I am so sorry it's taken me so long to get back on the blogging wagon. I promise to be more consistent in the future.
So now that you’ve decided to go the rep route, now how to find one?
This is actually a very hard question as all of my reps have found me. I’ve been found through retail stores, trade shows and advertisements/press in trade magazines. In fact, I turned to my talented artist friends and it turns out that 90% were found by their reps.
“So what if I’m new and don’t do tons of trade shows and marketing?” you ask.
Well, it might be a little harder, but I really put my thinking cap on and talked to some people that have been in the biz for a while and have come up with some suggestions. There is no quick and easy formula for searching for a rep, and it will take some time. It’s kinda like planting seeds for the future. You might get some rejection at first because this business is all about timing, but who knows what the future will hold. The more you put yourself in front of people, the more people will remember you and keep you in mind. There is a fine line between being accessible and memorable and being a pest.
#1- if you do any trade shows, there is normally a board near the press room or show office. You can post for reps wanted there and also see if any reps are looking for new artists.
#2- if you have a relationship with any of your stores, ask them for referrals. What reps do they work with? Do they have any recommendations on who would be a good fit for your work? Any reps they wouldn’t recommend (this info is helpful as well).
#3- ask other artists if they have recommendations. They too might be able to tell you who they’ve used in the past that might be a good fit.
#4- try an on-line service like: http://www.greatrep.com/default.asp
I’ve never used them, but a friend has and she had great luck, not only with reps but with some stores, too. It’s a paid service, but when you read through #4, you’ll be back.
#4- hit the road. If you live in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, Dallas or Chicago you’re lucky enough to have a centralized “Market Center” full of reps. This makes things a little easier, call the building office and ask if there is a bulletin board or a newsletter that might list reps with openings or is there someplace you can post your availability? You can either go there, and take a peek at what showrooms are there or you can call the building office and ask for a list of accessories reps or look on line. Here’s a great blog which speaks to the different websites of some of the major markets: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/find_a_sales_rep_circuitously/
When I first started looking for a rep, I visited the buildings on a day when I knew they’d be closed. Many have their designers listed on their windows, so I took copious notes and went home and googled the designers. I’m sterling and gold so I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time if they only represented costume jewelry. Some do represent a range, so don’t immediately pass someone over if they have something totally different from your work.
Then, with my narrowed down list in hand, I went armed with a bag of line sheets and some samples just in case. And of course I was wearing my best pieces! J I walked in- did not peruse the jewelry on display, but went right up to the desk and introduced myself as a jewelry designer looking for representation. There’s nothing worse then not being upfront in this situation, I didn’t want them to think I was a buyer even for a minute. I asked if they had any openings for new lines, and if not could I leave a line sheet for their review for the future. If they were friendly I’d ask if they had any suggestions about other reps, or if I could keep in touch for the future. Were they interested in receiving updates about my work should a space become available? If they seemed busy and like they wanted me out of there (remember, they probably get loads of people just like you in every week) I asked for a card, thanked them for their time and hit the next one.
If you can’t visit in person, do some research on line and via the phone. This is going to be much more time consuming, but I have known people who sent out mailers to all the accessories reps in an area and got multiple appointments to view their lines.
Get a directory from the show office and ask if they have it separated by types of reps (accessories, clothing, etc..). Figure out who your targets are- you might have to call first to see if they are accessories reps, and if they’d be a good match- ie: if you are a costume jewelry designer, someone who reps 18k might not be a good fit. But ask if they are interested in receiving information about your work.
Put together a nice easy presentation that you can send via mail and do a mailing. Get some postcards printed with your best designs to show them. Write a nice letter, stating your intent: to gain representation in the Dallas area, and a little about your line: Romantic jewelry with an edge… etc… keep it short and simple. Then follow up with a phone call a few days after they receive it. Did they receive it, do they have any openings, if not, do they think it’s a good fit for the future if something opens up? Would they like to see occasional updates on your work?
If there’s no room at the Inn for you right now, keep in touch. Every few months send an update, some pics of new work. In your letter, offer to send samples or make an appointment (if you’re local or willing to fly) if they are interested. Be polite and upbeat and to the point.
Do not approach reps at a trade show when they are in their booth (or during market week in their showroom). They are there to work and to sell to their customers. Also, they are very protective of their artists and do not want other artists checking out their work. I learned this the hard way, I was escorted out of the booth! You can ask politely for a card when they are not busy- perhaps in the evening when the show is closed and then contact them when the show is over.
Don’t walk into a showroom and open a sample roll of your work. It’s presumptuous and disrespectful of their time and space.
I hope this helps all of you looking for a rep. Feel free to leave comments or questions below.
Check out #3: your to-do list once you’ve narrowed your search. I'll post this over the weekend.