What do you do when you find yourself with a beehive on your property, and an abundance of honey and beeswax?
"Most people would make candles, but we didn't want to do that," says Amy Rzepka.
Beecology Sulfate-free Shampoo
Instead, Amy and her husband, David, launched Beecology, a personal-care business with products derived from honey and beeswax. They started with Buzz Balm Super Sting Peppermint Lip Balm, and now the Ohio-based business has 15 hives and millions of bees that produce honey and beeswax for 12 products, ranging from soaps to sulfate-free shampoo. Amy, who along with her two daughters and son, has curly hair, plans to develop some products for curly hair.
We try to make things we all can use," she says. "I see haircare as a big growth area for us."
Amy and David Rzepka had no experience with bees when David's co-worker asked if he could put a beehive at their family farm.
"I said yes, thinking I would bear no responsibility," he recalls. "But after two weeks, his wife became pregnant and he told me he couldn't tend to them."
Despite an abundance of bee stings, David, a builder by trade, soon became fascinated with bee culture and science, attending workshops at the Ohio State University agricultural campus. The Rzepkas also liked the idea of making healthy, natural products.
"We started doing research about which ingredients were good for you and which weren't," she says. "That's how we decided to develop a sulfate-free shampoo."
Amy, who works in a cooking store and has a major in advertising, says they have no background in chemistry. But they were willing to experiment.
Beecology Natural Conditioner
All Beecology products are made in small batches and bottled by the Rzepka family, and they still collect the honey and beeswax from the hives themselves.
Most of the company's products have come about because of a need within the family. When a daughter had dry skin, they developed a soap for dry skin. Every product is tested on family members before it's rolled out to the public.
"I always say we're kid tested and mother approved," she says. "We test our products on everyone who comes over."
The products are available primarily online, as well as in a growing number of stores in Ohio.
The Rzepkas wanted to share their sweet success, so they launched Sweetyear.org, the charitable arm of Beecology. SweetYear.org uses the Internet to connect committed consumers and generous corporate donors to charities that best match their lifestyles and principles. SweetYear.org will send a one-pound jar of Bee Organic Honey from Mapleridge Farm to any person in the United States (Continental) for a $18 donation (plus $10 shipping and handling) to the charity of your choice in that person's name.
On each supported consumer product, there is a charity code that you enter on the SweetYear.org website. Once the code is entered and verified, you can select your favorite organization from a list of environmental, health, religious and other charities.
As buzz about their products grow, they plan to expand into a growing number of retailers. And as demand for products grows, they will be getting more bees as well. Any initial trepidation about sharing their space with bees is gone, Amy says.
"We all co-exist nicely," she says.
Facts about Bees
- • It takes 8 to 10 pounds of nectar to make one pound of honey.
- • It takes 8 to 10 pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax.
- • The honey bee has been around for millions of years.
- • Honey bees are vital as pollinators.
- • Bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
- • Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals and water.
- • The average worker bee products 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
- • A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
- • A colony of bees consists of 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about six weeks and do all the work.
- • The queen bee can live up to five years and is the only bee that lays eggs.
- • The queen bee mates with only 15 to 20 drones at the beginning of her life. She stores sperm for the rest of her life.