Exhibitor Perspective | Big Fish in a Small Pond: Be Seen at Expo


by Brant Curtis, Wilbur Curtis Co.

Nobody likes a showoff — or so they say.

If there were one venue in which it was socially acceptable to truly show off, I submit to you that a trade show would be the place. When you are proud of what you have built or have to offer, a trade show is the place to be. But surely that can’t be the only reason why someone would sponsor or exhibit, could it?

For us at Curtis, and for me personally, it goes much deeper than that.

Let’s start with why Curtis jumps at the chance to sponsor The Event. At many trade shows we exhibit at, Curtis is a small fish in a very large ocean. Our 20’x40’ booth is dwarfed by the likes of Coca Cola, Pepsi, Proctor and Gamble, etc. with their 200’x200’ booths. However, at SCAA’s Expo, we are in our element. We become a big fish in a small pond.

This is not meant to disparage the significance of The SCAA Event. May it never be!  Instead, it is to emphasize the impact that “small” companies can truly have in the tight-knit community that is specialty coffee. It is here that we are shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow companies that care about the values SCAA espouses. Some of the most forward-thinking and knowledgeable people in the industry don’t work out of multi-million dollar labs, but instead out of their garages, or perhaps a dark and dank basement.

Running with the fish analogy, here’s the “catch”: None of the amazing educational opportunities found at The SCAA Event would be possible without member companies like yours and mine stepping up and making them happen. And yes, it takes more than just a checkbook. I remember my first SCAA Event in Anaheim. I was greener to the industry than green coff— never mind. Anyway, in Anaheim I signed up as a volunteer, and since then I’ve been hooked (see what I did there?).  While my volunteering has taken many forms over the years, from busboy to committee member to competition emcee, it is something that I enthusiastically embrace.

But what about exhibiting? The question that I most often hear after an event like the Expo is, “Was it worth it?” If only that question had an easy answer. Often the person asking the question is looking for a quantifiable response. But how do you quantify a relationship? You see, we never sell anything at trade shows. That’s not why we’re there. We’re there to make connections, to foster relationships, and to learn.

We often bring our vice presidents as well as R&D engineers to make themselves accessible to attendees for some much-needed face-to-face interaction. In the age of endless email and Twitter conversations, the personal touch in doing business is often lost. That is why we place such a large emphasis on having our staff, with the answers, ready for the attendees, with the questions. We strive to teach and to learn.

That leads me to education. Now, this is a twofold topic for us. First, it is an opportunity to educate attendees on our company, our vision and values, and our equipment. Like I mentioned, we often bring our engineers to The SCAA Event to answer some of the more esoteric questions. Why use platinum-cured tubing vs. copper tubing, plastic brewcones vs. metal? The list could go on. This is an opportunity to really be brand evangelists.

Secondly, it’s a chance for us to brush up on our own education. Most of our people have gone through SCAA educational curriculum. In fact, we even had our whole sales team become Golden Cup Technicians. We did this because we see the value that this knowledge brings to us as a company. The reps that once took the class, are now teaching it. We feel that knowledge is paramount, and the more knowledge we have, the better we can leverage ourselves in the industry.

The best part about the SCAA Expo? You don’t have to be a big fish in a small pond to make an impact. You can have an impact if you are the person roasting coffee in your garage, or fine-tuning your brew in a dark and dank basement. The Event is a place where the playing field is leveled, and visionaries are able to join each other—over a cup of coffee—and look to the future.

Additional Info: Learn about all the reasons to exhibit at The Event by visiting scaaevent.org/whyexhibit


curtis2Hailing from the City of Angels, Brant Curtis was born into a life of coffee. Representing the 4th generation of a family-owned business, Brant leads the marketing department at the Southern California HQ of the finest coffee brewer manufacturer in the world, Curtis. Since his induction into specialty coffee, there has nary been a moment of rest. Brant unabashedly loves his wife Rachel, Zoe, their 2 year old daughter, and their new addition arriving in December.