I'd love to say that I went, I pitched and I succeeded, but then this would be a fairytale and I'm keeping my experience at HSN (Home Shopping Network) as transparent and as real as possible.
Three months ago I was at a "Favorite Things Party", this is where woman get together, bring three of their favorite things and then exchange them. As a participant you leave the evening with hopefully three new very special items. While at this party I over heard a woman talking about HSN and that her husband had been on the previous day. Being the hustler I am, and knowing every connection matters I asked her to tell me more about their experience and how I too could approach HSN? She was super kind and generous and said that all I needed to do was go to HSN's website, and apply under American Dreams; and that every week they featured a new emerging brand.
This sounded AMAZING and exactly the type of sales channel I had been wanting to set up for Freckle Baby so that my products could be seen by a much larger audience. I did as she recommended, I searched HSN American Dreams and sure enough an application emerged. This was at the end of November, I assumed this process may be slower than normal as everyone was heading into the holidays, however, to my surprise I received an email on December 7, telling me I was a "Semi-Finalist"!
WAIT!!!... a semi-finalist to me imparts contest. What had I entered? I thought I was submitting product for HSN to assess if they would feature it on their American Dreams segment. Now I was super confused. Semi-finalist sounded great and validating, although I wasn't really sure what for, so I continued forward with the next steps; I sent them physical product for review and calendared the dates of a "Pitch" I was invited to attend in Florida at HSN headquarters the following month in January.
*SIDE NOTE: Throughout the last 12 months I have been approached by the Meredith Vieira Show and Project Runway Startup, both of which did not pan out; I tell you this only to impart that I had been down a few of these paths and had gotten my hopes up only to be feel abandoned by the producers who had begun these negotiations and interviews. Now I was in a contest that #1 I did not realize I had applied for and now they wanted me to fly across the country (I live in CA) and pitch a panel of HSN executives. Should I be excited or should I be concerned and pessimistic? These were some feelings I was naturally feeling, but on the other hand I also felt perhaps this is my opportunity and fortune had smiled on me and rewarded my hard work.
Throughout the next week I received more questionnaires, 1 asking me about my Spanish fluency, which I found odd, do all candidates for HSN need to speak Spanish? If so, again I looked at this as a great sifter of people, as I do speak Spanish fluently; I lived in Barcelona for 6 months, I have always studied Spanish and I speak nearly everyday to keep up my fluency. I'm thinking to myself whatever I've signed up for is totally built for me, YAY!!!
On January 3, I receive an email from HSN that said something about being a "Latino Entrepreneur" I was immediately crushed. Now the Spanish perquisite made sense. I followed up with the HSN woman who was keeping me informed of the next steps and made sure she knew I was not a Latina and that I was confused on how I had entered into a competition where as a super white girl from California I obviously did not meet the criteria nor was I trying to pretend I was of Latino heritage. She said...
"You submitted your product for Project American Dreams, which was a contest meant to recognize Hispanic inventors (however you do not have to be Hispanic to participate). Project American Dreams selected a group of semifinalists from everyone who submitted their product to the online portal and is inviting them to come to HSN to pitch their product in person to possibly be selected to sell their product on air. The semifinalists that are traveling to HSN to pitch their product are not guaranteed to move forward, it just gives them a chance to pitch in front of HSN executives.
This process does not happen with American Dreams. American Dreams is an ongoing initiative by HSN to find new entrepreneurs and never before seen products. Each week we air 2 products that have been chosen from our online portal. If your product is chosen for American Dreams, we put you in contact with a vendor who works with you on costing and units, and you eventually come on air to sell your product once we determine a time slot for you.
What may have happened is you may have accidentally submitted your product to the Project American Dreamsportal rather than the American Dreams portal, which has happened to a few other people because they are located on the same place on the website and it can be a little confusing."
This email did make me feel better, knowing that #1, no one thought I was trying to misrepresent myself and #2 it was still in my best interest to attend this HSN headquarters pitch. Consequently, the next 2 weeks I worked on my pitch, timed myself, recorded it, did it in front of other people to get their feedback, and by January 23 when I flew to Florida I felt totally prepared.
As a side comment, I am so grateful for a reason to prepare and focus myself on what I sell and the benefits of my product. It was very fulfilling and insightful for me to take that time to reflect and stretch. Plus now that I have 1 pitch under my belt I feel so much more confident moving forward.
The night that I arrived in St. Petersburg Florida, HSN and the sponsor US Bank hosted a mix and mingle for all the contestants and the judges to get to know one another. I thought this was really great because I was able to sit down with so many people I would be pitching the following morning and just chat. Remember how I said this had started out as a Latino Contest, it was very evident to me that night that this was still a Latino competition. There were 16 contestants, 2 of us were non Latino. I was grateful to be included but I did wonder how the judging would work since the premiss of this entire competition was "Searching, Mentoring and fast-tracking products created by Latinos to Launch on HSN". How did my story fit into this concept? Nevertheless, I know HSN wants good products that they can sell on TV so I put my reservations aside. I was excited to be at HSN and even if I wasn't chosen for this competition I was getting to pitch the HSN Executives and I know that is a huge opportunity.
From the time I arrived at HSN I really felt like they cared immensely about all the entrepreneurs that had come. They seemed extremely genuine about working with all of us and helping make our American Dreams a reality. The staff and everyone I met with at HSN headquarters were extremely warm and I felt so comfortable. Even the day of pitching, they took us in groups of 5 for an hour and worked with us on our pitches, they gave us pointers and got any last minute stress or anxiousness out. I was ready to PITCH!!!
I went on at 10:15am EST. My pitch was my life story, I had 4 boys in 5 years and I created my snap leash teething bib to help me with a daily challenge that me and my teething baby were facing everyday. I thought they loved it. I relate well with the modern millennial mom, I know this because, I'm a modern millennial mom and this great demographic is what makes up most of my tribe on social media. I believe the executives loved this due to their great questions and because I know they want to reach this audience and grow their base. They even asked for additional product before I departed and I took this as a very positive sign.
I'm not going to lie, I was a bit crushed when yesterday I found out I did not make the top 5. I had really wanted this opportunity and felt that finally a path seemed clear and I was meant to be at HSN. The email telling me I was not picked was short, impersonal, and lacked the warmth and support I had become accustomed to receiving from HSN. I immediately followed up stating that I was grateful to hear the results and please tell me what the next steps are for moving forward with the regular American Dreams platform. I hope to receive feedback on how I can improve, how I can meet their needs better, and how I can still be on HSN.
The competitor in me is always going to want to plead my case, in order to win and of course succeed. I told HSN I want to build a bib empire with them and that is still my goal. As I stated above I did love my time there and felt very well received, so I assume this is still the beginning of my path with them, and I am hopeful for a future date when I can sell my products on their great far reaching platform. I keep telling myself to always stay optimistic; as one wise woman told me, "its a numbers game" and something will pan out, and I truly have faith in hard work, dedication and perseverance.
Beach cruising fixes all heart breaks!!!