Where to begin
This industry has a few different trade shows each year, the biggest one being the AP expo - or Awards and Personalzation Expo. It's been held in Las Vegas for several years now and people in the personalization and customization industry flock to Vegas for a week long experience of not only seeing new products for us to offer customers, but for us as industry professionals to learn new skills. This is my first year at this particular show and let me tell you it's almost overwhelming for a person who has a shop in a small town. One of the classes I took went over some marketing strategies, one of which was blogging. I'm always looking for ways to get people to see me and the products I offer so I figured why not? If nothing else, I can get some thoughts out that I would otherwise not know what to do with and they would end up keeping me awake at night. This particular show, and in fact this class, took place right at exactly 3 years after Jessie died. For those of you who have shopped with us, or who even live in our town, know who Jessie was. For those of you who don't, Jessie - Jessica, was my 17 year old daughter. On February 7, 2020 she died in a tragic car accident. She's the inspiration behind our business. If you shop with us, you will see her picture hanging behind the counter as you step to the register. It took all of this mama's willpower not to break down and cry all day. If you saw me a few times today, you may have caught a tear or two but overall I think I kept things to myself. Afterall, none of these people here know me from Adam.
Another class I took today was one on engraving photographs onto different surfaces. This process is harder than it looks and sounds so naturally I wanted to turn to the experts on this. I'm more of a doer - you can preach to me all day on how something is done but if I'm not following along with you in my own program I'm not going to grasp the concept. During the last part of the class the instructor asked if anyone brought a photo with them that they wanted him to try and manipulate so it can be engraved. No one raised their hand so I spoke up. Now Jessie's picture was being viewed by an entire room of people all doing the same thing I was - trying to get better at their craft. As I sat there and watched him do his magic with the picture I started to cry a little. My baby girl was helping people learn after all this time.
Fast forward to dinner. The expo people reserved some tables at some different restaurants for networking but you had to sign up. Bawd on the choices I decided to sign up for a restaurant called Flight. It's where both alcoholic beverages and meals were served "flight style" so you could sample different ways of the meals and drinks were prepared. It was also an opportunity to talk to others who are in the same business as you from different parts of the country. None of the people I talked to were in the photo engraving class and I don't know why but I mentioned in conversation that today was the day my daughter died 3 years ago. I heard myself say it and instantly thought to myself oh crap, probably none of these people care about the fact that this is my daughter's anniversary of her death. I mean what do you say about that? Way to bring the mood down. This group of people couldn't have been kinder. That part of the conversation didn't last long and they made me feel welcome even though they just met me like 5 minutes ago. We all had some wonderful discussions from personal lives to what we are able to do professionally - and the showroom hadn't even opened yet. I ended up loosing track of them when we got back to the hotel after dinner but with the time difference this East Coast person needed to go to bed. Tomorrow is yet another day of classes and the expo show floor opens which for me it's like giving me the keys to the candy store. To think, this was all day 1 of the expo. I'm looking forward to the rest of this week and hopefully I can catch up with the new friends I made tonight.