I’m thrilled to introduce a badass female entrepreneur who is one of my ultimate #girlcrushes, Carly Stein, founder of Beekeeper’s Naturals.
This past holiday season, we featured her products in our Lady Boss holiday gift box.
Carly Stein speaks at a million miles a minute and crams every sentence full of incredible science factoids. She’s a woman on a mission to save the bees and change the face of healthcare, and we couldn’t be more excited to support her on this journey.
You may have not dreamed about beekeepers before, but you will now.
As if running an amazing sustainable bee products company wasn’t enough, Carly is also an incredible human being who truly lives by her values. She has an inspiring story, and I couldn’t be more happy to share it with you. (The Sweetest Ways to Help the Bees - the Huffington Post)
Without further ado, here's our interview with Carly:
Q: Tell us about the mission of your company.
A: Our mission is really two-fold.
It starts off with providing people with effective natural alternatives to typical chemical-based, over-the-counter medicine. For me as a consumer, I really struggled because I had adverse reactions to a lot of over the counter products and wanted to use natural products that didn’t have those kinds of negative side-effects, but the natural products I tried just weren’t effective enough. It’s important to us that our products not only be natural, but that they also be effective. Because of this, we use the exact same toolkit as the OTC world and take a very scientific and intensive approach, applying rigorous standards to natural compounds.
The second part of our mission is to save the bees. This has always been a central tenet of our business. Everyone in senior management is a beekeeper, which as you may imagine, is atypical for an ecommerce business. In fact, my cofounder, who is a corporate lawyer, actually became a beekeeper so he could become part of senior management!
Many people don’t realize how important bees are, but they pollinate ⅓ of our food supply. Without bees, we would experience an international food shortage. I don’t think people realize just how much it would impact us if we lost the bees. As a result, we engage in sustainable practices and are on a mission to restore bee populations. We partner with UC Davis Bee Research Facility and the Canadian Bee Research Fund to this end.
Q: What is your “food philosophy”? Example: Michael Pollan’s is “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
A: I’ve always been into health, but I experienced a real change when I started working with bees and began digging into what’s happening with pesticides. I saw firsthand how harmful pesticides are and the negative impact they have on our bodies. I also realized that as a consumer, I could vote with my dollar. I could patronize growers who were doing things the right way, who weren’t monocropping or engaging in other harmful practices.
“To the extent that I can meet the farmer who’s growing the produce I’m going to eat, I want to.”
— CARLY STEIN
I buy organic and pesticide-free whenever possible. I eat meat, but very selectively — I’m cognizant of where meat is coming from and make sure any meat I consume is coming from places where animals are treated ethically and raised healthfully. On a day-to-day basis, my philosophy is to try to have greens at every meal, eat mostly plant-based, and stay away from refined sugars. If I want to eat something sweet, I use honey to make it, or eat some Pulp Pantry granola ;).
Q: What was your inspiration for starting Beekeeper’s Naturals?
A: The company comes from a different place than many companies—it wasn’t built around identifying a spot in the market and wanting to profit. It was built from my personal frustrations and health struggles. I have an autoimmune condition and have always had a really weak immune system. I used to get sick incredibly easily and didn’t really have options —because of my condition, I couldn’t take antibiotics. Anything that was natural wasn’t effective enough. As a kid, a common cold could land me in the hospital.
When I was traveling in Italy, I experienced a particularly nasty bout of tonsillitis. Desperate for a solution, I found propolis. It healed me and changed my life. I had spent so long wasting time, money and energy on things that didn’t work. I became passionate about the potential of bee products and started doing research into the different compounds and applications of bee products. I found that bee products had actually been used for thousands of years with strong and positive outcomes. But after scouring the market, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the US and Canada, particularly not clean products that weren’t exposed to pesticides. That experience lead me to start beekeeping — both to find my own solutions and to provide solutions for the millions of others like me.
I started to incorporate bee products day-to-day and have noticed a drastic reduction in inflammation in my body. I travel constantly, don’t get enough sleep, and am a bit of a workaholic —I do a lot of things that have made most people sick. Using bee products has changed the game for me: I haven’t been sick in years.
Q: What products do you use day-to-day?
A: I use all of the products every day. I’m a big believer in making sure your supplements are absorbed by your body. As consumers, we’re often quick to jump to different capsules, which don’t necessarily break down in the body as well as we think. For so long, I spent money on expensive products that promised the world, but didn’t deliver. As a result, it was really important to me that our products were really easily absorbable. We want to create things that really work and deliver real value to our customers.
I take 5-10 sprays of Propolis Spray every day. I use it to stabilize my immune system, so I use it a lot. I’ll spray 10 sprays into my smoothie in the morning and use it preventatively. It’s also super effective as an alternative antibiotic. It’s one of the highest naturally occurring source of antioxidants and full of beneficial compounds like caffeic acid (fights post-oxidative stress after workouts). It also fights fungal conditions like candida. If I’m getting on an airplane or in any other situation which might compromise my immune system, I do 10 sprays a few times a day. If I feel like I’m at the beginning of a sore throat, I hit it hard with propolis and do 10 sprays 3-4 times a day.
I start my days with 1 tsp of Bee Powered. I like to run or do yoga first thing in the morning. I often exercise on an empty stomach, and Bee Powered gives me a good, clean source of fuel (like a pre-workout). Bee Powered has 520 mg of bee pollen in just 1 tsp. It’s full of broad-spectrum vitamins and minerals and free-forming amino acids so it’s perfect fuel for a workout.
After my workout, I’ll take 1 tsp of Pollen. I like to use it on top of my smoothies, avocado toast, or in a bowl of Pulp Pantry granola. Bee pollen has more protein per weight than any animal source, is full of free-forming amino acids and enzymes and helps nutrients break down and absorb. It’s also one of the only naturally occurring sources of rutin, which strengthens capillaries. It’s a perfect way to start my day because it helps me to stabilize my energy levels.
In the afternoon, I’ll take a vial of B.lxr Brain Fuel. I’ve actually used it to replace my afternoon coffee. It’s full of royal jelly, which is amazing for your brain. Royal jelly contains 10-HDA which promotes brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It also helps with energy levels and balances hormones. B.lxr also contains adaptogens like bacopa monnieri which boosts memory and fights stress and ginkgo biloba which benefits memory, energy and mood. It’s best to take it on a full stomach to maximize the effects. It’s fat soluble, so if you have some sort of fat source in your stomach, your body will absorb it a lot better. I love this formula since it helps boost my productivity, fight stress and nourishes the brain.
Before bed, I’ll take 1 tsp of Wildflower Honey. Raw honey is full of amino acids like tryptophan. When you have a teaspoon of honey, it causes a slow, steady spike in insulin which allows the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and be converted into serotonin and then melatonin, which is essential for a restful sleep. Raw honey before bed can also help your sleep cycle by stocking the liver with glycogen. The brain and liver are still working while you sleep and if glycogen stores in the liver are depleted it can send the brain into a crisis search for fuel which has you waking up in the middle of the night. Raw honey has an optimal ratio of fructose to glucose which supports the liver while you sleep. Not only is honey giving you a natural dose of melatonin, it's also supporting your liver function and reducing disruptions during your sleep cycle. For this sleep hack, make sure to go raw— not only is raw honey full of antioxidants, vitamins and more— it's also 22% better at supporting liver glycogen than the heated regular honey you buy at the store.
Q: What has been most difficult in getting your brand off the ground? What keeps you going?
A: Education. There are so many different health products out there, and it feels like there’s a new fad every day. I have personally experienced how hard it is to tell fact from fiction. We have something that works and could benefit a very broad range of people, but our challenge has been cutting through the noise and educating people on the benefits of our product. As a smaller, bootstrapped company, we heavily invest in product development and testing. We’re committed to science and it’s why we make products that work, but our investment in science cuts into our marketing budget. It’s hard to educate people about a new class of products on a limited budget. Most people think that bees only make honey, when in reality, honey is just one of the many superfoods bees make. Bees are amazing!
I feel like we’re on the cusp of a huge opportunity. At the end of the day, I know this stuff works, and I know there’s a huge population that is desperately looking for something to fix these different ailments and feeling really frustrated that they can’t find a solution. I read emails every day learning about different ailments our customers have been struggling with for ages and how they have experienced real results from propolis, royal jelly and more. If they can find a solution from our products, that’s inspiring to me and makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Q: What does success mean for you?
A: Success is having the freedom to choose. It’s being able to create a life where most days—not every day of course—I can choose where I want to be and what I want to be doing. For a while I was working in finance and had insane hours — all-nighters spent doing something I wasn’t passionate about. This experience highlighted the blessing that is having the ability to choose how I spend most of my days. Every day, I get to create solutions to other people’s problems and build a company and movement that is inspiring. If I inspire even just one other person with what I’m doing, or help someone make the bold move to follow their passion, that is success to me.
Q: What’s your vision for the future and how does what you’re doing play into it?
A: In the future, medicine will take a much more holistic approach. We’re seeing that one-size-fits-all model do not work. Instead of trying to treat symptoms, I see practitioners employing techniques to treat the root causes of disease. For example, with propolis, we’re not building something to just soothe a sore throat, even though that’s something propolis does.
“We’re building something to boost your immune system and reduce inflammation that also happens to soothe your sore throat. ”
— CARLY STEIN
People are coming back to natural solutions. There are so many ways we can heal naturally and take preventive measures to health, which is why functional superfoods like propolis and Pulp Pantry are so important. We’re moving away from the traditional approach of putting a bunch of chemicals in your body and trying to mitigate the ill effects later.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
A: My favorite quote is: “On the other side of fear lies freedom.” This idea has been really impactful in my life. Now by rule, if something scares me, I do it, and I make myself do it 100%. There’s never a situation where I’m not scared, where I don’t doubt myself. I have that same voice in my head everyone else does. Leaving Goldman Sachs to start my company was terrifying. I understood the merits of bee products and believed strongly in the importance of giving people a natural, effective solution. But to most people, it was crazy to leave a seat at a leading investment bank to start a bee products company.
People around me told me it was going to be “the worst decision you’ll ever make in your life” and “you’ll regret it and be running back to work for a bank.” All of these things scared me — hearing my fears vocalized by everyone I respected. But while Goldman is a great company, I knew it wasn’t for me. I’m a very mission-driven person, and my work there wasn't in line with my personal values. I was so scared that it wasn’t going to work, but I promised myself I would push through the fear. I haven’t looked back. This fear continues to guide me in the right direction. Not the easy direction, but the right one. Every day, I ask myself, “what if that really bad thing that I’m so scared of happens?” And I realize that what happens is that it sucks, and sucks hard. But you emerge stronger, smarter, and kinder for it. That’s not such a bad outcome.
Q: Fill in the blank - (e.g. ambition, family, resourcefulness) - took me where I am today
A: Hard work, resilience, and courage. When you’re a super-type A perfectionist, it’s easy to beat yourself up and tell yourself, “Oh I could never do that,” or, “I don’t have enough this,” or “I don’t have an MBA, so I can’t.” I see this happen a lot. There are always a million reasons to look around the room and tell yourself that someone else is more equipped to do what you want to do. But at the end of the day, all these accolades and labels that you think are so important mean absolutely nothing.Everybody is equally capable. It’s just about how bad you want it and how hard you’re willing to work for it. It’s about being brave enough to get up when you’re knocked down and keep going. I really believe that. I don’t believe I’m the most intelligent person out there or better than anyone else. I’m just willing to go for it. Everyone has that ability and remembering that is liberating. You can get the things you want. Every single thing you want is accessible to you. You just have to go for it.
Q: What are you really into lately? Any trends or foods that are especially interesting?
A: I am really into making crazy adaptogenic tonics. The sort of Erewhon $30 kind, but more cost-effective and full of more superfoods. I start with hot water, and layer on a tea base (usually matcha). When it’s really hot, I’ll put in a full tablespoon of coconut butter. I’ll then cool it down a little with almond milk so it’s not crazy hot when I add some of the other ingredients (I don’t want to denature the amazing superfoods). I add 1 tsp Bee Powered, 1 tsp raw buckwheat honey, reishi, ashwaganda, cinnamon, pearl powder, astralagus (kind of messes up taste, but you deal with it because it’s just so good for you!) I sometimes pour in half a vial of B.lxr if I know I’m in for a particularly busy day. I use a hand frother to make a sort of latte. I finish by sprinkling some bee pollen on top, and adding 4 sprays of Propolis.
Q: Any last words to share with aspiring #girlbosses?
A: Be bold, listen to your gut and ask for help when you need it. Don't let fear hold you back. It's our choices that define us far more than our abilities.
WANT MORE CARLY (I know we can never get enough)?
Learn more about Carly and the great work that she’s doing at Beekeeper's Naturals here.
Dying to try her adaptogenic tonic?
Lucky for us, she’s kindly shared her recipe. It’s below:
Carly’s Adaptogenic Tonic
¼ cup hot water
Tsp matcha powder
Tbsp coconut butter
10 drops reishi extract
Tsp pearl powder
Tsp Bee Powered
Tsp raw Buckwheat honey
½ vial B.lxr Brain Fuel
4 sprays bee propolis
Sprinkle of raw bee pollen
Pour a little bit of hot water into a mug with some matcha powder and whisk.
Add a tablespoon of coconut butter to the hot matcha.
Add a splash of almond milk to cool the drink down for your superfoods
Spoon in the bee powered and buckwheat honey and mix.
Add all the dry ingredients (ashwagandha, astragalus, pearl powder, cinnamon)
Add the drops of reishi extract and half the B.lxr vial (can store the remainder of the vial on the counter for tomorrow's blend)
Spray in the propolis
Mix with a hand frother, top with a pinch of raw pollen and enjoy!