It was about this time last year that I started to get emails and texts from friends and longtime customers—“You should put in an application for this!!”
It was the announcement for the 3rd annual Martha Stewart American Made contest. It’s a national search for outstanding American makers. I dismissed the texts and emails. I said, we aren’t a good fit. We don’t make crafts. We make flour.
And, to be perfectly honest, the only time I had ever read Martha Stewart Living Magazine is when I visit my grandma’s house.
My Aunt Julie, a long time Martha devotee, had to set me straight. She gave me the abridged history of Martha Stewart Living. It went something like this: “Did you know that Martha started the whole idea of a lifestyle business. There was nothing of its kind and nothing this beautiful before she started this magazine. And over the years she has featured heritage chickens, heritage gardening, heritage flowers. What you are doing, bringing back an old craft and heritage grains—it’s perfectly in line with what you are doing.” She even pulled out old issues of the magazine to show me how it had hardly aged; the older issues as timelessly stunning as the most recent ones.
Let’s say this history lesson pretty much convinced me to apply to the contest. So I spent a whole day filling out the application (you can see it here). By the time I was done I really wanted to win! But there were more than 3,000 applicants, so I kept my hopes at bay. And besides it would still be several month before they would announce the 10 winners.
My dad and I are notorious for being hard to get a hold of. But there are some days when you are glad you answered your phone. Like when the food editor from MSL calls to tell you won the American Made contest in the food category. We literally couldn’t believe it. After we hung up, my dad and I kept asking each other if we had heard the same thing. And we are pretty much still pinching ourselves today.
Part of winning was being part of the American Made Event at the beginning of November. My youngest sister and oldest brother live in NYC, so we made a family trip out of it. And after 3 years of hard work and sacrifice we decided to just celebrate how the business had grown as a family. (Although we were sadly missing one sister and brother-in-law).
We started the day out my taking a tour of the MSL offices and meeting the 9 other winners. The other winners were incredible people, it was actually my favorite part of the event to meet these other makers. But the highlight of the tour had to be the prop room. Imagine a whole shelving unit devoted to cake stands. Swoon.
The main event kicked off with a cocktail party featuring delicacies from around the country. It goes without saying, but the MSL team throws a good party. There was the most incredible spread of food. They even featured our White Sonora berries in a salad at the Southwest table. And if my stomach wasn’t so nervous I would have eaten my weight in Oysters at the endless oyster bar. But my dad and I were going to be interviewed by Martha, along with the other 9 winners later that evening—I couldn’t eat a thing! (We also got to wear these state-fair type pins that said “Winner”-I still wear mine every day. Too much?)
And by the time the event was over I had a new found respect for Martha and the whole MSL team—their hospitality was so genuine and we felt spoiled the whole time. Beyond her image as an accomplished homemaker, I saw Martha as an incredible business woman. Seeing what she had built—that was very personally inspiring. But there were also some touching down-to-earth moments that left an impression. Once when Martha was giving an introduction, she saw her grandson in the audience. She stopped everything and cried out for him. It was so precious.
Like a whole family of country mice, we were the last people to leave to the 2 day event with very full bellies and big eyes. The big city was great but it was time to get back to our real, not-so-glamourous lives back at the mill. By the time the event was over, I think that the entire MSL staff had met my entire family and knew that my youngest sister played basketball at Columbia—proud mom and dad right?