[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Honeybee Tents & Events offers luxury tents and mini teepee experiences in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Michelene Zalac, behavioral specialist at McDonald High School, started Honeybee Tents & Events in August 2020 with the hope of creating a unique experience for people spending more time outdoors amid the pandemic.
“[My family], we live on the West Side ... in Youngstown. We're deeply embedded in the community and we love it," Zalac explained. "And we just don't feel like people are really experiencing and seeing the beauty of Mill Creek Park so I really wanted to [take customers] to one of my favorite spots, that little picnic area at Lake Glacier.”
Sharing those experiences has paid off: Less than a year into the business, Zalac said she’s had more than 100 bookings.
Zalac said the idea for Honeybee Tents & Events came to her one morning with the thought “if I buy a tent, people will come”
“My whole family, we’re really active. We love being outside, we love going hiking, we love camping … we love doing all of that and there was nothing to do during the pandemic at all,” Zalac said. “I started [Honeybee Tents & Events] just to get people moving, get people outside and to make memories with their loved ones.
“It really turned into something; it just exploded,” she said. “The feedback has just been phenomenal from the community.”
Honeybee Tents & Events offers a variety of different experiences ranging from $150 to $1,250 including teepee sleepovers, GlampLounge, GlampOut, luxury picnics and movie nights.
Tents range in size from a one-person teepee sleepover tent to 20-person bell tents, which, according to belltent.com feature "a single central support pole, giving it its classic shape. The entrance is formed with an A-frame pole its guy ropes provide stability ..."
With each experience, Honeybee Tents & Events sets up and tears down the tent at the event location. Popular locations so far have ranged from private residences to Mill Creek MetroPark’s Lake Newport.
“I suggest about ... two to three weeks to book. When you purchase any of our tents, it’s typically for at least 24 hours, about a day or night,” Zalac said, noting her team is flexible. “We currently have a window setup time between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. It really just depends on when your events start [and] where you're located.
The tear down the next day is generally between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Zalac aims to add personalized touches to each experience with a variety of decor and amenities like tables, floor pillows, area rugs, lanterns, twinkle lights, themed centerpieces, mattresses and other items. Honeybee Tents & Events even offers themed experiences including bohemian, fiesta, camping, safari, super hero and Harry Potter.
Additionally, customers can purchase add-ons like balloon garland, a karaoke machine, nail polish bar, popcorn machine, outdoor games, fire pit, a 16-foot inflatable movie screen and food from local vendors like Modern + Pine Charcuterie, Graze & Cones and Happy Belly Bakery.
Zalac told Mahoning Matters that she does client consultations before events and requires a 50 percent deposit (with the exception of 25 percent deposit for large events) at the time of booking and the rest of the balance is due the day of the event. Seeking a more personalized experience, "I do consultations to kind of get a feel for their event and see what they're looking to do; what they're celebrating,” she added.
Zalac said potential customers can visit the experiences tab on her website for up-to-date information on each experience and pricing.
“[I’ve done] honeymoon suites. I am doing some bachelorette parties that are coming up. I just recently did a wine tent lounge,” she said. “We also have our luxury picnics and I have a couple of spots picked in Mill Creek Park."
Recently, Honeybee Tents & Events is focusing on building local partnerships and hosting collaborative events in the community.
On June 27, The Vineyards at Pine Lake is hosting The Perfect Pairing and Boards and Bottles, luxury tented dining experiences featuring Honeybee Tents & Events. Zalac told Mahoning Matters the events sold out within two hours.
“There's so much talent in Youngstown, you know, I think probably the best compliment I get is when people see the tents or the setup or all of us collaborating together and they're like, ‘Oh my gosh this is in Youngstown! This looks like something that's in LA!’ and I'm like, ‘Yes, it's in Youngstown!”