I love all of my #ahasmembers equally, but I have a special place in my heart for Stacia of Handcrafted Honey Bee. She's one of the most infectiously enthusiastic people you will ever meet but not in that gross saccharine way that makes you raise an eyebrow wondering if that person is serious or on something. She recently went to the Etsy Open Call and shares the experience on her blog. Today she's also giving us a little snapshot too!
Q: Tell us about yourself and your shop!
A: My name is Stacia Guzzo, and I am the founder of Handcrafted Honey Bee—a company that strives to cultivate confidence in women and girls through creative action.
Our main product is a collection of fun, easy-to-use, DIY skin care kits. The extra special part? Each kit contains a core message that reminds women that they are beautiful, capable, creative, and knowledgeable just the way they are. Our kits exist simply to provide opportunities to celebrate those qualities!
My husband Robert is the co-founder, and while he works hard at a day job for 11 hours out of the day, he is still very much an active part of Handcrafted Honey Bee. We currently run the business out of a studio that is adjacent to our home in Tehachapi, California…and along with our two sons (ages 4 and 2) and acre-and-a-half homestead (complete with dogs, cats, chickens and bees), we keep pretty busy!
Q: What exactly is Etsy Open Call? Do you have to pay to do it?
A: Etsy Open Call was an invite-only event at Etsy Headquarters in New York City. Out of 5,000 applicants, Etsy Wholesale chooses 30 participants to come to New York and pitch buyers from Land of Nod, Nordstrom, Lou & Grey, the Walker Shop, and Clementine. The event is covered by Refinery 29, and they also host a workshop from the experts at Canon to give us tips on our product photography. While the day itself was provided by Etsy free of charge (as well as food during the day and a closing cocktail party), we were required to cover the costs for the airfare to New York as well as our hotel accommodations.
Q: How do you become a participant?
A: First and foremost, all applicants had to be sellers in the Etsy Wholesale market. Next, the application was required to be in the form of an Instagram post tagging @EtsyWholesale and with the hashtag #EtsyOpenCall. We were asked to craft a post that talked about why we thought our products would be a good fit for the retailers at the Open Call event. I researched the various retailers that would be present at the Open Call event so I could tailor my pitch to the stores where I felt our product would be the best fit. Once I crafted and submitted my pitch, everything was done…I just had to wait to hear about the results.
Q: What was the commitment to this event on your end?
A: We needed to be in New York by the afternoon of July 20th to set up our table and commit to pitching all day on Tuesday, July 21st. This proved to be challenging, as we were at San Francisco Renegade from July 17th-19th! We ended up leaving our truck in long term parking and taking a redeye out to New York within hours of tearing down from Renegade. It was quite an adventure. : )
Q: What was the atmosphere of the event like?
A: The people from Etsy were very friendly and supportive. They had hosted an exclusive webinar for us a few weeks prior to help prepare us for the pitches, and they continued to be extremely helpful during the prep day and pitch day. Etsy staff were continuously walking around asking us if we needed any last minute tips or wanted to practice our pitch. And while the event itself had a casual atmosphere, it was definitely all business, too—we were among the best up-and-comers in the handmade world, and I felt so honored to be among them!
As far as the buyers, they ran the gamut in terms of personality! Some were very friendly and focused on helping the brands grow (even if they weren’t going to buy from the brand), and others were definitely all-business and there to buy. Everyone was kind and cordial, but the fact remained that some very big accounts were on the line, so all of the sellers were understandably nervous! I really liked all of the sellers we met. We all encouraged each other throughout the day and I could not have been more impressed with the professionalism.
Q: How is it different from a craft show or a trade show?
This was definitely different than any show I’d ever done—even shows with wholesale days. This was kind of like a craft show version of Shark Tank, except instead of pitching all of the buyers at once, we got 5 minutes with each of them individually. We had to have our elevator pitch nailed, know our minimums, lead times, and product info backward and forward, and be ready to answer tough questions from any buyer. It was quite a surreal experience!
Q: Who is this good for and who isn't it good for?
A: This is a good event for brands who have experience in wholesale—who are already in some stores, who have the line sheets ready, and who are very comfortable with the possibility of scaling their business. I think it’s also important that the participants feel comfortable with their pitch and purpose—we were advised to have our pitch down to 30 seconds and to leave the remaining four-and-a-half minutes for Q & A with the buyer. I think it’s important to have a little bit of experience talking to buyers in person, whether it is at a wholesale day at a craft fair or at a trade show. In-person pitching is truly different than pitching via email!
Q: What was you biggest take away from doing this?
A: There are so many things I took away from this experience. It truly felt like the adventure of a lifetime, and I did things that I never would have thought were even possible when I started Handcrafted Honey Bee a year and a half ago!
As far as the biggest takeaway, we received a few concrete suggestions that we can implement to set ourselves up for success moving forward with our brand. We didn’t come home with any orders—and that’s okay. We also didn’t come home with anyone saying “never!” All of the buyers seemed to really like the product and respond to our mission…they just felt that our packaging and branding needed a bit of refinement. When all is said and done, that is a really, really positive outcome.
Most sellers never get to hear why a store decides not to carry them, but we were able to get tangible feedback about the “why” as well as suggestions on how to improve our chances of being carried in the future. In addition, I was relieved to hear that the feedback was something so concrete and fixable. It would have been much harder to hear them say that the product idea wasn’t a good one, but their feedback was quite the opposite. That was very affirming! I plan to make the improvements they suggested and—once I’m ready—I am definitely going to reach out to a few of them again. No matter what, it was an unforgettable experience and I am so glad we had the opportunity!
Q: Anything else?
A: I want to encourage my fellow makers out there to take chances, even if it stretches you outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s entering into a competition, pitching a store, or applying to a dream show, “winning” is beside the point.
Anything I can do to that makes me step up my business game is never a wasted effort. Whether a contest or competition asks me to fill out an application, write an essay, posting on social media, or has me asking people to vote for my business—all of it requires me to hone my craft as a businesswoman.
None of those efforts are ever in vain, even if I don’t “win.” Besides…instead of thinking, “What if I don’t win?” there’s always the flip side to that. What if you do? What is there to lose?
I’d also love for you to touch base with us on social media!
We have some very exciting things coming out this fall, and I can’t wait to see where Handcrafted Honey Bee goes next.