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UPDATED: ICON HONORS celebrates 13 winners in Atlanta

The ICON HONORS event was held Saturday, July 14, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The glittering affair, now in its third year and held in conjunction with the summer Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market, celebrated the best in Innovation, Contribution and Achievement, across all industry segments and product categories.

Musician Kenny Loggins and comedian Jeff Foxworthy entertained the crowd of more than 900 attendees. Americasmart President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Portman introduced the event, which was then turned over to CNN veteran anchorwoman Lynne Russell.

The awards were announced through a "movie," shown on 190 feet of screen stretching across the room, sharing the personal stories of the winners, as related by themselves.

The evening was co-sponsored by Americasmart, the Gift & Home Trade Association and Sandow Media, parent company of Home Accents Today.


The 2012 ICON HONORS winners are:



Innovation Technology Applications: Sferra

Innovative Product Design: Backyard Safari Company

Innovative Product Design: Jura Capresso

Innovative Product Packaging: EyeDoll Chatter with Studio M Design



Community Contribution and Influence: Gracious Me!

Industry Contribution and Influence: Bigger Box

Industry Contribution and Influence: Goodweave USA



Individual Career Accomplishment: Albert Nichols

Individual Career Accomplishment: Mary Liz Curtin

Lifetime Achievement Award: Bob Anderson

Life Accomplishment: Jim Shore

Medal of Excellence Honor: Mele & Co.

GHTA President's Honor of Excellence: Joyce Washnik, Giftbeat


More on the winners:
Sferra, Edison, N.J.
With the popularity and excitement high for cell phone apps, companies are finding new ways to reach consumers through their iPhone. People have their phone with them wherever they go which makes an app convenient and fun to use.

Sferra took the guesswork out of making a stylish match of your dinnerware and linens. The company's new app, Linen Colors by Sferra, available for free on the iPhone and iPad, allows users to take a picture of their dinnerware and match the colors to some of Sferra's 101 colors of pure European woven linen napkins. They can even share their selections with their Facebook friends and ask for their vote on the best look.

"We researched the bestselling dinnerware on the market, and from those colors, introduced our Festival pure linen napkins in 101 colors. We then needed a vehicle for the homeowner to match the colors in her plate to the colors of our linens," said Sferra CEO Paul Hooker. "The app features an algorithm that does just that. We are very pleased with the outcome, and honored to receive an ICON award."

The app shows thumbnails of all 101 colors and users can order swatches via email or link to Sferra's website to buy napkins for tomorrow's dinner. There is also a store locator showing the user where to see the napkins to make her personal selection.

Shortly after the app launched in 2011, Hooker was featured on The Martha Stewart Show, and more than 700 downloads of the app occurred during the airing of the show.


Backyard Safari Company, Covington, Ga.
For owners Clyde and Sherri Hutchison, the idea of a perfect weekend is spending time with friends and family, grilling and watching the kids play outside. That, combined with their love of nature, inspired their business.

"Our company motto is ‘dirty knees, busy hands, growing minds,'" said co-owner Sherri Hutchison.

You can't help but smile when you see Sunny Side Up Gardens. These colorful and cheerful seed kits come with heirloom and organic seeds, a growing disk, wooden ID stakes, instructions, growing journal and a pencil - all inside a 100% recycled fiber egg carton planter.

"Our gardening kits give children a chance to celebrate life, enjoy every moment and discover the adventure in their own backyard," Hutchison said.

Each kit they make is unique and contains a themed mix of veggies, herbs or flowers. Almost everything in their garden kits is either manufactured in Atlanta or elsewhere in the United States.

As a small company, their goal was to sell 2,500 kits in their first year. Introduced at the Atlanta market in January 2011, they have now sold more than 25,000 gardens.



Jura Capresso, Inc., Closter, N.J.
Jura, the parent company of Jura Capresso, developed a coffee center that makes preparing your favorite morning pick-me-up easier than ever. The Jura Impressa J9 One Touch TFT has a large 3.5-inch state-of-the-art color display and prepares crema coffee, cappuccinos and latte macchiatos with the touch of a button, without moving the cup.

"Offering the ultimate home coffee experience, the Impressa J9 One Touch TFT's advanced features and intuitive design make it easier than ever to prepare personalized specialty coffee drinks at the touch of a button," said David Shull, vice president of sales and marketing of Jura Capresso.

This coffee center enhances convenience and user experience with the display and adjustable beverage settings that cater to each user's preferences. You can create a personalized espresso or café latte. The unit also features an energy-conscious design and an eco-friendly brewing system.

The Jura Impressa J9 One Touch TFT is a Red Dot design winner and the 2012 Housewares Design Awards "Best in Category" winner. Jura Capresso, Inc. was founded in 1994 and has won numerous design and performance awards for its innovative products, setting new standards in coffee taste, convenience and design.


Eyedoll Chatter with Studio M Design, Marietta and Alpharetta, Ga.
Packaging can set the tone for the experience a customer has with a product. The experience can even begin online and continue at home with the integration of social media and apps.

Sisters Kali Sharp and Morgan Chaos along with their mother Donna Bell turned their passions and talents into a business - Eyedoll Chatter. Sharp's expertise in technology and apps came from 12 years in the wireless industry, Chaos's passion for makeup started when she was in elementary school and Bell's creative talent leads to playful color and scent names.

"When we launched, we wanted to create something fun and unique so that tweens and teens would be able to experience makeup with their friends," Sharp said.

Each American Eyedoll eye shadow makeup kit contains three eye shadow colors and three sheer scented eye shimmers to mix and match. Brightly colored flowers on the packaging match the colors included in the kit, and the makeup scent icons mirror the ones used online. Eyedoll Chatter also sells a blush kit, Cheek Chat, and a lip kit, Hello Kissy, and all of their makeup kits come with makeup application instructions and tips.

To accompany their product, Eyedoll Chatter extends the experience online by mentioning its Facebook, Twitter and iPhone app right on the packaging. Adding to the online experience, they have instructional YouTube videos that walk tweens and teens through the makeup application process.

"We designed the package specifically so that it would tie into our social networking platforms and app so that the icons match the product that they are experiencing at home," Sharp said.


Gracious Me!, Hopkinsville, Kent.

Gracious Me! believes strongly in giving back to the community that supports it. Store customers' interests in causes help Gracious Me! determine which events will best serve its community with a focus on women's causes.

"At Gracious Me!, we are proud to hold special events as our way to not only remain connected to the community, but also to give back to the friends who support us," said Sherry Calhoun, owner of Gracious Me!

They create events that support a variety of causes such as Alzheimer's, breast cancer, military support, Haiti and a women's center for substance abuse. They go an extra step by also making their events an educational experience. They are 6 miles from one of the largest army bases in the country so they offer a 10% discount for all active military personnel and families.

"In an ever-changing society, one constant should always be the responsibility of helping others," Calhoun said. "When we are so blessed, why not share?"

When the store first opened, it had a focus on home décor, but has now expanded to include gifts such handbags, jewelry, body products and more. It also has a gift, bridal and baby gift registry program which caters to special occasions in a family's life by customizing the shopping experience for their interests.

Bigger Box, San Mateo, Calif.
Launched in May 2011, Bigger Box gives independent retailers the chance to receive discounts usually offered only to the big box stores. Bigger Box has sold more than 2,300 assortments, all at 40% to 50% off of regular wholesale pricing.

"Bigger Box is the first company to leverage online group buying power for the independent gift and toy retailers across the country," said Lisa Kozinn, vice president of business development at Bigger Box.

There is no membership fee and no obligation to buy. This allows the retailer to try new products with low risk so they can continually offer their customers new products. Retailers simply register online and will immediately begin receiving deals via email. They can then purchase quality, new merchandise from reputable vendors in the industry.

"Over the past year, we have saved independent retailers over $700,000, which is pure profit," Kozinn said.

Bigger Box started with one deal per week, and now offers an average of four deals per week. Bigger Box has helped manufacturers increase their customer base by up to 70% with each deal that it runs.

Goodweave USA, Washington, DC
Founded in 1994 by Nobel nominee and human rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, Goodweave USA is a nonprofit organization working to end child labor in the rug industry. The organization started out in South Asia in countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan and India, and is now expanding into new markets.

Goodweave inspects rug factories, educates at-risk children, offers services to the weaving communities and certifies rugs as child-labor-free. As of March 2012, it monitors the supply chains of nearly 100 leading rug importers on a surprise, random basis and issues unique, numbered traceable certification labels.

In 2011, Goodweave adopted a new standard, incorporating environmental, labor and transparency criteria to alleviate poverty in weaving communities. Goodweave also reached an estimated 60 million consumers through its One in a Million integrated marketing campaign in 2011. In addition, it expanded into Afghanistan.

Through the sale and certification of nearly 8 million child-labor-free rugs worldwide, Goodweave has helped reduced the number of child laborers in the rug industry from one million to 250,000. U.S. certified rug sales via Goodweave's network of more than 90 licensed North American importers increased by 48% in 2011.

Goodweave rescues child laborers and offers them rehabilitation and education. It has rescued more than 3,700 children from weaving looms, and 10,600 children have benefited from its social programs, with 1,500 currently enrolled.

Bob Anderson, The Paper Store

It is anything but surprising that the highly successful New England specialty retailer The Paper Store and a flourishing newspaper route of a half-century ago have something very important in common. That something is Bob Anderson. Anderson has spent a lifetime caring for and caring about people. And along the way, he's built a chain of 32 stores employing more than 1,000 people in a business always tuned to the future. Anderson's career epitomizes the spirit and values that have shaped independent retailing for generations.


Albert Nichols, Elizabeth W
Albert Nichols lives simultaneously in three worlds: Past, present and future. His business and his Elizabeth W brand are inspired by and celebrate the past. Yet this Renaissance Man is very much engaged in the present and actively engaged in the design and creation of products named in honor of Elizabeth Wightman, his great-grandmother - all with an eye on the future and new creations to come. Formerly an architect, Nichols built his San Francisco perfumery inspired by the style and flair of Wightman. And the traditional perfumery soon grew, with the Elizabeth W brand expanding to exquisite and original collections for bath, body, and home - all through Nichols' commitment to quality fragrances, superb ingredients and innovative design. Today he designs all Elizabeth W products for creation on site in his San Francisco workshop. And his creations extend to packaging and products designed for Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, St. Regis Hotels, Four Seasons Resorts, Mandarin Oriental and more. Seventeen years after founding the business, Nichols still personally hand blends the signature Elizabeth W lavender fragrance used in perfumes, lotions, candles and soaps. He designs all products, all packaging and even the brand's wholesale catalogs.


Mary Liz Curtin, Leon & Lulu
If "America's Got Talent" ever staged a competition for gifted retailers, Mary Liz Curtin would be the hands-down winner. A life literally lived in retail, powered by fearless determination and a wicked shopping gene, have propelled Curtin's career achievements into a successful orbit giving Clawson, Mich., and thousands of happy customers a shopping experience as unique as her roller-rink store, Leon & Lulu. Expecting the unexpected is her trademark. And her career is a beautiful illustration of how doing things very differently makes all the difference. 

Jim Shore

The annals of American enterprise record scores of success stories. Many come to mind. But one particular story touches millions of lives in ways that span the range of human emotion with an enduring resonance. It is the story of Jim Shore and his gift of love to the world - a great gift of artistry imparting happiness, hope and courage to all.

Mele & Company
For 100 years, the Mele Companies have touched the heart and soul of America. Its jewelry boxes have held the treasures and keepsakes of generations. Its products have graced the shelves of the country's most celebrated retailers. And its custom, handcrafted boxes have cradled one of the nation's most revered military honors -- The Purple Heart. From its 1912 founding by the young Italian immigrant and namesake Emidio Mele, the Mele Companies have prospered amid wars, the Great Depression, recessions and changing consumer tastes to continue as a family-owned business now entering its second century. Through it all, the company has honored its founding principles and its heritage as a family enterprise. President Ray Mele describes
it this way: "We now call our family brand ‘Mele & Co.' which best encompasses our brand - it's not just Mele - it is our entire company - our family. We continue to be the most-desired name in jewelry cases throughout the world. Our name is our brand. We infuse the heritage of our family into each of our jewelry boxes and continue to offer you innovative and timeless designs for years of happiness and sentimental memories. We're a company of tradition ... and a family of values."



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