Finding Love at the GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge

Actress Regina King (Southland) makes an appearance at the GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge

HOLLYWOOD-The show always precede the hype. The hustle and bustle of the entertainment industry in Hollywood is full of people making relentless sales pitches for a star or a big-time power broker to take wind of their product.

Entrepreneurship and capitalism are the rules of thumb that govern this populace.

That fact comes more into play at a celebrity gifting suite where dozens or so vendors and business owners get an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impress a hotshot actor or deflect attention to themselves and their products to a legendary producer or director.

Making the rounds of the GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge at the W Hotel in Hollywood it is easy to figure out that being part of this exclusive club means having all of your I’s dotted and all of you T’s crossed if you are a company owner hoping to get a celebrity to latch on to your product or services.

Sometime it is not always about promoting gift items. There are plenty of charities and nonprofits eager to land a big name behind their causes. Stars like Joe Morton, Alfre Woodard and Tempestt Bledsoe got behind Lamda Legal in their promoting marriage equality and trying to end bullying of LGBTQ youth.

Of course, the gifts are always the center of attention at a GBK gift lounge.

This year’s GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge, which honored the 2013 Emmy Awards nominees, stacked it right for celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris (Smurfs 2, Host of the Primetime Emmys), Dennis Quaid, singer Brian McKnight, Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Regina King (Southland) and Harry Hamlin (Mad Men) to come through and enjoy the gift of giving from the numerous vendors attending.

That would include the always lovely King stopping by and picking up some goodies from Helzberg Diamonds, Jason Issacs (Case Histories) getting his sweet tooth on with Blondie’s Cookies, director Penny Marshall snapping up a flat iron comb from Barbar Hair Tools and McKnight stopping by Total Wine & More to collect a bottle of their fine alcoholic beverage.

Recording Artist Brian McNight attends the GBK Productions Luxury Lounge during Emmy's Weekend on September 20, 2013 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Brian McNight
Recording Artist Brian McNight attends the GBK Productions Luxury Lounge during Emmy’s Weekend on September 20, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Brian McNight

But the most disguisable aspect of a GBK Gift Lounge is not necessarily the big-name vendors. What makes the GBK Gift Lounge a unique experience are the numerous vendors and businesses that provide niche products. One of those is The Artisan Group (TAG).

The Artisan Group is an amazing collection of over 1,000 businesses that promote their handcrafted products under one giant umbrella. The line of products showcased in The Artisan Group’s dispensary range from bath and beauty, photography, accessories such as scarves, candles, children apparel, purses and tote bags and wooden items.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop experience, The Artisan Group should be your first choice at hand. Brenda Hunter, owner of CT River Candles, can probably help you convince you of that if you ever get close enough to hold one of her specialized candles.

Hunter, who joined The Artisan Group in 2012, chose to go into business for herself after a work-related injury left her with time on her hand.

That time off from her job as a information technology director proved to be a blessing in disguise for Hunter. She began thinking about the idea of becoming a business owner. Making candles made up of soy wax, cotton wicks and other fragrances has proved to be Hunter’s saving grace as she now sells her products in more than three dozen retail stores.

Hunter considers herself fortunate to have come across her golden opportunity.

“It was actually by chance,” Hunter said by email. “I was out on medical leave from my position as an Information Technology Director.  I had to have back surgery and was out for an extended period of time.  During that time, being pretty much only able to use a computer in bed, I begin researching how to make soy candles for myself. During that same period, we moved to a new home located on the Connecticut River and I made the decision not to return to a desk job for my health.

“After spending almost a year researching and testing, CT River Candles was born.  I begin by making candles for family and friends and then it expanded to one store and then more stores.  Currently I sell to approx 40 retail stores as well as make private label candles for several companies.  I also participate in fundraisers, make soy candle favors for wedding, showers, and other events.”

Actor Tim Pocock (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) gives The Artisan Group some love. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

Being part of The Artisan Group has only enhanced her company’s profile, Hunter said.

“I’ve been featured at different times in several newspapers regarding my involvement in gifting celebrities,” said Hunter. “I’ve also been featured in Grace Magazine, a magazine for women, in an article about women entrepreneurs as well as in several articles about homemade holiday goods and green eco-friendly products.  It’s also been a really great learning experience. The group provides a wealth of information about marketing, business procedures and is also is a great resources for graphic, bloggers, website designers and just honest advice.”

Debra’s Divine Designs owner Debra Jeffries has only been a member of The Artisan Group for less than a year. Jeffries said she has already seen dividends pay off from being part of this growing empire.

“I have only been involved a few months in the group, but I can tell you that the connections with the fellow artisans who come with such experience and extreme talent, has inspired me to so many levels,” Jeffries said. “I have learned a lot more about social media, wholesaling and growing my business.  I have developed press media contacts and even a few celebrity followers and customers.”

As far as taking part in the GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge this year, Jeffries said the event helped made her company more visible.

“I gifted to the Press Only for this event and feel that this will give me an opportunity to introduce myself and my business to the press outside of my own local community,” Jeffries said. “GBK productions puts on a GREAT gift lounge and I feel so honored to be apart of this through the Artisan Group.  Exposure is key in this business of handmade artisan products.”

Penny Cheng, creator of Saniki Creations, wanted to get outside of the box of corporate America to explore her creative side when she started delving into making handcrafted jewelry. The idea was for her to spend more time with her children. That idea has since turned into a full-blown company for Cheng.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Actor Neil Patrick Harris attends the GBK Productions Luxury Lounge during Emmy's Weekend on September 21, 2013 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Neil Patrick Harris
HOLLYWOOD, CA – SEPTEMBER 21: Actor Neil Patrick Harris attends the GBK Productions Luxury Lounge during Emmy’s Weekend on September 21, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Neil Patrick Harris

“I have three daughters, and the fun about having girls is that they love to buy jewelry,” Cheng said.”It didn’t matter if the jewelry were cheaply made products, in their eyes, ten pairs of earrings for $5 was perfect for them. Unfortunately those products would fall apart or make their skin turn green, and I would then be the one fixing the broken jewelry pieces.

“One day I popped into a craft store to buy more supplies to fix their jewelry, and I thought I’ll just make my own, because that way I know it’s well made, and it won’t hurt the kids. I kept making more and more jewelry that I eventually needed to get rid of some of them because they were taking up so much space. In January of 2009, I decided to register a domain, set up a website and started applying to craft fairs.”

Christine Lorenzo, founder of SariBlue, got slammed by the economy in 2011 when the light came on for her to think about becoming an entrepreneur. Joining forces with The Artisan Group shortly after starting SariBlue, Lorenzo said the relationship has been a perfect match for her company. The exposure that The Artisan Group provides by being part of gift lounges such as the GBK Pre-Emmy Celebrity Gift Lounge has been invaluable, she said.

“Specifically for this Emmy Lounge, I have to say GBK does such an amazing job with every one of their events,” Lorenzo said. “But the Emmy Event may be my favorite! I really love the level of excitement it seems to bring to everyone who attends and is involved with the event, all the people who come are so gracious and supportive of the artisans from TAG we all are thankful for the amazing responses that come from celebrity, industry reps, media and stylists.

“It has been thrilling so far in just a few days to see the positive feedback via emails, Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts. The feedback is great for a small business; it helps show our customers the excitement that happens with these events and gets them involved! It is very beneficial to developing the level of buzz we all look for.”

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