It was exciting to share my journey as a speaker at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Conference yesterday.
It was just five short years ago when I was sitting in the audience, attending the same conference for the first time. I was the one sitting at the table scribbling notes and asking the speakers questions to help me in my quest to be a successful entrepreneur.
Fast-forward five years, and I’m the one at the podium offering advice to those who are in the beginning stages of their journey. It feels great to give back. People have helped me along my journey—and still continue to help me—so I feel compelled to give back and pay it forward.
A great question from the audience yesterday was, “How did you get your first clients?”
I started by attending trade shows. The first trade show I went to, no one would talk to me because they didn’t recognize my brand. I was frustrated because we had invested a lot of money to attend this trade show. So the next trade show I was going to pull out all the stops.
The night before, I gathered my kids in the kitchen, and we made chocolate chip cookie dough. The kids were particularly helpful in rolling all the dough in small balls. The next day I headed to the show, and I baked our homemade chocolate chip cookies in my toaster oven in my booth. The smell was intoxicating. Everyone across the exhibit hall could smell the warm chocolate chip cookies, and before you knew it everyone was stopping by my booth to get a warm cookie and cold milk.
— WI Tech Council (@WiscTechCouncil) June 7, 2016
I did get in trouble with the exhibit hall officials, but I just gave them a warm cookie and said if they shut me down, people would be mad. So they told me, “Don’t ever do it again,” and they let me finish out the show.
A toaster oven became part of my trade show luggage because we did this at every show for a year. It turned into quite a system at home. My kids still remember the hours we spent rolling dough into balls and freezing big batches. Those warm, homemade cookies are how we met new people and had great conversations that led to meetings and eventually sales.