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Creating a buzz | A conversation with License This! winner Stef Schultz and her Hunnie Bumble and Friends

Thu 23 Jun 2022 | 12:23 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

The three bees that started it all (above) and the cast of Hunnie Bumble and Friends today

A comic book artist with a small but devout cult following for her 2017 title, Misterguy and a passionate creative with a love for bugs, Stef Schultz is an IP creator with a vision. To build a brand that fuels the expansion of organised and unified recycling across the United States, funds research into the world’s pollinators, aids conservation, saves the world’s oceans and beaches, and educates the public on the environment. Stef certainly isn’t setting limits. It was at this year’s License This! competition at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas that that vision was shared with judges and onlookers and Stef went on to clinch the first-place prize. With that under the belt, all that remains for Stef now is to put the grand plan into action. We catch up with the creative force behind the competition winning brand concept, Hunnie Bumble and Friends, to learn a little more. Congratulations on winning the License This! competition at Licensing Expo this year. We had a great chat at the show about Hunnie Bumble and Friends, can you tell our Products of Change audience about your IP – and your love of bees? Thank you so much, it was thrilling to be up there – what an amazing opportunity. I have always had a love of insects, spiders, and lizards – but my fascination with bees really kicked in when I was in my teens… they not just fun for me to draw and paint, they’re just so adorable. As for Hunnie Bumble and Friends it’s a character brand overflowing with heart and humour, involving the adventures of a quirky queen bumblebee and all her friends. They live in a world ‘comfortably far from our own reality’, but one which will – through comics, animations, and products – influence our own world by cultivating the mounting interest that eco-friendliness is already generating in most marketplaces and driving a demand for sustainable products and practices. And you have an interesting relationship with bees, don’t you? We love that your deadly allergy has only brought you closer to them – it’s wonderfully poetic… Yes, I’ve rescued a few in my time, handled and helped plenty of the little dears… despite the strong possibility that I am severely allergic to them. I have not been stung… YET, so let’s hope it doesn’t happen at all, especially not with a honeybee. Honeybees dies after they sting because of their barbed stinger… And then you’d have two deaths on your conscience. Your own and the honeybees… It’s too much! So, for as long as you don’t get stung, what’s the ethos behind your Hunnie Bumble and Friends brand? How are you promoting and encouraging environmental action and conservation through it? Hunnie Bumble is already doing good in the world. I created and donated posters for the recycling centre local to me last year, which are still appreciated and photographed by the tens of thousands on a monthly basis. I am now doing everything I can to get Hunnie Bumble into shape to be a machine for positive change in the world. The problem I want to solve is that recycling is very disorganised. But that means there’s a lot of opportunity in this space: There is demand for recycled materials, there are vendors already asking for them, and there are companies using those vendors to acquire recycled materials for their products. I want to forge partnerships that will make me a catalyst for the existing strong interest in recycled materials, and drive up demand to lead to the expansion of recycling networks and make it more accessible for all communities. I was never offered recycling at the different places I’ve lived. Wow, so some rather large plans there then! What inspired the concept? And what role do you think the creative industries have to play in driving conservation and climate action?  The creative industries are in a unique position to educate and spready joy far and wide, being big influencers. There’s a lot of responsibility with having a lot of exposure, all of us should be putting it to good use. The ease I have always had creating stories around characters I create is what drives me to take the idea of a colourful, quirky world full of friends who enjoy adventure and run with it. I want to draw attention to all the pollinators. In 2020, I started becoming an eco-nerd. I’ve been a life-long tree climber and avid outdoors enthusiast with a love of nature, but now I do all I can to gently and peacefully educate people on how to be more green. If we all learned how to make a bunch of smarter, little decisions every day, it would make a huge difference as time goes on. We’re all in this together and I am so excited to continue coming up with more and more stories and comics for this brand encouraging folks to accept themselves and each other. How will the brand’s environmental values be reflected through the licensing journey you will now take your brand on? Through everyday green products, for one thing. I envision very soon for branded compostable bags to be used in wastebaskets around the house, reusable bags for food use, and so many other things that will super-popularise green products with my cute, colourful, and quirky sense of humour. I’ve also got prototypes for organic plushies – not practical but good for the soul! Who doesn’t love a little cute and fuzzy? Additionally, I plan of having a robust blog for education on my brand’s website which will be featuring an Ask a Beekeeper topic that recurs. I know some great folks in Austin who make mead and sustainably keep bees for the honey that sweetens their drinks. Very knowledgeable and conscientious people. What are you looking to achieve next? I have multiple investors helping me develop and fund the brand and it’s an exciting, ongoing process. As far as licensing goes, I’m trying to consider only the best opportunities for my vision, which is global, humanitarian, can traverse multiple industries, and will also translate to video games, and live events inclusive to all ages, genders and mobilities. When my limit becomes only my imagination – this brand will massively change the world for the better. I want to fund pollinator research, streamline and expand recycling, save our oceans and beaches, and whatever else that can be remedied in my lifetime, and beyond.
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