Twenty-six year old Hannah Brady is continuing a tradition as old as the mountains of Alleghany County – the home based business. Throughout the decades, rural women have supplemented the family income in a variety of ways. For some it was as simple as selling surplus eggs or freshly churned butter. Others took in sewing or sold hand-stitched quilts. It was in this same spirit that Hannah launched her business, Honey Bee Cuttery, in January 2016. In a short 12 months, she has seen it grow beyond her expectations.
Hannah’s family moved to Alleghany County from Beech Mountain when she was ten years old. Her father, Troy Ward, is a carpenter and her mother, Andrea, owned a landscaping business and each fall she operated a pumpkin and Christmas tree lot in Wilmington, NC. Both parents installed a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit in Hannah and her brother, Austin.
A 2008 graduate of Alleghany High School, Hannah served as student body president, played volleyball and was on the swim team. Her next stop was the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where she received a degree in teaching. She then returned to Alleghany County where she taught biology and general science at Sparta Elementary School before moving on to the high school as a biology teacher. She is currently enrolled in graduate school at Appalachian State University.
Hannah’s mom became ill and battled cancer for 13 months. Andrea had always been active so when she was sick, the family searched for ways to help keep her busy. One item they used was a borrowed craft vinyl cutter. Hannah and her mom spent valuable time together focusing their creative energies on intricate paper and vinyl designs.
Hannah’s mom passed away in 2011. Hannah took over operation of the Wilmington tree lot for two seasons. There she learned the value of developing networks within the community. One repeat customer was former Boston Red Sox star, Trot Nixon. Hannah remains friends with him and his family. She also gained firsthand experience of the importance of marketing and customer service.
As she developed these business skills, she saw a possibility of taking her hobby of vinyl cutting to the next level. She invested in a computerized craft cutter. This enabled her to put her designs in an electronic format which are then sent to an automated cutter. This process allowed her to do custom work in small quantities. She began experimenting with apparel, decals, tumblers and Christmas ornaments.
She knew from her days on the tree lot that having great products is only part of a successful business. She also had to connect with customers. To do that, Hannah formed an Etsy store so she can sell to customers online. She pitched her products to the Alleghany High School Athletic Booster Club as a way for parents to promote the school and recognize their individual students. Because of the customized nature of her products, her Facebook page has become her biggest source of orders. Approximately 90% of her sales are generated online. 10-15% of her customers are from outside Alleghany County and that number is growing. She sums up her business strategy simply as her desire to, “Have a quality product at a reasonable price so that people can afford to shop local.”
Hannah is quick to give her husband, Chris, credit for much of her success. Chris is a middle school teacher at Sparta Elementary. He not only gives moral support to Hannah’s efforts, he often lends a hand to help with orders.
There is a notion in rural areas that all the best and brightest young people have left for city life. Hannah embodies the fallacy is that statement. The former student body president, graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Alleghany High teacher, expectant mother, who will graduate with a master’s degree in education this spring, somehow still finds time to manage her growing business.
Those women who sold eggs and quilts paved the way for contemporary women like Hannah Brady to carry that entrepreneurial tradition forward. Across our county, young women, as well as men, are taking over family farms and opening small businesses. They are guiding canoe trips, pouring gourmet coffee, working as welding contractors and tending to our medical needs. Where some see obstacles, they see opportunities. These young people are making a difference in our community. While many of our youth do leave, not all of the best and brightest have crossed the county line. If we open our eyes, we will see that like Hannah, they have been here all along.
View Honey Bee Cuttery’s products on their Facebook page by following this link
Or contact Hannah Brady by email at firstname.lastname@example.org