Welcome to the #HOMETOWNHUSTLE – a new SweetwaterNOW exclusive series, brought to you in partnership with Commerce Bank, where we highlight hardworking business owners in our community.
This week we caught up with Melissa Whitmore and Terri Mackley, co-owners of Busy Bee & Co. LLC in Rock Springs to learn more about their unique hometown boutique.
Busy Bee & Co. LLC is a retail store featuring locally made items from over 25 Wyoming businesses and artisans.
Although their main goal is to have handmade products, this year they have started bringing in other items that are not locally made to accommodate their customer’s search for the perfect gift or something for themselves.
According to Whitmore and Mackley, after the closing of several big stores over the last few years, they are working on filling in some of those gaps.
Melissa Whitmore, pioneer of Busy Bath Essentials was inspired to open her own shop for a couple different reasons. The main one was because she had tried selling her homemade bath products from a few stores around town over the course of a year and a half. “It was difficult moving the business from Green River (where it was born years prior to my husband, Justin and I buying the business) and bringing it over to Rock Springs.”
Melissa had a clientele that followed Busy Bee once they found out it was still in Sweetwater County and didn’t close forever as originally planned. However, new customers had questions about ingredients, the uses for the variety of products and custom orders. “Having a middle man wasn’t my idea of customer service and the store owners could only answer so many questions,” Whitmore explained.
When a building became available on North Front Street 3 years ago, Melissa and Justin jumped on the opportunity to open up a shop and invited some fellow crafters to join them. Busy Bee is a unique store because of what they offer to their customers. “We pride ourselves on the fact that residents of Sweetwater county cannot go to Wal-Mart or any other store around town to purchase the unique items Busy Bee has for sale.”
According to Melissa and Terri, the store’s goals are ever-changing. “There are a handful of items that come in and are only available for a limited time. 90% of the time we are able to re-create a product if supplies are available; if we can’t re-create an exact piece, we will do our very best to get as close as possible.”
3 words to describe Busy Bee & Co. LLC?
Rewarding. Fun. Growing.
Melissa and Terri work closely with their customers to make sure they’ve received an order they love. They are able to take custom orders for a variety of items; something most other retailers are neither willing nor able to do.
“We are always happy and ready to help!”
The inventory at Busy Bee consists of bath and body care items; wreaths, home, and yard décor, licensed UW products, clothing, baby and children items, jewelry, and unfinished wood for your own crafting nights.
That’s not all though, they also have furniture pieces that have been given a fresh new look with paint. The food section consists of salsas, seasonings, bloody mary mix, homemade cookies, and other goodies as well as a line of sauces (ketchup, bbq sauce, mustard, steak marinade, and wing sauce).
The Busy Bee & Co. inventory is constantly changing. To keep up with recent products, news, and more check them out on Facebook here.
“We’ve just been warming up!”
When asked about the challenges of owning her own business, Whitmore answered, “the biggest challenge so far has been time management.”
For 2 ½ years, she ran the store by herself with occasional help from family and friends. Melissa spent many hours working, which she felt was necessary for the beginning. However, she struggled to manage the time at the store, homeschooling her kids, and having enough time at home to make bath and body products and other items.
“Although my customers would never admit it, I could feel they were getting frustrated because I had trouble keeping up with the demand for products.”
“I am never ok with poor customer service,” Melissa explained. After trying many different time management strategies with no success, her and Justin knew it was time to make some changes. Closing and giving up wasn’t an option. “It was all perfect timing,” Whitmore said.
The building they are currently in was almost finished being renovated and their new business partners, Terri and Pat Mackley were ready for the adventure.
In August of 2018 Busy Bee & Co. moved into their current location and began the business partnership. At first, it was tough. The pair of ambitious entrepreneurs struggled over what they refer to as “control tendencies”.
After 2 ½ years of running things solo, Melissa admits she was a bit stuck in her ways. Alas, the team persevered and says “no blood has been shed yet; a few tears, but no blood!”
Melissa and her husband agree that having Terri and Pat as business partners has been the best move they could’ve made for their business. “It’s allowed me the opportunity to spend more time with the family and work on growing my bath and body care line, Terri has been able to grow her wreath-making classes as well as expand her home and yard décor line,“ says Whitmore. “We all wish it could have happened sooner, but we are so thankful for where we are now and look forward to our future together.
According to both Melissa and Terri, their most satisfying moment in business is when customers leave happy and are excited to bring friends and family back to shop with them.
For some, it’s become their weekly tradition to come in and see what’s new. Mellisa tells us: “We have been thanked so many times for having a store like this in our community, and we used to brush it off thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal; we’re just another retail store.”
As time goes on the Busy Bee & Co. owners have gained a new understanding of just why so many customers have sung their praises.“So many businesses have opened and closed in the time we’ve lived here, so to still be going strong after 3 years is kind of a big deal.”
Melissa explains that the shop’s original purpose was to home their crafting addictions and starting out, they weren’t really sure how long it would last or if it was realistic for the store to become a success. “(Busy Bee…) has turned into much more than just a place for fellow artisans to sell their creations. We’ve all built so many great relationships with each other as well as with people throughout the community, something that would have otherwise never happened; that is very rewarding to us as well.”
“Just go for it! You’ll never know unless you try! It could be the worst decision you’ll ever make, or it could be the best decision; but until you try and truly give it 110%, you’ll never know what it could have been.”
For the Busy Bee team, success isn’t about the money. Although Melissa and Terri agree that it’s a great feeling to know the bills are getting paid, for them, it’s much more about the freedom. “The choice to do what we want, when we want is better than waking up every morning and going to a job where you’re told what to do and when to do it. It’s obviously the easiest way to be guaranteed a paycheck but we’ve been there and it’s just not for us.”
The pair says that together, they have crushed so many non-monetary goals that even if Busy Bee were to close its doors tomorrow, they would consider the shop a success.
Don’t worry though. Melissa & Terri have assured us that Busy Bee & Co. has no plans of going anywhere. “We’ve just been warming up!”
After 3 years of hard work and ups and downs, Melissa and Terri have gleaned some helpful insights to pass along to aspiring business owners: “Just go for it! You’ll never know unless you try! It could be the worst decision you’ll ever make, or it could be the best decision; but until you try and truly give it 110%, you’ll never know what it could have been.”
Aside from offering one of the best selections of crafts and gifts around, Busy Bee also hosts regular crafting classes where people can come in, learn a craft and take home their original piece of art. “Now that we are settled into the new store and the crazy holiday season is over, we are working on getting our classes back up and running.”
The duo is currently working to refine the registration process and are adding new features to ensure every class-goer returns home with the craft they have imagined.
They also welcome private parties. Stop by and say hi!
The #HometownHustle series is made possible by our great sponsor: