Beekeeper’s Naturals: Developing a Business around Sustainability Cause
A mission-driven business is defined as a “for-profit enterprise that incorporates a social purpose into its strategy and operations.” For many years, the hard bottom line of profit and maximizing shareholder value were the two principles guiding business decisions and goals. Today, however, more and more consumers are beginning to demand a better balance between profit and a number of environmental and social sustainability goals. A recent survey found that 88 percent of consumers wanted the brands they purchased on a regular basis to support them in living a more environmentally friendly and ethical lifestyle. More importantly, consumers are increasingly placing their wallets and checkbooks where their values lie. Almost three out of every four Millennials say that they are willing to pay more for products that are sustainably and ethically produced.
For small business startups and entrepreneurial endeavors, money is often tight, especially during the beginning stages of business development. However, the increasingly evident consumer trend towards healthier, more ecologically sustainable, and ethically produced products is a business niche worth taking advantage of. Beekeeper’s Naturals is one inspiring startup company that built an extremely successful business model around one of the most important, current environmental issues.
Who is Beekeeper’s Naturals?
Founded in 2016 by current CEO Carly Stein, Beekeeper’s Naturals is a Paleo and Keto Certified health and wellness company located out of Los Angeles, California that specializes in selling health and wellness products made from natural honey, bee propolis, royal jelly, and other byproducts of bee raising.
According to their website, “over-the-counter remedies have become dirty – they’re impersonal, artificial, and riddled with side effects. The syrups and pills that are meant to help us heal are soaked in corn syrup and artificial coloring agents. They promise the world and don’t deliver on results. And we’re expected to bring these products into our homes, o trust them when we are at our weakest.”
When Stein was studying abroad in Italy, she was suffering from an acute case of tonsillitis that threatened to cut short the trip. Unable to take antibiotics due to recurring health issues, she wandered into a local pharmacy and was given bee propolis. While beehives are rightfully famous for the honey they produce, propolis (also known as bee glue) is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. Besides holding their hives together, propolis also contains over 300 compounds that support human immune systems.
After returning to the United States, Stein found that finding supplements or health products containing propolis was close to impossible. Convinced that bee propolis needed to be an essential part of a holistic wellness lifestyle, Stein left her trading job at Goldman Sachs to launch Beekeeper’s Naturals. Four years later, the company´s propolis throat spray is one of the best-selling natural cold and flu remedies on Amazon. Last year, Stein was impressively named to Forbes Magazine list of 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 redefining the food and drink industry.
Besides their propolis throat spray, Beekeeper’s Natural also brings to market a huge variety of bee-related health and wellness products made from honey, bee pollen, propolis, and other natural products. Their products, from a simple cough syrup to a more complete “hive pharmacy” are proven to offer immune support, boost brain function, increase energy levels, help with cold and flu symptoms, and regulate sleep patterns.
Stein believes that “your medicine cabinet should be filled with remedies that you can rely on. I want you to have access to solutions that are clean, potent, affordable, and a friend to the environment—that are absolutely free of the additives, refined sugars, and side effects that slow us down.” The company´s mission is to help restore trust in the remedies that help us get back to feeling better and to redefine what products should go into the medicine cabinet. “After all,” Stein says, “healthy should be your natural state of being. When your body is supported and you feel your best, there’s nothing to stop you from living life to the fullest, reaching new heights, and changing the world.”
Carly Stein: Developing a Business around a Cause
While Stein might have originally come to the idea of starting Beekeeper’s Natural due to her personal experience with the health-enhancing properties of propolis and other bee products, she quickly came to find that the world of bees was in grave danger. After returning from Europe, she apprenticed with a local beekeeper and began to learn about the serious challenges that bees around the world face.
Studies have shown that honey bee populations have been in swift decline for the past half-century, declining from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008. This 60 percent reduction in commercial hives corresponds in time to the beginning of the “Green Revolution” when mostly organic, family farms gave way to the onslaught of corporate, industrial agricultural policy. Neonicotinoids are commonly used pesticides that are routinely sprayed on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops, the vast majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets, and about half of all soybeans.
This volatile pesticide has been directly implicated in the decline of bee populations around the world. Scientists have proven that these types of pesticides have lethal effects on bees’ foraging and colony performance.
Today, at least eight of every ten flowering species of plants around the globe depend on bees for pollination. The decline of bee populations due to habitat loss and exposure to toxic pesticides is not only of ecological concern, but also directly affects our long-term food security. According to a recent study by the University of Vermont, “of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators—including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples, and blueberries—appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand.”
Beekeeper’s Naturals obviously is worried about this issue. The decline of bee populations is not just another vague and distant ecological catastrophe on the horizon, but a very real environmental problem that affects the supply chain for the products they produce.
For this reason, the brand is completely dedicated to supporting sustainable beekeepers around the country who go the extra mile to ensure that bees have a safe, pesticide-free environment to forage. Some of the sustainable beekeeping practices that the brand relies on include never overharvesting from their hives and never feeding their bees anything but their own products (honey, mostly). Because bees can forage up to 5 miles from their hives, Beekeeper’s Naturals also works with apiaries in remote, rural areas to make sure that their bees do not come into contact with any pesticides from neighboring farm fields. The company even has committed to rigorous third-party pesticide testing to ensure that their hives (and the remedies they produce) are pesticide-free.
Lastly, Beekeeper’s Naturals has also recently partnered with two of the leading bee research institutions to raise awareness and support pollinator protection. The brand reinvests 10 percent of its annual profits from its apparel line to support the crucial work of the University of California Davis Honey Bee Research Facility and the Canadian Bee Research Fund.
Consumers are progressively more willing to support brands that show a dedication to some sort of sustainability cause. Beekeeper’s Naturals is a testament to how brands can build an entire business model and plan around one central, important sustainability issue.
The Importance of Following Your Passion
After personally discovering the immune-enhancing benefits of bee propolis and other natural bee products, Beekeeper’s Naturals actually got its start when Stein would make natural immune support products for herself and her college friends.
According to a recent interview with The Logician, Stein relates that “instead of dedicating my time to this wacky side hustle, I kept following the standard path to success once I graduated and got a stable job. I found myself living in New York City and working on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs. (Sure, that’s the definition of success for some people, but it was a major contradiction for a bee-loving health nut like myself.) I was miserable. I just wanted to go back to the things that made me happy: formulating wellness products and bees.”
Following her passion required her to leave her lucrative trading job in order to pursue what could be considered a super niche passion. Despite having to sleep on her best friend’s couch for 6 months to stay afloat, Stein was eventually able to merge her passion for bees and wellness into a lucrative job. Despite those long initial years of hustling and sacrifice, Beekeeper’s Naturals recently closed a $3.5 million funding round led by Sonoma Brands to bring its natural remedies to retail locations across the United States.
For future entrepreneurs debating whether or not their unconventional business proposal might be successful, Stein recommends the following:
No matter how silly your business idea looks to the world, if you believe in it strong enough, anything is possible. Stop being miserable by working a job you do not like, love, nor appreciate, and go follow your dreams. Stop putting yourself through situations you do not want, just because the job is well-paid. Find what YOU believe in. Find what makes YOU happy. The world needs more imagination, a healthy impact, and good ideas. At the end of the day, it does not matter how much the world believes you can change it, but how much you believe in your capability to make it a better place for everyone.