Keen to find out how the idea for the Beeswax Wraps came about and what made it worth pursuing, we visited with Carly and Fran, the duo behind this wonderful eco-friendly initiative. Fran, with a background in advertising and having trained to become an acupuncturist, and Carly, who worked as a lifeguard for 10 years while going to University to become a teacher, joined forces and took their shared passion for crafts and sustainability to the next level by coming up with the idea of replacing cling film with honey scented wraps made by hand using locally sourced beeswax.
Carly and Fran welcomed us at the Beeswax Wraps HQ in Stroud where they kindly talked us through their making process, showed us their amazing Bee Bombs and told us about their entrepreneurial strengths and their dreams and ambitions for the future. We ended our get-together out in the garden under the apple trees, smashing big chunks of beeswax with a wooden mallet and chatting about the local beekeepers and the support they had from the local community and like-minded people when starting up their business.
Who are Carly & Fran, the duo behind Bees Wax Wraps?
Fran is a trained acupuncturist who grew up in West Sussex and moved to Bristol a few years ago. Carly is a trained music teacher and also teaches supply to all age groups. She is originally from Canada but has been living in the UK for a few years as her and her fiancé moved over for his job.
We are both two laid back girls who can both be forgetful, a bit goofy but are hard working and determined. We can sometimes tend to take slight detours but always having a good time while doing it! We are both the second oldest of 4 kids so we feel like we very much come from the same philosophies of being organized in natural chaos.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Carly: I come from a very big family. So my most cherished moments are summers spent at my family cabin with all my cousins and siblings.
Fran: Sunday afternoons doing all the baking for the week looking through my favourite Usborne Cookbook deciding what cake I would bake for Sunday afternoon tea.
How did you two meet?
We met at a clothing swap at our mutual friends house. We both got chatting and realized we were both “Ladies of Leisure” at that time. Carly was waiting on her Italian passport to be allowed to work in the UK and Fran was in the process of starting up her acupuncture business. So the friendship began from there. We started meeting up a few times a week to craft or volunteer at the Easton Community Garden.
How did your career unfold up until the point where you are now?
Fran: I started off in catalogue design and moved through into marketing. I was working for advertising agencies in London and Bristol. I realized fairly early that this wasn’t the type of career that was going to make me happy so in my late 20’s I trained to become an acupuncturist. I have always enjoyed being creative and my first job at the age of 12 was hair braiding in our local shop called ‘Bananas’ on the weekends. When I met Carly we thought it was so funny that we had so much in common. From always crafting at a young age, working as a lifeguard and the point where we met, we were both looking for something that we could call our own. It was so exciting when we found Beeswax Wraps and started off on this venture together!
Carly: I have always loved being creative and enjoyed doing some sort of craft or music venture outside of school and work. I worked as a lifeguard for 10 years while going to University to become a teacher. During this time I was making crafts on the side to sell at markets. I find if I stop being creative I start losing that side of me. So I am always finding ways to stay busy and keep my mind active. While being in the UK I had a lot of down time to really find things that I love to do. Since coming across Beeswax Wraps I have completely fallen in love with it. It is something that I get excited to come home to work on.
How did the idea for the Beeswax Wraps come about and what made it worth pursuing?
Carly: we both had recently moved out to Stroud. They have an amazing weekend market out here and I noticed there were a lot of beekeepers out here. Some friends of mine in Australia a few years back were doing beeswax wraps. I absolutely hate using cling film and thought while I am waiting to get on teaching here I will do some research and start making the transition to stop using plastic wrap. Fran and I were walking through the market and bought some of the local beeswax. We got together on our usual crafting Wednesday and that is where we started our trial and error of the wrap making process. I was asked to do a market in Bristol, for the Easton Arts Trail, as I have done a few markets in the past with All Hallows Hall Church. I thought I would make a bunch of wraps and see how people would react to them, as I hadn’t seen anyone making them here. I was completely surprised to find that I completely sold out of my stalk. I thought that I was maybe onto something. I do quite a few markets and I sell stuff but not like how the wraps sold. Everyone was very curious and interested in them as it is quite a new product in the UK. On the last day of the market my friend Kate saw the wraps and said that her manager at Better Foods had been looking for a supplier of reusable wraps in the UK for a while now. I got connected with him and he went forward with purchasing some for the Better Food shop in Bristol. After that Fran and I knew we had hit upon a bit of a niche market that has some potential!
Your products are made with great care for nature and with a strong emphasis on sustainability. Do you think that our consumerist society will ever shift its focus from mass-produced and environmentally harmful products to ethically sourced and sustainable alternatives? What’s your take on this?
The mass produced world that we live in is extremely new compared to the amount of time humans have been on the planet. There is no reason why we can’t go back to living much simpler lives that have less impact on the planet. For us it is all about small, simple changes that you can make that fit into your life easily. Whether that is using a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one, shopping in a store that allows you to buy loose veg instead of wrapped in plastic or using our wraps instead of cling film. These changes don’t need to be expensive and they don’t need to complicate our lives. What we love about our wraps is that long term they save you money, you don’t have to fight with a roll of cling film ever again, you’re cutting out unnecessary chemicals that your food is being exposed to, and you don’t have to make a massive change in your daily habits to incorporate them!
What are your strengths as a team and how do you influence each other?
First and foremost we both come to this adventure with the same philosophy. This business needs to be enjoyable and it needs to make us feel fulfilled in creating something great for the planet and also great for our futures. We are both extremely relaxed and know how to have a laugh, even when making wraps until midnight we can keep each other’s spirits high. With Fran’s background in marketing we have the resource and knowledge to get our message out to the right audience. She created our website and all our social content. With Carly’s sheer determination and naturally inquisitive mind she has refined the way we make our Beeswax Wraps. From the fabric we use to the combination of ingredients in our wax mixture, she has allowed us to create a really beautiful product that works perfectly.
We have a real appreciation for each other’s strengths and what we bring to the business. We are both naturally positive people who are very nurturing and respectful in the way that we work with each other. We are both very lucky to have very supportive partners. Carly’s fiance, Sam is an engineer who has created little gadgets to help refine our making process. We like to think of him as our R&D man, he is an absolute genius at problem solving. Fran’s partner Tom is a photographer and has created some really beautiful content for us plus he designed our logo. The joy of all this is they do it out of love.
How do you make the wraps? Do things ever go wrong in the making process?
We have tried and tested many different methods of making our wraps. It has taken a lot of hours to get them to the high quality that we wanted. We tried many different combinations of beeswax, Jojoba oil and pine resin to get to the mixture that we now use, that allows us to create really smooth and adhesive wraps that actually work better than cling film in sealing your food and keeping it fresh so that it last longer. A lot of people comment on how good our wraps smell. We put this down to sourcing the highest quality beeswax from our local beekeeper, Keith.
We wouldn’t say that anything has gone majorly wrong. It has been more of a learning curve to create the best Beeswax Wraps possible. We did have to sacrifice all of our things as everything now has a sticky film to it. There is literally beeswax everywhere!
Where do you source your raw materials from and what are the criteria behind your choices?
We wanted to make the wraps from as locally sourced materials as we could get. If you want beeswax wraps in the UK and from the UK they are very hard to come by. They are usually shipped in from The States or Canada! We get our beeswax from Cotswold honey. They have been beekeeping in the Cotswolds since the 50’s. The pine resin we get sourced from an organic shop in the UK as well as our Jojoba oil. Recently Carly was in France and she was able to forage for pine resin which we are looking forward to using in our French inspired wraps. At home in Canada, Carly’s Dad used to tell her and her siblings about the pine resin when we would go for walks. He would pick it from the trees and give it to them to chew as we walked. Probably now looking back maybe he wanted to keep us quiet! It is lovely to now be using this product when it has such nice childhood memories attached to it.
Where did the idea for the Bee Bombs come from?
Carly: Sam, my fiancé, loves making fires. You might even call him a bit of a pyromaniac. I knew that pine resin was flammable, from when I was a kid and after a bit of research I was telling Sam that the bits we cut off on the end of the wraps would probably make good little fire starters. So right away he was at the fire trying to get some damp wood lit. Low and behold the little scraps just kept burning. So I thought what if we roll them into a ball and keep a piece of cotton out for a wick? Then we can call them Bee Bombs. They are an amazing little fire starter as they are all natural, waterproof and windproof! We use them all the time.
How did your collaboration with Keith Dickinson come about?
Carly: I was trying to find someone to source more beeswax from as the wax that they were selling at the market in Stroud was not enough. I talked to one of the beekeepers selling honey down at the market about where I could get a large supply of beeswax. He told me about Jim Dickinson and that he has tons of beeswax and to go to the health food store and his number should be on the honey jar. Well it wasn’t. So I just started to look Cotswold honey up online. Well they don’t have a website. So I got a hold of a store that sold their honey and asked for their contact number! I called the number and talked to Jim Dickinson’s wife who told me to call the farm shop and ask for Keith or Ashley as they deal with the business now. Finally I got hold of Keith Dickinson, who is the son of Jim Dickinson, as Jim doesn’t run the business anymore. I got talking to Keith and went up to meet him and get some beeswax. This was no short meeting. I learnt so much about all his bees and how he makes the honey. I knew right away that he is the person I would want to source my beeswax from. He has even allowed Fran and I to gear up in the bee outfits to show us his hives. He has given us so much knowledge on bees and takes such care when getting his honey and all the beeswax.
What about the one with Better Food?
Better Food happened through our friend Kate. She works at Better Food and had said that her manager had been looking for a local supplier of beeswax wraps for a really long time. I was given his email and told to contact him. We had a meeting and it just went from there.
What keeps you driven?
We love what we do. It is very exciting making a product that is ethical, sustainable, recyclable and also works incredibly well. We are also both wanting families and with that we thought let’s get the ball rolling now so that by the time we have families we have a business to help keep us afloat while being on maternity.
What was the biggest challenge you had to face as a team of young entrepreneurs?
We both work full time so making sure that we can keep up with the orders and fulfil them as well as everything else that goes along with growing a small business. We have been extremely lucky with the support that we have had with Lizzie Loves Healthy and Better Food. They have both embraced what we are doing and have been so fantastically supportive.
Is there something or someone in particular that had a major influence on your concept of living?
Fran: I grew up in a small village in the countryside; it was a very close and supportive community. My dad ran the local summer fete and we were members of all the local clubs (tennis, brownies, swimming etc). I realise now having lived in lots of different places how lucky I was to live in such beautiful surroundings and have the freedom to wander through country lanes and spend my childhood exploring with no restrictions. My mum always made everything from scratch and both my mum and dad were fantastic gardeners so we always had fresh fruit and vegetables from our garden. Because of this upbringing I really value the connections I have with my friends, family and wider community and put a lot of emphasis on eating locally grown produce.
Carly: I grew up 7 hours north of Vancouver in a small community called Williams Lake. Every summer we had a huge garden and our fruit trees, strawberries, raspberries and currants were always ready to be picked and eaten. We often had to do a lot of weeding and picking of our fruit and vegetables when we were younger. If we didn’t we would often come home to bears in our trees! My Dad made a root cellar under the garden to keep the vegetables fresh over winter. That way all year long we were getting fresh homegrown vegetables. Our food was supplied right from the garden to our mouths and no plastic in between. This has been a huge influence on how I live.
What does a regular day look like for you?
Carly: I usually get up a bit before 7 for some breakfast and coffee. If I get called in to be a supply teacher I get my lunch ready and hop on my bike to teach for the day. If I don’t get called in, I work on Beeswax Wraps. I try to get a nice walk in or some form of exercise during the day. I usually cook every night for dinner and do something chill in the evening before hitting the hay.
Fran: I get up and have my breakfast as I am flying out the door because I am usually running a bit behind. Go to my day job. I treat my acupuncture patients in the evening after work. Then I make my commute back to Nailsworth. I usually have pretty long days!
You live and work in the Cotswolds. What do you love about this area?
The Cotswolds is a very special and beautiful place. The rolling hills all around Stroud and how it is in the middle of five valleys. There is just a calm around this area that can be hard to find. Everywhere you look there is lovely scenery. Also the local Stroud market at the weekend is one of the best you can go to. Filled with amazing local goods.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
Carly: I love going for walks around Stroud and playing music. I find exercise and music is always helpful to inspire me. I also find that to be creative I have to start with making something as this will always lead to a better idea or concept.
Fran: I get inspired by talking to people. So when Carly and I are chatting I find some of our best ideas come out of complete rubbish. It is those fantastic ideas that get worked into reality.
What would we find in your wardrobe? How would you describe your personal style?
Carly: Overalls, crop tops, high waisted shorts and jeans, comfy sweaters and leggings. I would say I am comfy, shabby and can usually pull it off!
Fran: We both have a love of dungarees! You would find shiny shoes, and a lot of shirts. It’s fair to say we are both comfortably stylish.
What is your favourite dish?
Carly: Anything vegetarian with no onions or garlic!
Fran: My partner Tom makes the most incredible salads. He is the master of flavour combinations.
What was the best advice you have ever been given?
Carly: “Don’t worry about what other people think about you, it is none of your business, just be happy with the choices you make.” Mom’s advice.
Fran: “If you’re going to do something naughty don’t get caught.” Dad’s advice!
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
We would love to see our business grow so it becomes second nature for people to be seeking out more planet friendly products. Most of all it would be living a very happy and harmonious life with a good balance of running our business, building our families and being kind to the planet.
Can you recommend us:
A song: Carly ‒ “Wagon Wheel”, by Old Crow Medicine Show.
A book: Carly ‒ A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini.
A film: Carly ‒ Hunt For The Wilderpeople.