the weekend and he gave me tons of suggestions on steps I should take to help sell my prints.  I can’t thank him enough.  I also met Peter, an incredibly talented craftsman who was set up across from me who’s done this for years.  Like Jim, he was a wealth of information.  I particularly appreciated his laid back approach to selling and letting his work speak for itself.  He clearly has an incredible attention to detail and love of what he does. (I’ll be adding links to Jim and Peter’s websites when I get back).  In addition to Jim and Peter, I met many of other vendors who had such great stories and products and advice to share.

Also, I want to give an extra special thanks to the one person who bought two of my prints today.  I never thought I would be so happy to have sold two, but boy this still makes me smile.  I was so besides myself I probably looked like I had just won the lottery!

I also met dozens of new people who stopped by the table and picked up a card and signed up for The Photo Garden Bee mailing list.  We talked about gardening, the snow storm, and of course, photography.  Footballs fans may have been all about the Super Bowl this weekend, but we photographers know the big rivalry will always be Canon vs. Nikon and it was still alive and well at the convention this weekend.

And then there is Pearl Fryar.  When I first ran across Pearl Fryar’s story on the web I was instantly a fan!  Pearl Fryar is a topiary sculptor who took his humble yard and turned it into an international gardening destination with nothing but sweat and sheers.  I have been wanting to meet this man and feature his garden on The Bee for months.  Following the first half day of complete un-success, I was taking a break from the non-action and feeling a little sorry for myself on the way to locating a comforting cup of tea.  On my way, I saw a large gathering of people who were listening to some guy give a demonstration.  It took just a second for me to realize this wasn’t some guy!  This was a man named Pearl!  One of my true inspirations while I have been on this Bee journey.  It was a total thrill to watch him sculpt and hear his story and shake his hand.  That was one of the great highlights of my entire Bee experience.  He reminded me that this weekend is but a small bump in the road ahead.

Pearl Fryar © Britt Conley

Pearl Fryar © Britt Conley

Lesson Three:  Pearl Fryer is right!

After selling zero prints on day one and zero prints on day two, I broke out Pearl Fryers magnificent quote, “There’s always gonna be obstacles.  The thing is, you don’t let those obstacles determine where you go.”  Overall, I may have failed at selling my photographs at this show show but It’s my dream and I am undeterred.

Lesson Four: The Swiss make fantastic Peelers!

I have been brain-washed.  For three days I listened to the same, 15-minute,  word-for-word, sales pitch, over and over again, booming from a small speaker system five feet away.  The Photo Garden Bee booth was set up next to Larry the salesman for the Swiss Star Peeler.  You know it slices, it dices and it will change your life!  Trust me and aunt Minnie!

Lesson five: I am not a sales person.

To their credit, these people are great at selling.  Nobody woke up that morning expecting to pay admission price to an event where they would pay $30 for a potato peeler.  Larry made peeling potatoes look like it would be fun.  I can’t tell if that’s evil or great.  I just know it’s not for me.  The events I need to go to in the future are places where the art work sells itself.  I really hope those people get $30 worth of joy from peeling potatoes.

Britt at the show © Steve Conley

Britt at the show © Steve Conley

Lesson Six: My next show will be better.
As far as sales go, that shouldn’t be too hard : )

Packing up and leaving the show © Steve Conley

Packing up and leaving the show © Steve Conley

Thanks for the great people at the Mid-Atlantic Home and Flower Show.  The flowers on display were amazing.  The entire exhibitor experience was great.  I was fortunate to have this as my first show.  It wasn’t the show, it simply was that people weren’t prepared for photographs.

I would also like to give a very special thank you to my husband Steve.  He spent eleven hours each day making me laugh in the booth when things were bleak.  He has been incredibly supportive and frankly he made this a great weekend to remember.

Britt and Steve Conley © Steve Conley

Britt and Steve Conley © Steve Conley

So what does this mean and where do I go from here?  Well I honestly don’t know.  LOL.    I’ve heard, “if at first, you don’t succeed… try, try, again.”  I intend on living on this motto until it works.  I’ll be heading back home and researching Art Fairs next.  But first a stop at Norfolk Botanical Garden… we’re right here!

‘Til Tomorrow,


Related posts:

  1. Some Garden Shopping Buzz from The Mid-Atlantic Home and Garden Show!
  2. It’s Flower, Garden and Home Show Season around the U.S. Part I.
  3. Celebrate a Symphony of Spring at this weekend’s Maryland Home & Garden Show!
  4. The Washington Home and Garden Show 2010!
  5. It’s Flower, Garden and Home Show Season around the U.S. Part II.




  1. Rick Brown

    Your photos are beautiful. I had similar experiences with the zombie public at these type shows in Florida. We would make beautiful gardens and they would walk by without a glance yet the ginzu knife type guys would pack them in. So I got some of the battery operated butterflies and put them dancing above the flowers and suddenly we had every bodies attention from that point on.

  2. Melissa

    Britt, don't be discouraged. You would have much better luck at a crafts fair or somewhere people go EXPECTING to find beautiful garden-related photography. My camera club has about two exhibits a year at relatively well-known venues, with framed prints selling at incredibly reasonable prices, and seldom do more than one or two of our very talented and hardworking members sell a print. Go figure. But congrats on your sale and hoorah for your hubby. PLUS you missed out on Snowmaggedon. Hurry home for Act Two . . .

  3. Jim Groble

    Your photos are wonderful. jim

  4. Sue

    I was very disappointed by the Home and Garden show, but your card was one of two things that I came home with that I enjoyed. At least you gained a new fan!

  5. Britt

    Thanks Sue! Your email is one of things that has made the show worth it for me. Thank you! : )


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>