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Road to Chicago for HH Americas Trade Show

In the fall of 2021 I signed up for my first out of state trade show. As a single person small business (who want even full-time in their small business at the time) this was a big leap for me.

A big giant scary leap.

But I did it anyways because I knew it’d be amazing for my small business. Trying to save money, I booked my flight to Chicago early and sourced a create to take all my display and products with me on the airplane. As the show date gets closer and closer, I plan my display, prep my materials and eagerly wait for my shipping crate to a arrive.

And as the days tick by I begin to get more nervous, until 2 weeks before the show, my crate finally arrives.

And after a few days of sitting in the box, I spend a weekend afternoon putting it together in my garage. With much frustration from the directions and some swearing on my part, I finally put together the crate, only to find it weighs double the expected amount. And no finagling on my part can make the crate with my display and materials be under the 100lbs oversized cargo weight limit to fly.

Upon this realization, I went into a stressed out spiral, Googling anything and everything I could on how to get me, my display, and my kits to the show. With such a tight timeline, I soon realized my only option was to drive. Thankfully, taking my business full time at the beginning of June made that possible. So a few days later, I rented a car, loaded it up, said goodbye to my husband and Henley, and hit the road.

Normally I’m big on planning trips, figuring out ways to save, and finding cool spots to stop. On this trip I did none of that. My only gosh way to make it to Chicago in time for the show.

My first full day of driving to me for the Seattle area to Missoula, Montana. My hotel reminded me of a college dorm room, but at least I found a basket with fluffy cinnamon rolls the size of my head to have for breakfast the next day. Before starting day two of my drive, I taught a virtual workshop with Jenny Lemons. Needless to say, I forget about the time difference and checked out of my hotel ridiculously late.

Leaving Montana, I drive into the most intense downpour I’ve ever driven through. With speed limits being higher than in Washington state, this also stressed me out and I had to stop at a rest stop til the rain dies down some. I loved seeing all of the gorgeous rock formations while driving through the mountains. My college geology teacher would be very disappointed that I can’t name any of them. I also had no idea Montana was so wide and barely made it over the boarder into Wyoming that night.

The following day I took a slight detour to Mount Rushmore and stretched my legs while enjoying some ice cream and the National Park. This was a nice way to break up my drive before continuing on through South Dakota and into Minnesota. And after Mount Rushmore the landscape really flattened out!

The next morning I woke up ridiculously early (for me- I’m not a morning person) and drive through Minnesota, into Wisconsin, and finally into Chicago. I was surprised at how Chicago seemed to just spring up from the farmland so quickly.

Stepping out of my rental car in a Chicago, I thought I was going to melt! I arrived just in time for the heat wave. And thankfully also early enough to set up my booth on Tuesday.

Set up in the Indie Untangled Pavillion went smoothly. That Tuesday afternoon, I met fellow pavillion vendor, Zoe of Woolerton Estates from Canada. She was amazingly kind and after setting up our booth, we grabbed a drink. Yeah for new friends!

Before the show started on Wednesday evening, I met with a few connections and shops. Many of these people I knew virtually, but met them in person for the first time. I also nervously prepped for the influencer marketing event that was held right before the show. This was a networking event with influencers, bloggers, and makers in the creative space. I hadn't done anything like that before and since I was at the show, figured I'd take advantage of the opportunity.

Not going to lie, getting on a stage in front of 50 ish people was terrifying. Even though I was talking about myself and my brand and my love of embroidery, I still felt weak in the knees and wobbly. Thankfully the group was very nice and seemed interested in my stick and stitch pattern packs.

Then the show began! For that evening and the next two days, I chatted with shops, brands, publications, and influencers about all things hand embroidery. I made connections and 8 new shops decided to carry MCreativeJ kits and patterns! Thanks The Net Loft in Alaska, Makit Taki in Nebraska, Sew to Speak in Ohio, Needle & Skein in Minnesota, The World In Stitches in Massachusetts, Material Things Haberdashery in Louisiana, and The Swift Stitch and Anzula both in California for giving MCreativeJ a try in your shops!

And just like that it was over. Those days flew by so quickly. It was a little overwhelming and not enough all at once. After the show Friday, I packed up my display (in record time) before grabbing dinner with fellow Indie untangled Pavillion vendors.

Then the next morning I was on the road again. Having driven I-90 over to Chicago, I decided to switch things up and to a different route back. The first day I drive through Iowa and stopped at a highly recommended craft shop, Home Ec Workshop. It was gorgeous and I found some beautiful fabric.

Then on my way to a friends house in Nebraska I saw signs for the Iowa Quilt Museum. Since it was only a 15 minute detour, I had to stop there too. I’m so glad I did! This was their first modern quilt exhibition and it was gorgeous! I loved the colors, the tactile-ness of the quilts, and the fact that the museum gave a glove to wear while viewing the exhibit so I could touch the pieces. That night I stayed with a friend I’d meet at Craftcation.

The next morning I stopped by the Makit Takit shop to hang out with Christy and deliver her embroidery kits. Her shop has a splatter room where you can throw paint! It looked like so much fun! While I wish I could have stayed in the crafty heaven all day, I continued my drive from Nebraska, through South Dakota and into Wyoming. My biggest concern on this leg of the trip was running out of gas since everything was spaced far apart. Thankfully nothing like that happen and I checked into a hotel in Wyoming just after sunset.

On the third day driving back, I drove through the rest of Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and into Washington, where I stopped to stay with my parents. In Utah, I stopped at a rest stop to take photos of the gorgeous orange and coral mountains. And in Idaho I saw a gas station charging an actual arm and leg for gas.

After spending the evening and night with my parents, I set off the next morning for home. Thankfully the few hours drive went by quickly and I was reunited with my family. Miss Henley was beyond excited I’d finally come home and had the most intense tail wags! My husband and I had FaceTimed while I was gone and I was able to see Henley, however she was confused when she heard my voice but couldn’t see me.

Upon my return, I was smothered in puppy kisses and some serious snuggles.

Then the next day I picked orders for all the new shops carrying MCreativeJ!


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