As you can imagine, it has been a tough few years surviving in this economy. But, for us it’s always been a formula about slow and organic growth, not because we particularly wanted to (who doesn’t want to get rich quick?), but because we had to. To this day Mod Mom is still a company that relies heavily on “Mod Mom” herself and countless heart-centered family members and volunteers that give-a-way their time and energy because they want to see that she succeeds and that the brand has real staying power. For my family, Mod Mom has become our nest egg and perhaps a legacy and brand we leave to our children (but, only if they want it!). It’s a true labor of love.
Now, back to the ABC Kids Show…
The truth is a lot of the companies that attended this year’s show and spent tens of thousands of dollars will not be around for the next show, and not because they don’t want to. They will be out of business. It can be very expensive to stay top-of-mind in an industry and arena where marketing and show budgets for some companies are in the millions, and that’s just brand marketing. The fees and costs its takes to even be allowed on a convention floor this size is staggering. Don’t even get me started on druage fees! Outside of Kiersten’s heart and those that support and surround her, I think the real reasons Mod Mom continues to stay in business is because 1) we still operate on a shoe string budget despite the overall brand value and footprint Mod Mom has created. Honestly, the word “budget” even makes it sound bigger than it is. And, 2) we have a dynamic support team that never ceases to amaze us.
No story conveys this better, than our participation in this year’s ABC Kids Show. We start with the actual booth. Kiersten’s dad, Barry, took 4 days driving across the country in a rented U-Haul cargo van to deliver our booth to us in AZ. It had been sitting in a storage unit in Ohio since 2011. Barry built it for Kiersten for the first ABC Kids Show we ever attended in Louisville. It’s a booth that our business partner, Kate Hatch, designed. Barry built this 10 X10 booth in his garage out of plywood and lumber. He built it to be broken down and put up with limited help and assistance. And, every time it gets built, it gets a fresh coat of orange paint. Upon arrival to AZ, we packed up the remaining space in the van with Mod Mom sample toy boxes and show booth essentials. These essential included three of our kitchen chairs, our sofa table desk, computer printer, computer monitor, and 6 bottles of wine from our liquor cabinet.
After the van was packed and show-ready, we drove the remainder of the way to Las Vegas. We stayed in a time-share unit off the strip that one of our partners was kind enough to donate to our cause. The next day, when we arrived at the convention center loading docks, (and, despite having made several preliminary calls to understand all of the unloading regulations and union policies) we still had to pray, negotiate, and “politic” our way onto the trade show floor using only the $50 cart service and avoiding any and all druage fees. We managed to use only 3 cart loads (for those of you playing at home, that is $150 total) compared to the low-end druage fee cost of $2,000 (paid by a trade show booth neighbor) to just get their crate from the convention center loading door to their designated spot on the floor.
Once all of our materials were off of the carts and placed in our spot, our team of 5 (all volunteers and equity holders) began the booth assembly process. It took over 3 hours of assembly and staging, but once it was all together it rivaled that of booths costing in the 10’s of thousands.
At the end of every day, we would arrive back at our timeshare condo to find that our friend Jen had our cocktails poured, appetizers set, and a dinner on the stove that would put many restaurants on the Vegas strip to shame. Despite how tired we all were, we never stopped laughing. Each night we provided our own Vegas entertainment including some of the finest temporarily-tattooed Roger Rabbit dancers ever assembled.
So, when people say they are glad to see Mod Mom is still around, make no mistake we know why. Our longevity is truly because of our support team. They are the reason we can manage to still hang our snazzy “storefront shingle.” But, also know that the shiny snazzy shingle is made of found wood, borrowed cardboard, recycled paint, and lots of sweat equity from our supportive and loving team.
--- Scott Hathcock