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Simbrix and Friends Toy exhibition Hangzhou, China

Behind the scenes interviews at the Cultural and Creative Industry Expo in China.

I recently took a trip to China in order to attend a toy exhibition. It was a 5-day event and so I took this time to interview attendees. Many were locals and many were from the town of Nottingham. It was great to get other people’s views on the event as well as their opinions on Simbrix. Will it be a success in China?

The Event

2018 saw the 12th Cultural & Creative Industry Expo (CCIE) held in Hangzhou, China. Based on a friendly relationship between the Nottingham City Council and Hangzhou Government. Companies within the cultural and creative industries in the Midlands Engine region were welcomed to the event, the Hangzhou Government covered the international flights and local accommodation of the successful candidates. A total of seven businesses from Nottingham and the Midlands region with leading educators were invited to take part in the 5-day trade visit, helping build contacts both back in the UK and in the gorgeous host city.

A Beautiful City

Some of my fellow exhibitors arrived days early to explore this wonderful city in the province of Zhejiang. Not only did it help with eliminating jet lag, but it also meant time for site seeing. With a rich history and flourishing culture, Hangzhou houses two recognised World Heritage Sites. West lake with temples, luscious gardens and man-made islands along with the Grand Canal. The longest canal in the world, spanning 2,000 kilometres; that’s almost the length of 20,000 standard size football pitches. Filled with elegance and charm, it really is no wonder Hangzhou is referred to as ‘paradise on Earth’.

Expectation vs Reality

Momoka, an artisan fabric weaver, has never been one for the spotlight but found herself to have become an almost micro-celebrity overnight, at the event. So much so she had many people, including TV stations, press and bloggers interviewing her about her product as they saw value in the handmade nature. I also spoke to Bing Bing, who was a part of the Nottingham Delegation, she was excited by the British companies bringing their creative products and ideas to China. I’m pleased to announce that we far succeeded in exciting our hosts with our creativity and artistry. Most of our products being handmade or in the case of Simbrix, having a personal story behind the products to share gave life to our creations. Creativity is celebrated and supported in China especially so being ‘British creativity’.

Lessons Learnt

I asked my fellow exhibitors what lessons they learnt and their main takeaway from the event. One message was clear, ‘preparation’. Momoka initially thought that bringing stock over to China was a risk and decided against it. She found that many people were willing to buy her product and, in the future, will bringing items to sell next time. She said ‘We were all overwhelmed by the positive feedback our products received, gaining important contacts for future business’.

Dr Alex commented that his biggest lesson was learning how advanced China really is but also how welcoming the people are. He also added that ‘the market in China is there if you have an innovative product that excites’. Similarly, Nat from Pit Studio said their main takeaway from the event ‘was the importance of China in the Western world’, we must nurture those friendships.

Luke from Art of Football based in Nottingham said the event is going to help both his business grow in the UK and open new markets in China. Most people noted that they wished they had learnt Chinese. We felt almost like bad guests, we were too consumed by preparing for the event we didn’t learn the language of our lovely hosts. Debbie, a craft practitioner, mentioned she’d have liked to invest time into the in Chinese etiquette, like learning to use chopsticks for instance. Always a difficult one to grasp!

My Takeaway

Personally, I found the event enlightening. I now clearly know that my brand has a good opportunity in China. But I do need to make my website readily available for my audience. Maybe a website available in Chinese is the answer? I want people to understand my story, it is the heart of my brand after all. Adding language options will definitely be some of my next steps to expand Simbrix. From an event was not part of my plans for the year, I gained a pretty amazing outcome.

By 1:30 pm on the last day there was a Mexican standoff for the last three Simbrix products. And then. I was sold out. Completely gone. All of it. There was a huge sigh of relief on my behalf, the same sadly can’t be said for those who didn’t manage to get their hands on Simbrix.

This only proves all my hard work has paid off, not only in China but in my creation. This is not only a product for children of Nottingham or the UK, but it is also a stimulating product for those across the globe.

Listen to the podcast. Join the journey to China.