Sweet Beginnings is Providing New Starts in the Community.
We love coming across great products with an even greater story behind it.
What was your motivation behind creating Beelove?
I’m honestly an accidental environmentalist. The reason I got into working with bees and producing raw honey started with a need to create jobs in north Lawndale. The problem I had as a workforce development organization was there weren’t enough receptive employers in this area that were willing to hire people with criminal backgrounds.
That’s awesome. That’s a demographic of the population often ignored.
We created a program specifically to address those with criminal records called “U-turn permitted” because we believe people can turn their lives around given the resources and support. The job readiness program we created was fantastic. We have hundreds of people going through the program. At the end of the 4 weeks, I felt challenged to make sure there was 100% placement.
I started working with employers, and many of them would give me the same excuses for not hiring the men and women with backgrounds. I became frustrated with that. We expect people to serve time for their crime but we continue to stigmatize them and bar any opportunities for their advancement, which is accomplished through work. It dawned on me that I need to become their first employer.
My board and I started thinking of what kind of business could we run that would be profitable and enable a person to be successful. I considered things like landscaping, delivery services, etc. In speaking with one of my board members, who is a “green” kinda gal, mentioned bee keeping. It was the last idea in a series of bad ones.
We met with some beekeepers that she knew. What really resonated with me was that it was a profession passed on through storytelling and word of mouth. It is tactical and people can learn the art of beekeeping.
What a great green idea. Was it well received?
Most people didn’t get it, but you know who got it? Mayor Daley. He invited me to his office and he understood that it was about developing work skills and the acclamation of work.
My critics were the ones who helped me develop a really strong business plan. We then introduced skin products, lip balm, and lotion cream to not only increase profit margins but also diversify our product offering that would work through the year.
We would go to farmer markets with our honey and skin care products. We would tell them the story behind the product. Some people loved hearing how we started, others just loved the honey. That was the other genius of it to me. I needed to make a product that people would like, regardless of whom it would be benefiting.
Bees have been disappearing over the last couple of years. Why is that?
What you are referring to is called colony collapse disorder (CCD). This phenomenon started in Europe in the early 2000s. What we’ve experienced in the US is primarily due to pesticides. Bees are very hygienic creatures. They are constantly cleaning themselves.
When they are out foraging they are collecting nectar and end up ingesting pesticide, which affects their nervous system. Because they are a social insect, they lose their sense of direction and can’t make it back to their hives and die.
A third of our food supplies is pollinated by honey bees. They are a core part of our ecosystem and early indicators of something amiss in the system.
We’ve got to protect the bees
That’s right, Bee power!
What are some of the best benefits of raw honey?
It’s the original band-aid. Honey has all of these wonderful enzymes helping us to process our foods and protect us against allergies. Back in olden days, they would actually use honey over a scar speeding healing as a natural barrier over cuts. It’s a natural moisturizer.
Our honey is infused with shea butter, vitamin A and E and all sorts of yummy ingredients. It’s also a natural sweetener, being better than white processed sugars any day. I love that it has no shelf life. Honey has been found to be edible after a thousand years.
What’s your process?
Our honey is raw, we don’t process it. We extract it from the frames, strain it and jar it.
What forms does your body care line come in?
We have a wonderful lip balm, which contains three butters in addition to honey. It truly moisturizes the skin so you don’t have to keep reapplying. We have great body creams. I just love the viscosity, it’s rich, thick and so very good. We have a brown sugar and honey exfoliator as well. We have a hand and foot balm that has eucalyptus in it making it smell like a spa.
Where can we find the products?
We are in 30 Mariano’s stores as well as Whole foods. We are in natural and organic stores as well.