In a little town just outside of Newport on the Oregon Coast, Andrea aka The Beekeepers Wife runs an apiary (alongside her husband, Mark) and soapery. Her luxury soaps are made for everyday people, and with each bar of soap, candle, and beeswax bag or wrap you bring a little bit of Andrea and Mark’s love of the honey bee into your home.
In this interview, Andrea shares how her surroundings inspire her, the benefits of creating plant-based products, a peek into the soap-making process and her words of advice for women who are just beginning their entrepreneurial journey.
You own founded two businesses (Honey Bee Emporium, alongside your husband) and The Beekeeper’s Wife (your studio and shop). When did your interest in bees and bee products first begin?
When I was a young adult, my mother began keeping bees in Boise. Since I had already left home during that time, I didn’t really get involved but did enjoy the honey and thought it was really neat that she was a beekeeper! She would harvest honey for the family and enjoyed the pollination for the garden and fruit trees. Skip forward to when I met my husband Mark. He had been a beekeeper for about 14 years already at that point and since I was familiar with bees through my mother, I was already fascinated with them. I instantly became involved in their care and we would go together to rescue swarms. He had a very small operation at the time of about 4 hives and that summer we extracted the honey. We had so much fun and I was so thrilled to bottle the little honey bears to share with all our friends. Mark already had a small following of honey buyers, mostly through work, so we sold all the honey we had and waited for spring so we could do it all again. When I realized that I could make soap from honey and beeswax, I spent the whole winter learning as much as I could. Honey bees really are such amazing creatures. They work for the good of the hive in a peaceful manner and all the while they are pollinating plants to benefit all of us. I really wanted to share the honey bee vibe with everyone. By that point, I was hooked and the Honey Bee Emporium was formed.
You live along the Central Oregon Coast in a little town just outside Newport, how do your surroundings inspire you?
We are only minutes to the ocean so a lot of my product designs are coastal and inspired by the ocean and the creatures that live in it. There is nothing more inspiring than the Oregon Coast! We truly live where the forest meets the sea. We enjoy our own private forest on nearly 28 acres and it’s so peaceful having wildlife living all around us. In addition to wildlife, our property has wild blackberries, huckleberries (Mountain and Coastal), and too many flowering bushes, trees, and plants to name.
I forage for ingredients to use in my soaps and truly enjoy sharing a little piece of this place with my customers. Many of my needle felted soaps are made after I have met a new animal friend. I have made bears, deer, owls, snails, birds, bunnies, frogs, chipmunks, bees of course, and many of the flowers. In addition to our honey bees, we have a lot of pollinators that share our land. I really love the bumblebees! They are so gentle and peaceful just like the honey bees. I hope to instill some of the beauty and peacefulness of my surroundings into my products and share the joy that I feel in living here. One of my taglines is “Bee Joyful.” The world can use a little more of that and my hope is that the scents, designs, and the feeling that my products give will bring that into people’s lives.
Your soaps are made from ingredients that are palm-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and plant-based, and your soap oils and butters are from a woman-owned company that features ethically sourced ingredients. What are some of the benefits of creating plant-based products?
Using real soap that has no animal products, detergents, or chemicals in it is important to me. There are health benefits but in my mind, just as important, are the environmental benefits. No animals are harmed, rainforests are preserved, and by using bar soap, we are helping to rid our planet of plastic bottles. The lather from real soap can go into the ground or waterway without harming wildlife, organisms, or water supplies. By creating my plant-based products I feel that I am helping to heal people and the planet at the same time. I make no healing claims about my soap however due to FDA regulations and I do not intend to become a drug manufacturer. As soon as you make claims, that’s what you become. I just make good soap!
How often do you make your soaps, and tell me about the process (without giving away any trade secrets of course!)
Making soap is much like cooking or baking. You have your recipe, ingredients, and the tools of the trade. There just isn’t any calories!
I’m in my studio daily and make soap weekly. I have streamlined my preparation process so that I can enjoy the creative process of soap making more. I master batch my oils and butters and also my lye water. It’s time-consuming to measure out each ingredient individually for every batch so this step is more efficient.
The creative process is where the fun is. There is planning the design, curating the colors and extra ingredients, and preparing them. Once you begin by pouring the lye water in, you have to keep going, and sometimes there isn’t a lot of time to work! You have to plan ahead. I really enjoy using colors that match the essential oil or fragrance that I am using and try to do a design that is complimentary. My goal is not to just make a beautiful soap but to make a great product to actually use.
Swirling and texturing the top is my favorite part because it’s both therapeutic and satisfying. My customers love watching the videos I make of me doing that and they say the same thing.
The part I dislike about the soap-making process is the clean-up. It can be very messing with all of the buckets, bowls, and utensils that I have to clean.
After the soap is in the mold for at least 24 hours it can be unmolded and then cut into bars. Once the bars are cut they go on the curing rack to harden or sometimes I decorate them further by enhancing the design. I like to use the brush embroidery method that originated from cake and cookie decorating. Instead of royal icing, I use soap batter! It is very satisfying to do and they turn out really beautiful.
Most soaps have to cure for approximately 4-6 weeks so that they will be a hard and long-lasting gentle bar. When they are ready, I bevel the edges and stamp them with my logo so that they are ready to be packaged and sent to their new homes.
One of the benefits of beeswax is that it provides a protective barrier that does not clog pores, what are some of the other benefits?
Since beeswax is a natural wax and sustainable, it is very beneficial to our environment. When we harvest honey, the wax comes from the caps of the honeycomb that we remove to extract the honey so it is a by-product of honey production. In beauty products, beeswax is naturally antibacterial and soothes and protects our skin. Beeswax is also edible so it isn’t harmful if ingested. As a candle wax, it is known to reduce allergies by putting negative ions in the air which cause the positive ions, such as dust and allergens, to fall to the ground. It is a clean-burning wax and releases no toxic chemicals when burned. Beeswax has also been used throughout history to preserve food. Cloth infused with beeswax is used to wrap food items and keeps them fresh longer.
Beeswax is also used by seamstresses to strengthen thread, polish wood, and by artists to create encaustic paintings. It’s truly a precious gift from the bees. It takes 1 bee her whole life to make approximately 1 gr of beeswax.
Which of the luxury soap scents is your personal favorite?
Oh my goodness! I don’t think I can pick just one. I have several going in my shower at a time and choose one depending on my mood. I am in love right now with Sea Salt & Lily, Lavender Patchouli, Lemon Poppyseed, and Coconut Dreams. The Woodsman is what my husband uses exclusively. It is scented with Cedar, Pine, and Lavender. I love that one too.
In addition to your soaps, you also create 100% Beeswax candle, and Bee-usable Beeswax Wraps and Bags. Do you have any new products (or new soap flavors/scents) coming this year?
I have a collaboration with Just A Mountain Dude from Instagram (@just_a_mountain_dude_ ) and I will be making a Tennessee Pine Sap soap! I am so excited! I grew up in East Tennessee and that is where he is from. He is sending me some naturally occurring pine sap that he harvested to infuse into my oils. I am most inspired and creative by sharing nature’s gifts and my own feelings and memories about things and places near and dear to me. It will be fun to share a little bit from my childhood in Tennessee.
Other than that, I am working on the concepts for my holiday lineup but nothing that I can share just yet. Stay tuned @beekeepers.wife
What is the best part about reading feedback from your customers?
I really love when they share with me the feeling they get when they use and smell my products. Some share that they are brought back to a happy memory, someone special to them, or a place they’ve been. Those really make my day!
I enjoy hearing from all my customers. Earning their loyalty is very important to me and I feel so good when they come back again and again and tell all their friends or buy products to give as gifts. That’s a high compliment to my work and I am humbled and grateful for it.
What are your words of advice for female entrepreneurs who want to found their own business?
My advice to a new female business owner would be to:
- Follow her dreams
- Educate herself on the business side of things before starting.
- Don’t be afraid to dream big and be sure and set goals.
- Take time for herself and don’t let the business consume her entire life.
- Be business-minded from the beginning. If she isn’t business-minded, partner with or hire someone who is.
- Know her product’s worth and don’t undersell it.
- Find her people- those that support her and cheer her on. Sometimes those people are not her friends and family. Let that go and keep going and don’t take it to heart.
- Be patient and be consistent. It takes a while for brand awareness to stick with people.
- Be brave but be prepared for some failures. Learn from them and keep going.
- Don’t be afraid of success- plan for it.
Shop The Beekeepers Wife and get 15% off your order with the code AVIDPEN. Follow along via Instagram @beekeepers.wife
** excludes subscriptions, gift cards, and honey