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From Bean Soup to Birdhouses, QVC Sees Them All

August 9, 1995

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ They came with their birdhouses made from parts of tobacco curing barns, their stationery made from plants and glitter, their bean soup mix _ all yearning to be sold.

It was audition day for QVC Inc. on Tuesday, and dozens of budding South Carolina entrepreneurs and small-business owners turned out to make the pitch for why their wares should be featured on the nationwide home shopping network.

Delores Chastain of Greenville paints portraits. Seven years ago she began putting the painted faces on colored tote bags. Now, she and her sister, Regina, want to offer the totes _ along with some smaller, unpainted shoulder bags and eyeglass cases _ to the 50 million QVC viewers.

``I’ve never seen anything like any of it. I think it’s very unique,″ Regina Chastain said, sounding like a QVC host selling this hour’s featured product.

Many of these people have made their products for years, but they never had a national outlet, said QVC’s Bill Lane. As director of new product development at the West Chester, Pa.-based channel, he’s out to change that and make some big bucks for the network in the process.

The network is doing trade shows and broadcast segments in all 50 states. It has completed auditions in 48 states. Some of the most popular items found during the on-the-road visits were a nonstick dough kneading surface and a pest control device, both of which have brought in more than $1 million each, Lane said.

QVC is looking for products that sell for at least $15 apiece and where at least $10,000 worth of an item is available. The makers pay for all the manufacturing. A spokeswoman wouldn’t say how much of a cut QVC takes.

The company’s merchandising team looks for a product that represents each state and can be shipped without much hassle. If it is exclusive to QVC and can be demonstrated easily on television, it is graded favorably.

In South Carolina, there were bean soup and cookie mixes, homemade dresses and sweatshirts with knitted collars, a woman who boasted she could make any animal shape in jewelry.

Charlie Hind of Honea Path had ocarinas to sell.

``I’ve made a living selling these since 1982,″ Hind said, holding out one of the palm-sized woodwind instruments he makes from black walnut as he launched into a mini-sales pitch. ``It comes with a fingering chart, songs, the whole works.″

Some entrepreneurs, like Debbie Singletary of Darlington, already can mass produce their goods. They see the home shopping network as a ticket to the big time.

Mrs. Singletary’s husband, Danny, makes the wood-and-tin birdhouses from tobacco curing barn parts. The family can turn out about 700 a week, she said.

Products like Pam Granger Gale’s handmade stationery often came from hobbies.

Mrs. Gale, who lives on Hilton Head Island, took a class in papermaking 12 years ago. Until 18 months ago, she hadn’t considered making a living at it.

Now she has a workshop attached to her house where she combines local plants and flowers or colored glitter with pulp to make her unusual note paper.

Of the 200 products shown to QVC buyers during the two-day event, only 20 items and five alternates will be selected for the network’s South Carolina show set for Nov. 18. Winners will be contacted in about two weeks.

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