Entrepreneur builds bee product line into budding powerhouse

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / grafvision
© Getty Images / grafvision

Related tags Honey Entrepreneurship

A personal health crisis while traveling led entrepreneur Carly Stein to bee products, and she subsequently founded a thriving supplement and foods brand and has been recognized by a major business publication.

Stein was recently named as a member of the 2019 version of Forbes ​magazine’s ’30 under 30’ list. The annual feature amasses a list of 30 young entrepreneurs in 20 categories. The magazine calls the feature “[O]ur annual encyclopedia of creative disruption.” ​Stein was a member of the 2019 class in the food and drink category.

Trading floor experience builds work ethic

Stein has a background as a floor trader for Goldman Sachs. While traveling in Italy in 2012, she ventured into a natural pharmacy to find a treatment for tonsillitis. There she became acquainted with bee propolis, which she credited with alleviating her symptoms.

Stein said the 16 hour days she had become accustomed to in the financial industry gave her a platform from which to grow her company. While she didn’t have much of a background in nutritional science, she did think she had what it takes to get a startup off the ground.

“I came from a pretty grueling environment. While bootstrapping my company ​[which she founded in 2016] I was basically doing all the jobs. Given my financial background, I was able to do some of the things a CFO would have done,” ​she said.

“What I am doing now is very different from what I was doing before. But I think I was well prepared from a work ethic standpoint,” ​she said.

stein mug
Carly Stein was working 16 hour days as a stock trader when she founded her bee products company.

Stein said in her research she discovered that bee products are among the first bioactive substances used by man. But beyond the use of honey as a sweetener, much of this knowledge fell by the wayside over the course of centuries.

“The use of bee propolis ​[a waxy substance exuded by bees that acts as both a structural component as well as a microbial defense] was first recorded in 3,000 BC,” ​Stein said.

“Bee propolis contains more than 300 beneficial compounds. But there is a real lack of awareness, particularly in North America,” ​she said.

Range of supplements and superfoods

Stein’s company, called Beekeeper’s Naturals​, was incorporated as a certified B Corp. It features a range of products that  include a dietary supplement labeled as B.LXR that is styled as a ‘natural nootropic.’ 

The product includes bee propolis, royal jelly (a substance produced by worker bees to feed growing queens) and extracts of Bacopa monnieri​ and Ginkgo biloba​. Another product sold as an immune health supplement is B.powered, which is a honey infused with 745 mg of royal jelly, 532 mg of bee pollen and 43 mg of bee propolis extract per teaspoon. Stein also sells honey branded as a ‘superfood,’ as well as a product that mixes honey with hemp oil.

In addition, Stein markets a propolis throat spray that according to Forbes is now one of the top 5 cold and flu products on Amazon. According to the magazine, Stein now has more than 400,000 customers and has raised more than $700,000 from the likes of Wild Ventures and Thrive Market Ventures.

Old fashioned product sampling

Stein’s company at the moment is relying on old fashioned product sampling and trade show appearances to build a mostly direct-to-consumer business model.  But she has also developed what she calls a ‘intentional’ brick and mortar distribution network.

“We are very intentional about our distribution locations. We seek distribution locations that are community driven. We are in 600 stores in Canada,”​ she said.

“It was a slow and steady sharing of our products with people. We have such a unique product, that when people try our product they generally reorder,”​ she said.

Stein said that tried and true method has worked best. Unlike many entrepreneurs of her generation, Stein hasn’t made it a priority to try to attract online influencers to her brand. She said she prefers to have the products stand on their own two feet, so to speak.

“We haven’t done a ton in the influencer world, but we have had a lot of organic adoption form influencers and that has been helpful,”​ she said.

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