Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
art licensing / business of art / Entrepreneur


If you like this article, please share it!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Drew Brophy Art Exhibit at Surf Expo

I have a pet peeve:  Leaving a message for someone and then the  person doesn’t return my call.  Nothing makes me more frustrated!

Have you ever tried making a call to someone you want to do business with, and you just can’t get them to come to the phone? You leave a couple messages, and STILL they won’t call you back. Finally, you give up and assume they don’t want to do business with you.

But, what if you had met them at a trade show? Then, when you called they would be more likely to talk to you, because now it’s personal. You aren’t just a stranger on the end of the wire.  You two have already met – heck, you’re practically friends now!

And that leads me to this question that I often get from my readers:  “Should I spend the money and time to exhibit at a trade show?

My answer is “YES, if you want someone to pick up the phone when you call them!”

I know many creative entrepreneurs who claim to want to find success, but aren’t willing to make an investment in their own business!

And by investment, I mean, they are reluctant to spend money to make money.

Trade shows can be costly, but they can also catapult your business to success.

If you are in a business where you have something to sell (art, technology, yourself), then yes, you should attend trade shows.

It’s a golden opportunity to meet the people you need to meet.

We live in a global marketplace, and no longer can you survive by doing business just with customers in your own area.

A trade show brings people from all over the world to do business together.

Often other artists will ask me “wow, how did Drew get a deal with Converse” or “how did you guys set up that sweet license with Hinano Tahiti clothing?”

The answer is always this: we knew someone who opened the door for us.  Most of our license deals have came from knowing someone already, or meeting them at a trade show.

If you’re serious about doing what you say you want to do, you have to spend the time and the money to get face-to-face with the people who you want to do business with.

Three reasons to attend a trade show in your intended field:

EDUCATIONYou learn what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s happening in the world of your industry.  You are free to ask people in the same field as you what their opinions are, to help you provide a better offering.

You have conversations where you learn something about the people you want to do business with, that leads to partnerships down the road.

Often there are seminars you can attend to learn new skills.  There’s no better way to get the scoop on what’s happening without being there in the middle of the action.

SHOW OF COMMITMENT:  By exhibiting, you are able to show the value of what you’re offering.  Just by being there, you are demonstrating to possible clients, agents and licensees that you are committed and that you’ll be around awhile.

NETWORKING:  This is the most important aspect of a trade show!  A show gives you the opportunity to rub elbows with manufacturers, agents, sales reps, and anyone else involved in your field.   Most of the big deals we’ve done came from meeting someone at a trade show.

Why?  Because people want to do business with people they have met.  It’s all about trust and who you like, and who likes you.

If you’re hidden away in your studio in the middle of America, you won’t be taken as seriously as you would if you networked at shows.

Here’s just a few of the many deals we’ve made that came directly from exhibiting at Trade Shows:

  • Walter Foster signed on to publish our HOW TO DRAW WITH DREW book
  • Palisades Skateboards signed on for a complete line of Drew Brophy decks
  • Mattel offered us a deal to redesign their “street sharks” line
  • Skin-It signed Drew on for a great license for electronic skins
  • South Pacific Licensing Agent:  We signed on with an agent who has gotten us many deals in Australia and New Zealand.

Being in the business of surf lifestyle art, many different trade shows apply to us.  We often attend Surf Expo, MAGIC and CHA, because many of our licensees and potential customers are exhibitors there.

We also attend License Show in Las Vegas, though this year we declined because we are shooting the first season of The Paint Shop TV Show.

If you want to create stronger, better partnerships, get out of the safety of your work space and go meet people!

Determine the best trade show for you, and the first year just walk it.  Research what is working for the exhibitors, take notes and ask a lot of questions.  That way when you exhibit the next year, you’ll be ready.

I’ll see you at the next show!


PS:  I co-wrote the book on Art Licensing Contracts.  Click below for info:


If you like this article, please share it!Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn


  1. Archan Mehta


    Thank you for sharing your ideas. You are spot on here, as usual.

    There have been too many cases of artists starving to death because they never bothered to meet other people (not just artists, by the way).

    It is not enough for an artist to work in his/her studio: marketing is important too. And networking, as you have pointed out, is a key aspect of marketing. You have to smile, shake hands and drink wine.

    It also helps if you invite people over for dinner, that is, the right kind of people. Negativity dissolves over a meal and is replaced by the warmth of human friendship. We all need the human touch and appreciate it.

    Otherwise, you can be Albert Einsten and die “unhonoured, unsung and unheard,” like a famous poet put it once: I wish that had been me.

    I know of a person who was spectacularly unsuccessful during his school-years, but has made it big and is now a media personality (celebrity). In the real world, he is rich and famous: he knew how to play the game. Just like you and Drew have wisened up to it.

    Now, if only more and more people would follow in your footsteps–what a wonderful world would it be. Have a good one. Cheerio.

  2. Indigene

    Maria, as usual, you are right on target (or shall I say the money)?

    I think it’s a very frightening aspect to artists to get out there, because we spend so many hours in isolation in the studio creating, we sometimes use it as a crutch or safety net! I’ve found that as an introvert there are many ways to get out there, that don’t have to be so intimidating. As with all relationships, you have to start, in order for there to be one, so if you’re afraid, start small, but get out there, these are fabulous times for an artist, we control our future!

    Thanks again for sharing your remarkable journey with Drew, because we are all so much the more richer for it! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. Joan Beiriger

    Hi Marie,
    Great article! You cover the true reasons why to exhibit your art – education, commitment and networking. As Susan Miller of Mixed Media Group and also co-producer of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! cartoon show says “Get your art out there! Don’t be a legend in your own mind.”

  4. aileen

    I agree that attending shows is important. I’m currently trying to coordinate a carpool from Orange County and roommate to attend License Show in Vegas. I’m on a low budget now since I’m back in school but I want to at least try on some scale to learn and network.

    Earlier this year I volunteered at CHA Show and was an assistant for an artist in exchange for an exhibitor pass. She got the help she needed and I got to see what it was like behind the scenes.

    However, last year before I went back to school my budget was not as restricted and I was able to afford to attend ICON, the illustrator’s conference. Completely worth the money.

    While I agree that it takes money to make money, I believe being money conscious is important. Find smarter ways to get yourself out there (and not just on the internet) when your budget is tight. But do not skimp when you do have the budget and the opportunity arises.

  5. Danny Cruz

    I’m one guy who doesn’t enjoy checking phone voicemail. I sometimes am ok with leaving them though. But good point. Sad ASR is gone. But I’ll be at Interbike in September. And… Sacred Craft. I still have a goal of doing NAMM in Anaheim. D

  6. Maria Brophy

    Thanks for the comments, Joan, Indigene and Archan!


    Aileen: I agree, sometimes it’s just not in the budget to exhibit, and, there are many other ways to network at trade shows.

    Danny: We’ll probably be at Sacred Craft, too! See ya there!

  7. Christine Adolph

    Hi Maria!
    Thought I’d poke my head in to say “HI”! Keep thinking I might run into you around the hood, but not yet. We’ll have to make a point to visit sometime soon. Just got the issue of “Studio’s” and was wondering if the editor ever did an article on DB studio? Hope all is well. I will be attending the Licensing show for the first time this year and my work was exhibited at Surtex this year too:-). I ended up signing with an agency and it’s been great so far…love to visit soon!

  8. Lance Klass

    Another great, lucid and very well-written article, Maria. This piece is essentially about something that I’ve been focusing on recently – relationship marketing – and it’s become ever more clear to me after the recent Surtex show that it’s all about the relationships that you build with the right people at companies that need excellent art not only to survive, but to grow their sales. Many of the best relationships with licensees that I’ve been been able to build over the years have come as a result of meeting people at trade shows, following up on those meetings, getting to know them as people, and continuing to build the personal relationships with these key people over the years as they take more and more art, and as both parties make increasing amounts of income from working together. And it makes the whole exercise fun, as well. I love to socialize on the phone or via email with my licensees here and in other countries. So yes, people should go to trade shows, network, exhibit at shows, get to know people, build up their mailing and emailing lists, and get some real movement going. And, of course, read intelligent blogs like yours to learn more about licensing!

  9. tom weinkle

    Hearing about the success you and Drew have had in reaching the market segments that appreciate what you do teaches me that it isn’t about chasing a trend as much as it is about finding the right outlets.

    Our first year at Surtex 2011 was an exciting adventure, but we didn’t see the type of manufacturers we are trying to connect with. As you say, unless you put yourself out there, you can’t possibly connect. So now, we have to find more effective venues for what we do. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Pingback: Exhibit or Attend? How to Determine Whether a Trade Show is Worth Your Investment - :

  11. Pingback: Research: Tips/Methods of Self Promotion – Marketing & Networking | Professional Frameworks 3: PDP (2)

Leave A Comment