Advice on Starting An Expo?

How would one go about starting up a reptile expo? A local breeder friend of mine and I were considering looking into it and splitting costs, as we’re widely dissatisfied with the local shows as it is and feel like we could do better.

I won’t go too much into it but the breeder that runs the local shows in question don’t seem to vet their vendors at all, and let people vend that are known to be problematic in some way. And even they themselves have turned out to not be so great people anymore, that are focused more on making money than providing quality animals/products and customer service.

I know some of the upfront expenses include leasing an expo hall, liability insurance(?), renting tables/chairs if needed, and advertising the show on Facebook/social media — is there anything else I’m missing? Any numbers that someone could toss out there?

Most of all, where would I even start looking for venues that could be leased for a reptile expo? :thinking:

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!


Your best bet is going to be finding as many owners of shows that you can (probably not in your area, but you can still ask) and try to find out the process and where to find halls for rentals, etc. For the shows I’ve been to I’ve seen them in a VFW hall, college building, convention center, and just a building that could be rented. I’ve talked to 1 expo owner about the process and they said that they used the money from the vendors to cover the hall and they use the money from admission as take-home money (saving some of it for future plans for the expo; also, be sure the person collecting admission is someone you trust, a lot). The hardest thing to do is get enough/consistent vendors. At the show I vend at, there’s always a shortage of vendors and often some just don’t show up. The big risk/possibility with this is that it makes the show less enjoyable, which means that less people are going to show up at the next show (possibly, there’s usually a couple vendors with really interesting stuff), which means the show is less appealing to vendors, causing them to leave. This is a cycle that you want to avoid happening, so try to get as many vendors as you can. I usually see tables from $30-40 for an 8ft table (you don’t need to offer 6ft tables). You might want to cut prices a little bit (be sure it’s very clear that it’s temporarily) to get some new vendors on board. Also notably, is that reptile shows are a lot of politics. The owners of other shows will probably want to shut you down, spread false information about you, maybe try to buy you out, etc. The biggest thing you can do is always hold a show, never cancel a show for any reason unless there is absolutely no other option.


Thanks for all of the awesome advice, it really helps!

I know the closest show to me seems to always have full tables with vendors, and the show runners will sometimes message me to see if I want to fill a table if someone cancels last minute — so I think having some sort of waitlist in that sense would definitely help. They charge $30 per table so likely around the same amount I would do if not a little cheaper the first time around as you’ve said.

I wonder if the local university in town has a building I can rent/lease for a day, I’ll have to look into that… :joy:


It sounds like this is going to be a big undertaking but the payoff will be worth it! All the best of luck to you! :+1::blush:


Don’t have much to add after @erie-herps great advice! I just wanted to double down on the point made:

I have seen this firsthand and now there are a few owners/venders that won’t go to the same shows, constantly spreading negative rumors about the others, ect. My advice is make sure you have enough other breeders and local reptile shops and community support for you beforehand. I would see if any nearby reptile rescue organizations would like a “free” table to promote awareness at your expos. Also if you have connections, maybe get a reptile podcast to promote and show up for your expo, or someone/something with some kind of following to help promote you, something along those lines. I wish you luck, I am sure alot of us are interested in the outcome if you move forward. Keep us updated.


Heres some notes I already have in a doc for this subject -

  • Check local and national laws that govern both business expos and the exotic animal trade, to make sure you’d be compliant with your plans
  • Scout a variety of venues, make sure they will allow live reptiles in the building, and get a solid idea of cost for 1 or 2 days of event time
  • Knowing the general costs, figure out how many vendors you need and how much you need to charge per table and how much you need to charge for visitors and how many visitors you need to break even across the board :moneybag:
  • Budget for advertising, staff to help at the show, banners, wrist bands (or hand stamps), goodie bags, etc.
  • Vendors can also buy advertising space in the goodie bag and/or donate samples for it
  • Reach out to your most trusted breeder friend(s) (also consider merchandise and non-animal sellers) and see if they’d be interested in collaborating, consulting, or partnering with you on this venture.
  • Define your goals for the show. Be specific, understanding you’ll probably have to start small and build toward those goals over years.
  • Define the rules of your show, and your expectations for both vendors and guests.
  • What will you provide for your vendors that will make your show stand out to them and make it worth their while to take a chance on a first-time event?
  • Same question for the guests that come through the door and buy a ticket.
  • Create a list of vendors you want to invite and contact them to see how many would be interested in coming to your show
  • For every 10 businesses that express enthusiastic interest, expect only 2 to actually follow through (that’s just a guess…the ratio could, and in my experience… willl, be worse than that)
  • Find a core group of trusted souls that are truly enthusiastic about the idea and work with them to build a network that reaches out to other potential vendors
  • Choose a name, design a logo, plan out your swag
  • Pick a date
  • Buy your banners and swag and a million other nitnoid stuff you need to manage the event and the day of
  • Research advertising and how to spread the word on a budget
  • GO FOR IT!

Members of the forum here have strengths in writing and editing, others in design and artwork… ask for some help!


I will second that!!!


Lots of awesome advice!! Thank you guys so much :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

I’m also one of the artsy people so that’s a plus — the fun part is trying to come up with a cool unique name for the show!

I do know several locals that I’d likely reach out to and see if they’d want to vend, so that’s already a plus — maybe even try some of the vendors I’ve purchased from before, too.
My breeder friend also has a lot of connections with some of the bigger breeders in the hobby too, so I feel like she could definitely help with that part as well.


We’re finally getting things rolling into motion and will very likely be having our first show in Huntingburg, IN — the tentative date is December 2nd but gotta make sure a few more things are situated first.

Our official show page! I hope I’m allowed to share that :joy:


Good deal @trnreptiles Holly! I’m am just south of Indy so not too awfully far away from me! I sure hope things work out for you and you can make the show! Hopefully you will be a smash hit! :pray::crossed_fingers::champagne:


Looks great! Hope the show and your animals are a huge hit! Good luck👍


Thanks you guys!!

We already had a feeder breeder offer to buy 2-3 tables from us and vend our shows if we make them the exclusive feeder source there, which we’ve agreed to.

Though I have a high suspicion that the other breeder that runs a lot of shows in the area sent people to report the page because it got taken down for “community standards violations” despite there not being anything wrong with it :joy:

Great example of the ol’ “show politics” that were being discussed previously. They don’t want us getting off the ground so they’re gonna do anything they can to prevent that. :upside_down_face:


I am sorry you have to deal with that type of ■■■■! The reptile community should work on getting together, instead of this petty my show or no show type of junk! I would think the more shows the better for everyone! Keep at it hopefully you’ll bust through any roadblocks laid out for ya!:+1:


Yeah, it’s mildly annoying but I’ll poke this thread again once Facebook completes a manual review and hopefully they’ll reinstate the page.
Jay and I are pretty resilient so I feel like we’ll do just fine :heart:

I also made a page over on ColdBlooded for it so hopefully it’ll gain a bit of traction there too.

Might as well set up other social medias in the meantime too to try and get more eyes on it!

Edit: They reinstated the page, so we’re good now :heart:


I saw that you were Oakland and was going to say you should come out to the Sacramento show. Not to bad if a drive from Oakland Ca but way to far from Oakland In. Lol


Haha yeah Oakland City, IN is way far from Oakland, CA!

I used to live in Oregon though, so close enough? :joy:


Small shows typically run about $4-5k on front end. Try to set up your vendor layout map and price list to fit enough vendors to cover that cost. If you do it far enough in advance you may be able to collect enough table fees to cover your front end cost without having to go out of pocket but don’t bet on it.

Plan for coffee and donuts or pizza one day or some such thing to endear your vendors to you.

Make sure you’re getting standard sized 8’ tables and not narrow ones, sucks when 3 tier displays won’t fit on the table. Most of us run 3x 3 tier acrylics and a tower on each 8’ table.

Be careful you’re not stepping on any other shows toes, ie doing a show in a town that has other shows. Causes a lot of drama.

It’s fairly easy to make money on an event but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Vendors will not return for a second show if they don’t make money so you need to get buyers through the door. Make sure you choose dates that don’t have competing events like concerts. Last show I vended there was a Snoop Dogg concert, a two day car show, and it was back to school. Worst show I’ve ever seen sales wise. Snoop only comes around every few years, there’s always another reptile show or if they have a bad itch they can just hit MM.


Yeah, so far we’re looking at around $1600 for renting the venue that we’re considering!

But then we gotta look at merch, signs, possibly paying for advertising as well to get the word out a bit more

I think the plan is definitely taking whatever money we do make and using it to pay for new venues. I have also been trying to avoid booking at other locations, but we will be directly competing with another show in the area (that has gone even more downhill than when I had last posted, to give you an idea it’s become less of a reptile show and more of a “bring whatever you want” show because none of the reptile breeders want to vend there anymore) so I’d honestly hope to run them out.

The overall focus is more on making it a good experience for the vendors and the customers, so we will be doing giveaways, offering perks to loyal vendors (discounted tables, free merch, possibly being a part of a featured list on our page or something along those lines) and making sure to thoroughly vet our vendors


Sounds like you have a good idea on what it is going to take, and how to go about it! Love all @ballornothing suggestions! I wouldn’t have thought about some of those little, but important details! Such as table size, ect. Really good info there! Keep us posted, this is very interesting to me and I am sure others reading this thread! Good luck👍


You might have had better luck throwing a table up in front of the Snoop Dogg show