A Letter from the Mom of Dr. Becker's Bites | Trade Shows
Trade shows have served a couple of primary purposes in the life of Dr. Becker's Bites: fun family time for the Beckers and good business time for Dr. BB's.
A couple of years after John, Jim and I had started making Dr. Becker's Bites and selling them to a few retailers in the Chicago area, someone suggested we would benefit by attending Backers, a pet related trade show that was held annually in Chicago. John and I did some research and decided it would be worth our time, effort and money. That would have been around 2003. I deeply regret that I did not journal in those early years of our business. However, I did find some pictures that went back to those early years. This is going to be a pictorial blog.
We practiced setting up our first booth in our garage, then packed our station wagon with a table, two stools, two bookshelves and a couple of boxes of our only treat, Dr. Becker's Beef Bites, then headed off to Chicago having no idea what a trade show would be like. We were in for a HUGE surprise. This show was enormous. Two full floors with thousands of vendors at the Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.
So feeling a tad out of place, we set up our homemade booth not knowing what to expect. The first day the show opened, we knew we belonged in the pet market. It was one excited new vendor after another. John was a natural... he has an amazing deep "radio voice." He met people easily and seemed to instinctively know what to say and how to say it... a natural communicator and story teller. I was immensely nervous. He said to me, "Mom, just tell our story." And that is what he has been telling me ever since.
That first year showed us that there were retailers and pet parents/owners who were thrilled to learn that there was now a single ingredient, human grade, pure meat treat available... the first of its kind in the US. Then as we walked around the show a little, we were surprised to learn that we were the ONLY species appropriate treat there! Sitting at the booth, we spent most of our time educating store owners about what "species appropriate" even meant. Crazy... but true.
My daughter, the vet, reminded me why she asked for this treat in the first place... that for her it was a necessity. She needed a treat that met her high standards and couldn't find one, so she asked me to make one for her. And as it turned out, we were the only treat of its kind at the show! That was 20 years ago... how time flies.
We were fast learners: signs, banners, shelves and the beginning of more treats. John is creative and artistic and each year he designed a different "look" for our small 10 x 10' booth.
About 10 years later, we decided to pack up and drive to another trade show in Las Vegas - SuperZoo. We thought Backers was big... but SuperZoo blew our minds. And yet I remember our small booth being one of only a few species appropriate treats at the show. After Blair (my granddaughter) joined our family business, she and John decided to load up and head to Florida for the Global Pet Expo... which was even larger then SuperZoo.
These trade shows became an annual "homecoming" event, with our longtime customers stopping by to say hello and share their stories with us (and an excuse for a family reunion, to be quite honest). We so look forward to seeing our customers of the past 20 years at these venues, and hearing their stories about how finicky pets go absolutely crazy for our treats.
We have met some amazing people along the way who continue to love hearing about our story and why we do what we do. Our booth has been known to completely clog the aisles with customers, fans and friends (especially when Karen is in the booth). It has also become a central meeting place for many retailers who enjoy connecting with us and each other during these events.
So there you have it. That's the story of Dr. Becker's Bites and trade shows. I look forward to sharing more about our family in the months to come.
(One of my favorite family "Selfies" from a show)