by Christine Holderness
For thousands of years, beeswax has had a wide variety of applications. It has been found in the pyramids of Egypt, in Roman ruins, and within Viking ships. In fact, honey in ancient times was secondary to the production of beeswax. It is a mythic, almost magical, creation—metaphoric gold spun by individual honeybees from the nectar of flowers.
Sarah Kaeck, 40, is the energetic founder of Bee’s Wrap. She lives north of Middlebury, VT, with her husband and three young children. Like the honeybee she is a creator of things and solver of problems.
Creativity has played a central role in her life since childhood. “From a young age I learned the importance of figuring things out by oneself. Both my parents are entrepreneurs. My father owned a company that sold backyard compost drums and my mother operates a women's clothing studio.”
Cultivating a large garden, baking lots of homemade bread to store, and with a firm commitment to environmentally friendly practices, Kaeck was determined to find an alternative to plastic wrap and containers.
Beginning in 2011, she experimented by working in her kitchen, taking inspiration from a cousin who is a beekeeper, her own fascination with fabric, and intrigued by combining ingredients in unique ways. She eventually coated organic cotton muslin sheets with a combination of beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin, creating a (food storage) sheet that can be used again and again.
Bee’s Wrap is simple to use: the warmth of your hands molds the cloth over containers and foods, forming a tight seal. After use the cloth is simply washed and reused, for up to one to two years. After that it becomes soft and supple, still great for wrapping. And then, it can be cut up and added to compost. A natural cycle.
“I would love to see Bee’s Wrap become a staple in kitchens all over the country and the world for that matter. Of course it is unrealistic to expect to make that much Bee’s Wrap. But the thought that Bee’s Wrap could eliminate a substantial amount of plastic wrap for food storage is encouraging,” says Kaeck.
Initially working mostly by herself in a workshop in her home—after her children were in school or asleep—coating each sheet by hand, the business grew quickly. “Each year has seen a100% increase in sales from the year before,” states Kaeck, with some surprise.
As word spread and demand for Bee’s Wrap grew, she relied more and more on mentors (primarily her father) and part-time workers. A year ago she moved operations to a larger space in Bristol, close to her home.
With the help of her father, she designed a machine that now coats rolls of fabric and has hired more employees. Kaeck does virtually all of Bee’s Wrap’s marketing, primarily through social media and word of mouth. She even designed the business’ logo herself.
A small business is an endless stream of details and challenges that often appear to change daily. Kaeck notes, “ I am constantly learning about providing and maintaining a healthy workplace and good jobs. It is very challenging bringing a group of people together to work productively, spend huge amounts of time together, and still like each other.”
And crucially, Kaeck adds, “Mistakes always turn around, there are reasons behind mistakes. We learn from each mistake.”
What started as a venture for a stay-at-home mom has turned into a rapidly growing business with products sold throughout the United States and overseas. “It has been great for my kids to see how something can grow.” Currently, 80 percent of sales are wholesale and 20 percent through the Bee’s Wrap website.
“The overwhelmingly positive response to our product is extremely rewarding. Most people who come across Bee’s Wrap get it. They get why it is important to use, how to use it, and they want to share it with the people they are connected with. I love this, because I love Bee’s Wrap too!”
Bee’s Wrap is devoted to conservation and sustainability and committed to the world we pass onto future generations. And, not unlike honeybees creating beeswax, there is more than a little magic in the evolving success of Bee’s Wrap.
Meet Sarah and the folks from Bee's Wrap at the Co-op on Thursday, August 13th, from 11am until 1:30 pm!