Innovation & Emerging Trends: 5 Things We Discovered at Northside Festival

Northside Innovation Expo gave attendees hailing from around the world a taste of America’s thriving tech and entrepreneurial scene. While bouncing between the Innovation tent, panel discussions, and the occasional pitch competition, we discovered a mashup of tech enthusiasts, makers, and innovators. Here’re five trends and innovations making waves in the startup and retail space right now!

1. Retail on the Road

The fashion truck trend is in full swing! Following in the footsteps of food trucks, 120-square foot mini boutiques featuring a small curated collection of apparel and accessories are traveling across America this Summer. We stopped by Nomad, a gypsy inspired-boutique offering an assortment of boho casuals along with emerging ‘Made in LA’ designs.


Our next stop was entrepreneur Shaun Moss’ Sun Truck – a custom designed, hand-built van founded featuring Made in USA brands like Portland-based Shwood Eyewear. “After quickly realizing that the corporate environment wasn’t for me, I began to develop a love of the customer experience – the elation one feels when making that special purchase – an item they really want and reflects who they truly are,” says Shaun Moss.

Take your collection on the road this summer – more economical than a traditional storefront, it also provides the opportunity to build brand awareness and reach new audiences whilst capitalizing on the ‘FOMO’ mentality that exists amongst many customers.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Create a unique selling environment for your products. If you’re selling online, brainstorm ways to make the shopping experience more exciting.
  2. Carefully curate selections offering niche product categories (i.e. gypsy-inspired clothing, sunglasses retailer, etc.)
  3. Remember the 5 R’s of Retail: the right merchandise, at the right price, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities.
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2. Re-Thinking Promotional Goods

A quirky or unique promotional good can make all the difference when trying to get your brand to stand out amongst the competitors or at events. Promotional products offer startups and small business an affordable and memorable way of building brand awareness. We scoped out a few brands who are creating innovative promotional products and/or experiences.

SOLS gifted expo goers with branded sunglasses to ward off the heat whilst mattress startup Casper hosted the “Camp Casper” experience. Over at AptDeco there were plenty of mini tape measures to prevent those awkward ‘it doesn’t fit’ furniture shopping moments. An increasing number of companies are choosing Made in USA promotional products to differentiate and show allegiance. Maker’s Row has a vetted list of companies who can help you create unique, memorable Made in USA promotional products for your next event or trade show, search them here.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Customize an item that consumers use in their everyday life.
  2. Brainstorm ways to creatively showcase your brand’s info.
  3. Read the Guide to Making Branded Promotional Products in the USA.

3. Interactive Technology & Shopping

Interactive screens are helping consumers buy smarter. Digital displays are providing shoppers with an experience that rivals any other. After checking out an interactive retail stand concept and testing (playing, really) a sensory computer program, it was easy to see why the immersive experience trend was capturing everyone’s minds. Perch, a New York City startup, discovered that touching a product makes consumers 40% to 60% more likely to purchase a product. By fusing three technologies (turnkey system, hardware, and software), Perch creates configurable showcase displays that respond to every touch adding almost an editorial like shopping experience.

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Key Takeaways: 

  1. Discover ways to get your products in the hands of consumers. If you aren’t selling in retail yet, try hosting a trunk show and inviting 50 of your most loyal customers to test out, try on, or experience your product.
  2. Does your e-commerce site encourage user interaction and discovery? Try featuring stories behind each product. Similarly, look for ways to tie-in key seasonal trends to your product offerings.


4. Wearable Wellness

Wearable technology allows users to track their steps and physical activities. Pledgerunner, an activity driven fundraising application, is perfect for those who want to do more with their wearable devices and fitness apps. Users can sync their workout activity to Pledgerunner and use it to support a cause they care about. This new approach to the crowdfunding model explores ways users can use smartwatches to care actively.

Panelist at Northside Innovation’s “Future of Wearable Tech” discussion sounded off on the expanding market and the opportunity to do more with the devices. Shawn Cunnings, representing Timex, hoped the evolution of wearables would provide solutions to activities being tracked such as the amount of hours spent sleeping. With more predictive solutions, users can understand patterns in their activity.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Consider collaborating with fundraising or charitable organizations that you or your customers are passionate about.
  2. Invite your customers to submit ideas for social good; find out what causes or non-for-profit projects they’re supporting.

5. Every Idea is Just a Pitch Away

The best time to start a startup is now, not tomorrow. If you’re an entrepreneur with an idea for the next best thing or solution to the unsolvable problem, the MasterCard Priceless Elevator Pitch could be the perfect opportunity to practice your pitch and win $15,000 whilst you’re at it.

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We discovered a unique blend of creativity, technology, and inspiration. From products that bridged fashion and health through 3D printing technology to creation stations that convert children’s illustrations into printed sculptures, and personalized video platforms.

Elevator Pitch Essentials:

  1. Rehearse and practice a 60-second pitch cutting out and editing down any excessive points that will cause confusion.
  2. Brevity is key. Get to the meat of the story quickly and succinctly.
  3. Practice your pitch until it becomes naturally conversational
  4. Don’t tell the story of your idea from the beginning, instead focus on the most compelling and strongest points.

Ready to be part of the Nation of Maker’s? Enroll in the Maker’s Row Academy Sourcing 101 E-Course (it’s free) and you’ll learn how to source manufacturers and fabrics, best practices for working with a factory partner and how to build a sourcing plan. Enroll now.

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