Friday, December 6, 2013

The Road to Nashville: My First Celebrity Gifting Suite

In September I got an unusual e-mail from a Los Angeles- based PR company, Celebrity Connected, inviting me to "sponsor" and participate in a gifting suite for the George Jones Tribute Concert in Nashville, TN. Sponsoring meant that for a small fee I could have a 10x10 space to display my pillowcases, meet the celebrities in attendance to the event, give out pillowcases, and take as many photos/videos of the celebrities talking with me and interacting with my products as I wanted to use for future marketing. The potential payoff for this type of exposure is huge, but I knew it would require lots of work and some money so the decision wasn't easy. At first it sounded like a too-good-to-be-true Nigerian-type of scam, so I spent a week emailing questions to Celebrity Connected and even talked to three different business owners who had been involved in their gifting suites in the past for references. (I am so glad I took the time to do that- people with experience gave me so much helpful advice about how to attract the best attention and make the most of the experience!) Ultimately I decided to take the risk (or I wouldn't be writing this post.)

 As one business owner I talked to advised me, "With an opportunity like this you need to make an impression. Go big or go home." So in 8 weeks Ben and I created a new website (so I could use this as an opportunity to veer away from Etsy), I had decals for 3 different pillowcase sets mass produced (vastly cutting down my production time but with enough involvement that they are still considered handmade), my sister-in-law redesigned my logo which I used to create new business cards, t-shirts, and two step-and-repeat style banners, I made and packaged around 150 samples pillow case sets to give out, we made a 5-hour trip to Ikea plus many smaller shopping trips to other stores to procure essentials for my faux bedroom display, practiced setting up the faux bedroom 3 times, enlisted the help of my two sisters and a local photographer to photograph the event and help with set up and childcare, and lots of other minute preparation that our lives and my mind basically revolved around until November 23.

In the midst of our anxiety, excitement, and preparation for Nashville what I call "The Perfect Storm" hit. In a good way. Sort of. Firstly my pillow case supplier called to inform me that the pillowcase style I've been ordering once a week for months was being discontinued. They only had a few cases left. I have a great relationship with this small company, so they called so I could reserve the cases. This was a huge blow. After two years of using various pillow cases the ones I order from them are perfect. They are the perfect size and the quality is so great that they are compared to 1200 thread count sheets! This meant I'd need to find a replacement pillow case until they started carrying the same style again in January. Great. Not only did I need 150 extra pillow case sets to give away in Nashville, but it was the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and I was already getting twice the orders I was getting at the same time last year.

Having a lag in pillowcases meant I had a (unexpected and unrequested) break from work, so Whit and I joined Ben on a business trip to one of our favorite places- the quaint mountain town of Blowing Rock, N.C. I was grateful to have the literal and figurative breath of fresh air, until I started getting buzz after buzz of Etsy notifications of sales around 10:00 one night. I then got a buzz that my shop had been mentioned on Twitter, and mentioned to Ben how weird that was. Being the technologically-savvy MBA student and business co-manager that he is he immediately checked the Google analytics for my Etsy store and we discovered that Ali Fedotowsky, former The Bachelor contestant, Bachelorette, and current E! News correspondent, had been given a set of my pillow cases and tweeted a picture of she and her boyfriend holding them. The photo got 12,00+ likes on Twitter and Instagram and resulted in around 50 sales for me in the next 12 hours! I was literally shaking (quietly, since Whit was asleep in his port-a-crib a few feet away) from the exposure, but Ben kept calm and started our own social network campaign. My sales continued to rise dramatically after that, and, with no pillow cases to use to even make these orders I was left a bumbling puddle of nerves!



It took around 2 valuable weeks to settle on a lower quality pillow case replacement, but at least that gave me the opportunity to work on the other aspects of our Nashville display, and the Ali tweet gave me the confidence that I needed to move forward with such a risky endeavor. I mean, obviously people (and fashionable, important people) loved my product!

150 Pillowcases in 4 different designs

When we actually got the car packed and we started our 8-hour drive the morning of November 20 I was actually feeling pretty good. I don't know how I did it, but we'd actually pulled it off- a beautiful and interactive display, all of the samples I could need, the perfect marketing materials, and extra hands to help. I had done my research and was as prepared as possible. So naturally I got a call after arriving on Wednesday that the gifting event had been altered from 6 hours on Thursday to 10 hours both Thursday and Friday! This was supposed to be a good thing- it meant that the concert was a part of history and, as such, had attracted more attention from eager musicians than expected and the concert managers were constantly changing the schedule to accommodate the growing number of celebrities involved. Well, I wasn't prepared for that, but had to put on the professional attitude I'd been getting used to and figure it out.

Our smaller display for the Thursday gifting suite

I did enjoy the backstage experience, the freedom to wander during rehearsals and sound checks, and feeling special,  but I have to admit that I was exhausted and irritable during the event. Luckily my family understood the pressure I felt and all pitched in to help. My sisters swapped watching Whit in our rental home and being with me at the event, and Ben followed all of my instructions with patience and understanding, even when I forgot to say "Thank you."  I am so grateful for the eternal love and bond of families! We did have a lot of fun, and my tongue was actually blistered from talking while smiling for so many hours on end! Our display was so impressive, our group was so fun, and our product so wonderful that the Celebrity Connected organizers even gave us the prime location for the main giveaway day, Friday- right beside the door! We were the first stop for celebrities coming in, and sometimes the only stop they made after realizing they were too hungry to stay for the full gifting suite.

Setting up on Friday with some old pro, Kate Mesta's Kate and Sondra

Whit came to visit for a little while!

The attention the pillowcases received was incredible. Person after person acted polite when shown my booth then exclaimed in surprise as soon as they actually felt the quality of the pillow cases and were shown the different designs I had. A few brought their friends or family straight back to my (and only my) booth to plead with me for extra samples, and even the security guard stationed at the door asked for a sample when it was all over because he had heard so many people talking about them outside!

 Ken Mellons 

Charlie Daniels

Rodney Adkins

John Michael Montgomery

Montgomery Gentry

I got some amazing photos of people pretending to sleep on the bed cuddled with my pillow cases or happily holding one out, a few musicians immediately tweeted or wrote to my shop on Facebook, and I exchanged tons of business cards, but the most valuable part of the experience for me was the confident that only experience can bring. I worked longer hours than I ever have, received more orders than I ever have, had more strikes of creativity than I could remember, and managed business calls with the calm professionalism I'd always admired from the big screen all during Whit's nap times. I can truly say my product is "Celebrity endorsed" because it was fawned over sincerely by so many people. In short, no matter how it all turns out I am so proud of myself for accomplishing more than I ever thought I could and for providing a product that is truly top-notch.


If you are curious about participating in a gifting suite or sponsoring an event with Celebrity Connected or another celebrity PR firm please leave a comment with your email address so we can talk. I learned a lot of valuable things and would highly recommend you don't go into that experience blind! 

87 comments:

  1. I am participating in my first gifting suite in a few months and would love some advice.
    Valery
    sun7designs@shaw.ca
    www.sun7designs.com

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  2. I am considering doing a gift suite. Would love to talk to you about your experience. Johnny@saigonjons.com

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  3. I just received an email from Celebrity Connected. I'm not sure how I'd market my studio there. I'd love to talk with you about your experience.

    Cara at paintwithlushart dot com

    Thank you!!

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  4. Hello. We received an email from Celebrity Connected to do a show out in Hollywood for a pre-American Music Awards event. Please email us at murstim1@yahoo.com. We would love to hear how your experience was, and what tips you can give us going into this. Thanks!

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  5. Thinking about doing one and would love to connect. Info@shoealong.com

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  6. We received an email from Celebrity Connected and would love to hear more about your experience. Thank you! orders@jmcustomskullrings.com

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  7. We would love more info as we just received an email from celebrity connected. Please email us at shoptheolivethread@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you! Thank you!

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  8. I would love some info to just got an email marisalynnevans@gmail.com thank you!!!

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  9. We recently received an email from Celebrity Connected. Please email us at info@goodvibecases.com. We would love to hear from you. Thanks!

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  10. We recently received an email from same people and would like to hear more could you please contact me on julesponan09@gmail.com

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  11. I have received one too, and I would love to chat about your experience and sales since the event. You can reach me at info@chewigemusa.com thanks much.

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  12. Have received the email, can you please contact me at mandyf@drycorp.com Thank you so much!

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  13. Hi, I would love to get your advice as I am going through the same experience. My email is stylingbyale@gmail.com
    Thanks!!

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  14. Hello:) I would love to get your advice, I have gotten a few of these offers but was always skeptical. My email is info@mamesoycandles.com

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  15. Hi I am contacting you from Canada - I have just received an email invite from celebrity connected for an upcoming show and would love to get some advice to see if this would be worth my while. I love your pillows!!
    My email address is acgrysiuk@shaw.ca - Thanks for your time!

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  16. Hi there, please email me. I'm from Australia and would love to grab some advice over Celebrity Connected.

    Thank you

    mishkphotography@gmail.com

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  17. Greetings,

    I received an email from celebrity connected today, and found their web site. In searching to see if it was a scam, I found your blog. I would be interested in hearing from you.

    donna at threadtreasures dot com

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi there,

    I also got an email from Celebrity Connected today to be a sponsor at the Emmy Awards. I am very skeptical because it seems too good to be true. Please email me tanyahayat@gmail.com

    Thank you very much!

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  19. Hi, My company as well received an email and would love to touch base with you and get you input!

    thank you,

    emily arciprete

    Email: emily@sohoodie.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Just received an email from Celebrity Connected, and would love to hear your input before making a decision.

    Thanks!

    Mbedard250@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi! I just received a email from Celebrity Connected. I wanted to know about your experience before making a decision to attend. I look forward to hearing from you! Email me at info@commecci.com

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  22. Hi, We are considering attending a gifting suite. Please could you send some advice from your experience to hello@everlongpaint.com, Kind regards, Michael

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  23. Wow--lots of Celebrity Connected emails have been going out apparently because I just got one also! Would love any advice you have to give and I thank you in advance for it. I couldn't tell if you got much followup traffic or orders due to this or not..? Thanks again-Tammy
    tammy@tammysmithdesign.com

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  24. I would be interested to know too if doing this celebrity gift suite actually increased your business or not? I received an email to go to Hollywood, CA and it is definitely a long way for me and would mean a lot of work since it is pretty much only a couple of months off, but could definitely be worth it. Any info you could give me would be much appreciated. You can email me at Heckthatshot@gmail.com

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  25. Hi Susannah! We are considering doing one of the gifting suites I googled it and this blog post came up I was hoping to be able to chat with you about it for just a few minutes I have some questions about the whole thing. Any help would be greatly appreciated my email address is adamrterry@gmail.com, thank you. Adam Terry

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  26. Hi! I just received an email today about doing a show so I started doing research and came across your blog. I would love some insight and more information from a real person who has done one before. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks! pinkrosemonograms@gmail.com

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  27. Hi Susannah - would you email me at angela@mamachic.co? I have oodles of questions about Celebrity Connected and you seem to be the maven on this subject ;) I appreciate your time! Angela

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  28. Hi :) I would love any advice you have on working with celebrity connected. I received an email today inviting my business to sponsor Honoring the American Music Awards in November. Still undecided and hoping you can help! Thank you so much! :)

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  29. I have been invited to do the gift suite in Hollywood for the American Music Awards in November of this year. I would love to have your advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose sending my email would help!!! glendaduchak@gmail.com

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    2. I was as well. Also looking for input :)

      Delete
    3. we were as well-- for the second time.
      If anyone has any input please email me! hardcoresweetct@gmail.com

      Delete
    4. we were as well-- for the second time.
      If anyone has any input please email me! hardcoresweetct@gmail.com

      Delete
    5. Same thing here. Input appreciated in advance. Email Merena@telus.net for www.haloheadwear.com
      Thank you!

      Delete
    6. Same thing here. Input appreciated in advance. Email Merena@telus.net for www.haloheadwear.com
      Thank you!

      Delete
  30. Would be interested in chatting! I just heard from them brett [at] tinytoesdesign.com - thanks so much!

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  31. I was invited to my first and have no idea if it's worth doing or not :) would love your input! I also have young kids and my husband is in the military so it would be hard but doable! Email is silentheroboutique@gmail.com thank you!!

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  32. I would love some input about the event and company...please email me at maha04@msn.com

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  33. If anyone has any information, I would love to hear it! anna@demiandolive.com

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  34. Hi!! Thank you SO much for this! We were just contacted today by Celebrity Connections and my mind is blown!! I can't believe this a possible reality! I would love to hear more, my email is devonp10@gmail.com. Thank you so much!

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  35. Hi! Got an email from Celebrity Connected today and super curious about your experience. I haven't done many events at all. So if they are legit and the opportunity is worth it, I have a lot of planning to do. Your input would help so much.

    Thanks!

    senneca@ylifactory.com

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi! Got an email from Celebrity Connected today and super curious about your experience. I haven't done many events at all. So if they are legit and the opportunity is worth it, I have a lot of planning to do. Your input would help so much.

    Thanks!

    senneca@ylifactory.com

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hello! I just got an invitation by this company to have a booth at the Academy Awards and am seriously skeptical but your blog post has me now questioning whether I should do it. I would really appreciate any information you can give and your impression of it helped your business after the event. Thank you!

    Jeana
    thefoxandstone@gmail.com
    www.thefoxandstone.com

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  38. Thank you for being so generous with your help and information!! I would love to talk to you!! We got invited to do a suite before the academy awards. Tiffanyenglish67@yahoo.com

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  39. Just received my email today for the acadamy awards in Feb. I would love some info on your experience as the cost is high for my newly started business but yet the payoff might be hugely amazing!
    Please email me at FIREArtbykatrin@gmail.com :)
    Thanks for your time

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  40. Hi, Thank you for this post. we are participating this year in the Academy Awards. I'd love to hear about your experience with your gifting suite. I'm getting a lot of negative comments that I've been scammed from other forums. I called and asked 100 questions, and decided to go for it. I'd love to chat if you have time.

    Eliza
    info@vintagebodycare.com

    ReplyDelete
  41. Can you please email me? Im trying to make a decision about what to do ... Academy Awards show in Feb ..

    akilahnisa@gmail.com

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  42. Can you please email me? Im trying to make a decision about what to do ... Academy Awards show in Feb ..

    akilahnisa@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi, love the blog. I have been contacted by celebrity connected to attend a pre-emmys show and I would really value your advice since I am from the UK and it is a big step - scrunchybum@hotmail.com thank you

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  44. Im trying to get more information in order to make a decision for the Academy Awards show in Feb that I was invited to. Can you please email me irntamy@aol.com

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  45. Im trying to get more information in order to make a decision for the Academy Awards show in Feb that I was invited to. Can you please email me irntamy@aol.com

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  46. Getting more info to make my decision - Please email me, I would really appreciate!
    Thanks - teacrockery@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  47. Getting more info to make my decision - Please email me, I would really appreciate!
    Thanks - teacrockery@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi there!
    I was invited to participate with the Celebrity Connected event in April.
    Could you tell me if this experience was profitable in matter of finances?
    I have a lot of other questions as well !
    -> dardenne.v@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  49. If you have an FAQ from all of these inquires, I'd be interested in learning more also. Like everyone else I recieved an email invitation. I'd love to know how it changed your business after.. sales increase, etc. And what up front costs you incurred (beyond the $5k fee and flights, hotels, etc).

    I'm not going to be able to commit to the two I was emailed about but may respond to keep me on the list for future events.

    Thanks for anything you are willing to share and/or if you have time to connect.

    Kudos to you for taking the risk and going for it, loved your blog!!

    barksandbeadsboutique@gmail.com
    Kelly

    ReplyDelete
  50. Love your pillow cases! Celebrity Connected also contacted my online store (we just launched a few months ago) for an upcoming celebrity gifting event, and if it's not too much trouble, I would love to get more details about your experiences working this event, especially upfront costs involved and risks to be aware of. If you had the opportunity to do it again, would you? My contact info: hyan@urban-diva.com . Thank you!!!! Heather

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  51. Love your pillow cases! Celebrity Connected also contacted my online store (we just launched a few months ago) for an upcoming celebrity gifting event, and if it's not too much trouble, I would love to get more details about your experiences working this event, especially upfront costs involved and risks to be aware of. If you had the opportunity to do it again, would you? My contact info: hyan@urban-diva.com . Thank you!!!! Heather

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  52. Hi! I found your by googling anyone who has done one of these events. We have been contacted about doing the EMMYs in September and I would love to chat with you!! chromanimals@gmail.com! Any help would be really appreciated!

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  53. Hi. I was contacted about doing the ESPYs in July. Can we talk? Vicki Martin vfmartin@comcast.net throwlikeagirl.com

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  54. Hi. I was contacted about doing the ESPYs in July. Can we talk? Vicki Martin vfmartin@comcast.net throwlikeagirl.com

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  55. Would love to chat with you about this - received an invite from them but am unsure as to whether it's right for the business! lorena@webgage.com

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  56. Hi! Thank you so much got offering us your advice! We were contacted for the Emmy and Espy and are really un sure what to do since we are from Canada! Please Help :) info@maisoncyma.com maisoncyma.com

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  57. Hi! I know you have absolutely been inundated with requests for help and Thank you so much for offering your advice! I was contacted and am unsure weather or not to go ahead as we are from Australia?! I would sincerely love to chat if you have the time. Thank you so much Kelly info@purejali.com.au

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  58. megan@shopmermania.com

    If you could reach out to me that would be great! They emailed me about my swimsuits!

    ReplyDelete
  59. Thanks so much for writing this blogpost! I got the email in regard to an Emmys party, and am trying to figure out if it would be worth my while. Did you find it legitimately increased your exposure and sales? Have you done it again? Would love to discuss. Please email me if you have time. Laura@forloveandlegacy.com

    P.s. Love your pillows!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Hello, great post! I just received an email from Celebrity Connected with an invitation to be at the red carpet event for the Emmys on 09-17-2016. Can you email me what you think? My email is yourincredibalm@gmail.com. Our website is www.yourincredibalm.com Thanks!

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  61. Can you also email me about your experiences... marketing@munchnz.co.nz

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  62. Love the pillows! Would you please send us your experience as well. Thanks again for such detail post. sales@bwskincare.com

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  63. They just contacted me for the Emmys coming up on September. 17th I am freaking out. I am a handmade swimwear company and this would be great for me and my business. I am nervous as heck though. $5k is a lot for my little business. Please email me. Bellapiadesigns@yahoo.com
    Instagram @bellapiadesigns

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hi there! My company was contacted to participate in the AMA gift suite.. I was wondering what other advice you have? karmaandsoulteam@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  65. Hi there,
    Just received an email from Celebrity Connected, and would love to hear your input before making a decision.Please email me elibg04@gmail.com

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  66. MBL Group International is a Mbl Pre Emmy Award,Mbl Group International News,Mbl Our Celebrity Clients,Mbl Styling.

    Mbl Pre Emmy Award

    ReplyDelete
  67. Hi, Celebrity Connected also recently emailed my company about participating in their gifting suite honoring the American Music Awards next month. I came across your blog while researching them and would love to chat and get any advice or guidance you may have! I'd hugely appreciate if you could shoot me an email: alexandra [at] cameliabeauty.com. Thanks so much! If anything, I'm grateful to Celebrity Connected for leading me to your company; I know what I'm getting all my newly-engaged girlfriends from now on!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Hello! I was also recently contacted to participate in a Celebrity Connected gifting suite and would love to hear your feedback on how it has financially promoted your company as well as tips and tricks! Thanks for offering your services!Info@adrinadietra.com

    ReplyDelete
  69. Hi there,

    We just received an email from Celebrity Connected, and would love your input before making a decision. My email is christagiampa@tiny-tummies.com.

    Thanks so much for your help, appreciate it -
    Christa

    ReplyDelete
  70. Hello! I received an email from Celebrity Connected in regards to showcasing products at their Gifting Suite and would love to hear any tips that you might have on how to properly set up the exhibitor space. My email is audrey@aitaikuji.com. Thank you so much in advance~

    ReplyDelete
  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  72. Hi, the brand I work for was asked to participate in an upcoming event. I would love to hear more details on the process for you! krindal@priveproducts.com

    ReplyDelete
  73. Hi there,
    Just received an email from Celebrity Connected, and would love to hear your input before making a decision. Please email me sruthi123@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  74. HI! I would love some input :)
    stephanieparker1@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  75. Hi, I was just contacted to participate in the September Celebrity Connected event. I would love to hear more about your experience before making a decision. Thanks! akurtz@bellomen.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! I was just curious if you have found more information or received feedback? ;)

      Delete
  76. Hi!
    Great post thanks for sharing your experience for us all! I just received the email today to participate and would love some tips or advice of your experience. Jenthomas@foxiehounds.com

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  77. I was just contacted about doing the same thing. I'd love to get your advice. My site is www.sheliftsgear.com. :) Thank you! xo Jenny Grothe 801-319-4168

    ReplyDelete
  78. Hi there,
    We just got the invite and I admit I'm super skeptical...would love to chat with you about our experience, especially since you can relate to my position as a mom boss! my email is contact@herbanroots.org. ( P.S. we LOVE Blowing Rock too! - my family vacations there every Fall :) )

    ReplyDelete
  79. Hi! Would love some info. Considering doing the one for the EMmy's and AMA's. Thanks! jillian@buttermeuporganics.com

    ReplyDelete