Blanche “Bee” Kern knows that beauty is found in the details. It’s perhaps one of the reasons behind the wild success of a business she started her sophomore year of college called The Honeycomb.
“A passion to create beautiful things” led her to begin creating hairpieces, including floral garlands, pins, crowns and a small selection of veils – perfect headwear for brides seeking to add more floral elements to their big day.
“Everything I made seemed to sell right away, and the custom order requests began to pour in,” she says.
Kern had launched her Etsy shop in 2008 while attending Maryville University for a graphic design degree – during what she calls the “early days” of the online handmade marketplace. Still, attention to detail and excellent customer service were her priorities as she began delivering pieces to customers all over the world.
“The online bridal industry is saturated with mass-produced items, so I was passionate about providing a more personalized and handmade service,” Kern says. “My motto is ‘perfection in the details,’ from selecting the finest available materials for my designs to thoughtful communications with my customers.”
With graduation from Maryville on the horizon and business ramping up, Kern was faced with the decision of what to do after earning her diploma.
“With graduation coming, I felt a career crisis looming,” she says. “I received a job offer from the design firm I’d interned with, but my mind was already made up. I was too excited by the customer response to The Honeycomb and loved the idea of running my own business.”
Kern turned her attention to The Honeycomb full time after graduating and has been working tirelessly ever since. The signature Honeycomb look blends fabric flowers with a luxe variety of metal vines, twigs and leaves, often incorporating Swarovski pearls and crystals, too.
“These gilded pieces are my favorite to make and the most popular with customers,” she says.
Although she focuses mainly on the flower crowns and hair combs, her veils have also picked up momentum, with the “drape” veil becoming a bride favorite. Kern recently brought on a talented veil designer – her mom, Dede – who cuts and stitches the veils by hand.
“Whereas most designers affix lace with glue, she is meticulous with needle and thread,” Kern notes.
Her fastidious care and willingness to create personalized pieces for her customers have set The Honeycomb apart in an online market that’s now saturated with wedding accessories.
“There is far more competition now,” Kern acknowledges. “This keeps me on my toes and makes me obsessive about finding new and unique ways to advance my signature look, while creating diversity in my offerings and never sacrificing on quality.”
Kern hit a big milestone in 2018 when eRank (then called EtsyRank) listed The Honeycomb as the top 1 percent seller on the global Etsy marketplace. The business also celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year, and Kern looks back fondly on the successes The Honeycomb has had since its inception.
“My items have been featured in wedding blogs, magazines and the CW-channel TV series Reign,” she says. “Although most of my customers are in the United States, 25 percent of orders today are coming from Europe. I’m quite proud of that.”
Wherever they are in the world, Kern’s customers are happy ones. She has a five-star rating from nearly 3,000 customers and receives numerous emails per month with comments like “I have been searching for weeks to find the perfect accessory. I’m so glad I found you!”
“I offer brides a truly personalized service, which many take advantage of,” Kern says. “I am frequently asked to create a hybrid of styles from the existing designs in my shop. For example, if a bride likes one headpiece for its colors and vibe, but it’s not quite the right shape, I can remake it to fit her special request. Often I will switch out flowers to match a particular bouquet. I’ve even had brides send me an ancestor’s heirloom headpiece to remake into something new. I am in love with the collaborative process!”
The Honeycomb’s continued growth has led Kern to seek out a bigger studio space, which she is moving to shortly. Currently, her designs are available only online.
“I am excited about the growth, although being a one-woman show can take its toll,” she says. Though she says some days she feels like a hamster on a wheel, she’s “so fortunate to be doing what [she] loves.”
“The plan this year is to hire someone to help with business operations, which will free up my time to focus exclusively on the creative side and continue to provide excellent customer service,” Kern says. “I am committed to creating a delightful experience for my customers, from start to finish.”
The Honeycomb, etsy.com/shop/thehoneycomb