Artist Alley Review: CatConLA 2015

June 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm 7 comments

(Going a bit out of order here, will post reviews of Anime Boston and Fanime after this one as I got a little behind)

This past weekend, I sold at the very first CatCon LA. This was billed as ‘Comic-Con for cat lovers’. It was such an amazing weekend and exceeded my expectations by far.

Earlier this year, I was emailed by a representative of CatCon asking if I wanted to sell at their new event. Usually, I don’t fly to brand new conventions due to cost, but my curiosity was piqued and I figured at least if sales were low, I could see all the cool cat stuff and live kitties. I’m a total cat person, despite the fact that my allergies don’t allow me to have one of my own. So, I went ahead and signed up for their Artist Village which was their equivalent of the anime con artist alley.

This event was held in a building called The Reef which is used for trade shows and art displays. It’s a multistory building, but CatCon was contained on one floor. Instead of tables in a cavernous convention center hall, we all had booths of a sort with semi-permanent dividers that we could decorate as needed. Vendors in the regular dealers area had three full walls which created a pop up shop feel. For the Artist Village, we had one full wall on the back and then two smaller walls that extended on the sides out for about half our space and a table in the front provided by the con. It created a more upscale feel and even the Artist Village tables which were cheaper and ran $300 were able to present themselves like little shop stalls.

Kimchi Kawaii's table in the CatCon Artist Village.

My rather simplified table at CatCon. Since it was a first time con, I kind of scaled back.

Even though I’ve done a few dealer’s hall booths now at anime cons, I’ve never done a set up like this with walls. Conventions generally use pipe and drape and you often don’t know if you’re going to have full height drape on your sides or not since it’s based on your neighbors if you don’t request it. CatCon sent a link for people to see what other Reef events looked like to give us an idea of decorating spaces, but it didn’t show Artist Village spaces. Also, as I was flying to what was a brand new con, I didn’t feel like investing a ton in displays and shipping of display items. I tend to go the cautious route for new things.

So when I got there and saw how others had hung up banners and artwork on the walls, I felt a bit underprepared. Honestly, I was expressing worry that I would be competing with all these professional artists and looking like amateur hour at my table with my grid cubes. My friends and family all rolled their eyes. They’re used to me underrating myself, lol.

The Artist Village was two rows of vendors back to back with the full wall separating us and at the far left of the event space. When I got there, I found out that my table was third from the back of the farthest back corner of the space and on the side not facing the main dealers area.

In artist alleys, placement can really make or break your sales. If you’re further back, you run the chance that customers will have already spent their money on booths in front of you. Or just be too tired to really work all the way to the back of the alley. So this kind of worried me as well.

Since I’ve been sewing plush like mad and balancing my full time job with my business, I brain farted and nearly forgot to book my flight to CatCon. I think I booked about 2-3 weeks before the event which meant my travel costs were higher than usual. Also, the event required all vendors to have a massive insurance policy. I already have insurance for my business, but what they wanted was way beyond what my plan carries. Since this was a once a year event and I wasn’t sure how it would go, I didn’t feel like raising my premium for 11 months for this one event. CatCon offered a special event insurance just for the weekend which I signed up for instead, but that was another cost ($75). I totaled up that with booth fee, insurance and travel, I would need to sell $700 in stuff to break even. At least I had a place to stay for free with a friend!

All too often in the anime con world, a new convention pops up and reps woo potential artists with promises of huge attendance numbers and a bunch of press coverage. And all to often, reality doesn’t match up and many vendors leave in the red from a lackluster event. Every new venture is going to have kinks to work out and the hurdle of getting out there in the public view. CatCon estimated about 6k for the weekend and said they were going to have a ton of press. Since I’m not new to the artist alley scene, I must admit I took this with a bit of skepticism. Like I said, I flew down with the feeling of ‘I just want to break even’ and ‘This could be the first con for me where I end in the red’.

Boy was I wrong!

They definitely did their homework in promoting their event. Saturday (one suggestion to organizers – put Caturday on the wrist

Vendors area at CatCon.

Vendors area at CatCon.

bands instead of Saturday!) before the con opened at 9am had a line snaking around the block of eager cat lovers. I think I heard that Saturday attendance was 6k alone. I know the whole weekend pulled in 10k. The morning started off a bit slow, but one of the first customers I had said it was cause there where about 700 people outside working their way through the line to get in.

I think it was around 10 or so that things picked up and never stopped. I’ve seriously never seen anything like it before. Cons will ebb and flow as people filter off to events, but I had steady traffic and sales for a solid 7 hours. As my neighbor said, “I didn’t see you sit down all day”! My fears that my booth was too Plain Jane were totally unfounded.

I used CatCon to promote my new series called the Kitté Café which features cats combined with coffee culture. One of my most popular designs is the Catpuccino which is being made into a plush as I write. Other designs include a sleeping Russian Blue called DeCat Coffee, Biskitti, Kittea, Catcake and Danish Pawstry (a cheese danish kitty laying on it’s back). I took the prototype of Catpuccino which is a 12″ plush and had pre-orders at the con.

The Catpuccino 12" plush.

The Catpuccino 12″ plush.

A bit of a down note was the fact that the factory making them is now three months overdue in what they promised so I didn’t have the actual plush to sell at this event which was a huge missed opportunity. I did get some pre-orders, but they are always an uphill battle due to the lack of instant gratification. I’ve decided to discontinue doing any future plush with them.

As the Kitté Café is a new series that I’m looking to launch in 2016, I only had those designs on a few items. I had asked the organizers if it was ok to bring other, non-feline related items as well and they said yes. Kitté Café was the main focus, but I also had some of my other plush and punny items on hand as well. Ironically, Vice did a feature on CatCon and featured my Steamed Buns instead of the coffee kitties, lol!

Both cat items and non-cat items sold very well. By the end of the day, my bins that contain pins, magnets and keychains were over half empty. I had sold out of many of the Kitté Café prints. I carry my jump drive with me that holds my prints files so that night, I went with my friend to Office Max to get more done for Sunday. I heard many vendors had equally strong sales and some even sold out completely on the first day.

The Wrap Up

CatCon LA was an amazing experience. It was well organized and I loved the theming that they did throughout the event with decals on elevator doors and even decor in the bathrooms. Everyone was so friendly and the attendees seemed to be having just as much fun as I was. Though there was definitely some crossover with the anime con crowds (I talked to a lot of people who will also be doing Anime Expo in a few weeks), there was also an older age group that I generally don’t see at anime cons who equally loved my stuff.

My sales for the first day came in second to Anime Boston first day sales and I actually beat my Anime Expo 2014 sales by $200. Both those facts are huge to me. Anime Boston has become the benchmark that I rate other cons against as sales there have always been incredible. Anime Expo brings in about 50k more attendees than CatCon and also runs 2 more days as well. To have my sales at this brand new con beat an established event that is the largest of it’s kind in North America is pretty mind blowing.

I’ll definitely be trying for a spot at their 2016 show (and they have confirmed that they will be back). I’m debating between doing the Artist Village again or trying for a full booth in the dealers area. Hopefully, I’ll have more of the Kitté Café plush by that time if they keep the date the same. I’ve already caught myself daydreaming about how I would theme the booth.

I can’t wait for next year!

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. flower  |  June 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Really awesome meeting you! Loved your booth. I’ll be sharing your store on my business page and will also share on my blog that I get to start working on. Love your excitement.

    Reply
  • 2. Marc-André  |  June 9, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I love your designs!!! May need to feature them on my blog 🙂

    Reply
    • 3. kimchikawaii  |  August 1, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Hi Marc, thank you for stopping by 🙂

      Reply
      • 4. Marc-André  |  August 1, 2015 at 5:52 pm

        You are most welcome :). Let me know if you’d like work together on a feature of your products. ^^

  • 5. kimchikawaii  |  August 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Go ahead and send me an email at info(at)kimchikawaii.com 🙂

    Reply
  • 6. Jennifer Boaro  |  April 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    This post was really helpful, and I appreciate that you took the time to share your experience. I hope to meet you at CatConLA in 2016.

    Reply
    • 7. kimchikawaii  |  April 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      I’ll definitely be back! I had such a great time. Just waiting on the vendor package to finalize stuff.

      Reply

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