I Survived The Agenda Long Beach Trade Show

All photos by Chrissy Mahlmeister

Trust me, I know hearing the words “trade show” and “Long Beach” in the same sentence probably makes you want to gag, but Agenda ain’t your typical dad-filled convention center escapade. It’s the place to be if you want to trade business cards with some of the coolest kids in the surf, skate and streetwear industry, and by some strange stroke of luck, half of a booth needed to be filled at the last minute. A friend of a friend mentioned my business (Rad Nails) to one of the organizers, and I was asked to join the invite-only list of brands two weeks before showtime. To put it lightly: I was stoked.

Since my target demo is certainly female-based, I was put into the “WMNS” section of the show. When I arrived on Thursday, I quickly realized this meant that 95% (this is a statistic I made up but it feels 100% right) of the convention center was filled with dudes, and I was in the one aisle dedicated to the ladies. Basically, this meant every time you went to the bathroom/got coffee/tried to exist, there would be at least 6 guys in backward snapbacks glaring in your direction. Gulp.

This was also my first trade show. To be honest, I’ve never even attended one (well, unless you count that one time an editor made me stalk track someone down at the Javits Center for a quote on deadline), let alone explain to complete strangers/industry experts/intimidatingly cool kids why my products were a worthwhile investment. The best part? When I started unpacking the goods, I realized the custom neon sign I had picked up the day before cracked during transport. Doh.

After a 6 AM trip to the neon sign shop, all was (finally) well the first day of the show. Having only half a booth was kind of weird, though, because it basically screamed to the world, “I AM TOO POOR TO AFFORD MY OWN 10X10 FOOT SPACE!” To give you some perspective, GoPro had 8 or so flat screen TVs and a motorcycle parked in their section, so, yeahhh.

The majority of the show was me sitting in my tiny area waiting for someone to talk to and/or taking meta photos of my hands (see: above), but at least I could people watch. The biggest trend takeaways: bucket hats for ladies, chokers, and killer French braid pigtails. I even spotted The Cobrasnake, Blake Anderson, and Kreayshawn (who ended up Instagramming my nails the next day!) pass through my area.

For some reason everyone forgot to mention the best part of Agenda before I arrived: THE GIANT CIRCLE OF FOOD TRUCKS AT YOUR DISPOSAL ALL FREAKIN’ DAY. I nearly cried upon this discovery, but when it came time to grab some eats, it actually meant standing in line for 30+ minutes in direct sunlight.

And for this summer goth, it was the ultimate sweatfest.

Oh, did I mention this show was targeted toward dudes? No? Well, maybe this well help you understand.

Or this.

It was pretty awesome getting to see some artists work IRL, though. Also, there were people painting surfboards all day like it ain’t no thang.

It’s super easy to get overwhelmed by all the dude-heavy booths, but sometimes I’d spot gems like this signage by Ornamental Conifer.

Oh, also unlike real work, you could totally drink on the job. I tried it, but then I felt awkward/judged if a potential buyer caught me mid-beer sip. (Oops.)

My favorite part—by far—was this sectioned off area at the end of the WMNS aisle called #THEBABESHOW. Basically, it was a guy-free zone where ladies could chill and look at art (by other ladies, of course). One of my favorite NYC nail artists, Christina Rinaldi, shared some of her photography (above), which was presented by Human NYC gallery.

I loved this “NY is a babe” sign, which had quite a story behind it. (Let’s just say traveling from NYC to LA with neon sign is really, really hard.) Other artists included Michelle Blade, Andrea Dosouto, and Adri Law. If you were super lucky, you might’ve even been able to snatch up a zine on your way out.

All in all, it was two very long days of standing on concrete under the hot pink glow of my neon sign, but I left with a bag full of business cards from incredibly inspiring people and (hopefully) some potential buyers. Until next time, peace out Long Beach!

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