Q&A with Carly Stein, 29-year-old female CEO behind Beekeeper’s Naturals
Carly Stein is the 29-year-old female CEO behind Beekeeper’s Naturals. She left her early career on the trading room floor with Goldman Sachs (much to the dismay and interventions of her family!) to pursue beekeeping, launch a new career she was passionate about, and share the wonders of bee-derived products like “propolis”: an ingredient found in most of her brand’s products today, and one that helped her when she was battling chronic tonsillitis in her early 20’s.
What was the inspiration behind the founding of Beekeeper’s Naturals? What was the journey that brought you to entrepreneurship?
It’s been a wild ride. Growing up, I struggled with an autoimmune condition and recurring tonsillitis, but I was unable to tolerate traditional antibiotics. On a semester abroad in Europe, my tonsillitis got particularly severe. I was desperate and didn’t want to have to fly home for surgery, so an Italian pharmacist gave me a weird bottle of this stuff called propolis. After barely a week of taking this propolis extract, my tonsils had almost returned to normal! It was the first time in my life that something had finally worked for me!
When I returned home, I was devastated to discover that I couldn’t find the propolis I needed anywhere. I knew I couldn’t go back to living without this powerful immune support stuff, so instead of giving up, I began apprenticing with a local beekeeper to learn how to sustainably harvest propolis for myself. Using some basic chemistry knowledge, I formulated the first iteration of Propolis Throat Spray for myself, as well as friends and family. They raved about how well it worked and word travelled fast. Pretty soon I could barely keep up with demand! But I didn’t really think I could make a business out of this weird side hustle.
Instead, I graduated from school and got a stable job on Wall Street, leaving my passion for bees and formulating products behind. I quickly found myself working on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs. After a couple of years, I was successful by most standards, but also deeply unhappy. So I sat down with myself and did some deep work. I knew I wanted my work to make a difference in the world, I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew Wall Street wasn’t the answer. On gut instinct, I decided to run with my wild dream for creating clean, hive-powered remedies. People thought I was crazy (my friends legit held interventions), but I took a very big leap, invested all my savings in this idea, started hustling… and Beekeeper’s Naturals was born.
What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? What are the struggles you faced and how did you overcome them?
My biggest struggle on this journey has been getting comfortable with delegation. Traditionally I’m the type of person where if something goes wrong, I want to be the one to solve it. I very type A in that way. But through a series of hard lessons, I’ve learned that the just-do-it-yourself tactic isn’t the most effective. In actuality, it’s a guaranteed way to get burnt out.
To support this, I’ve put a lot of effort into building an incredibly talented and collaborative team that I truly trust. In fact, building a team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Above everything else, having a good team is so crucial. Everyone on our team is passionate about our company and believes as deeply in our mission as I do. Bringing the right people together and delegating out responsibilities has allowed Beekeeper’s Naturals to grow quickly, which allows me to continue to focus on new initiatives that take us to the next level.
What can you tell us about the strategies you used that have contributed to the success of the company?
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing that got us from point A to point B. One of our strengths is that we’ve always taken an omnichannel approach to market. Our goal is to reach a wide and enthusiastic audience, so we work hard to make our products available in a way that is both convenient and rewarding for consumers. Maintaining a strong digital focus has been central to the brand’s growth and success. It has allowed us to support the consumer experience and scale quickly in different departments.
Our community building has also been particularly invaluable. We maintain open, real, and authentic communication with our customers, and I believe that makes all the difference. Through various tactics, we direct people to our newsletters, social media platforms, and SMS platform, where we share valuable education & tools to help our community fully empower their health. Through this connection with our community, we position ourselves to be the trusted brand our consumers turn to when seeking support, inspiration, and information.
Many small businesses are facing great challenges at the moment due to the COVID-19 outbreak. How would you say COVID-19 has impacted your company and what are some of the initiatives you’re using to remain successful during these challenging times?
Our primary concern has been the safety of our team. We’ve significantly reduced the number of staff permitted in our production facilities and warehouses, staggering shifts in order to ensure our team and products are safe.
Keeping that in mind, our business has experienced an unprecedented surge over the last month. With our Propolis Throat Spray specifically, we have seen 600% year-over-year growth for the month of March alone, with orders averaging 5-6x our daily average. We’re seeing a huge increase in demand for clean immune support products, so we’ve had to be incredibly efficient and agile in order to fulfill the orders for people who are just discovering our products now.
It’s critical for us to be nimble during these times. We’re adapting daily to ensure we’re focused on doing what is best for our customers. Our marketing strategy is a great example of that. We plan our newsletters and campaigns a month in advance, but we decided to ditch our plans and quickly put together some highly relevant content that would be a value add to our community during this time. We had to be agile and work overtime, but we want to be able to support our community by offering them timely content that is inspiring, entertaining, and uplifting. We are thinking beyond traditional marketing right now and speaking directly to our community. I believe it’s so important to remind everyone that we are all in this together.
I believe that we can marry those two worlds, science and nature, to deliver true remedies from sources you can trust. And that’s what Beekeeper’s Naturals is all about.
On a final note, where do you see the company heading in the near future? How do you foresee the company in the next 5 years?
I see the company continuing to innovate the medicine cabinet and support consumers as they shift their focus towards a cleaner, better-for-you options. We want to support the mass market with clean and effective remedies that are both affordable and widely available. As powerful natural ingredients are just beginning to find their way into the health mainstream, I see Beekeeper’s Naturals becoming the trusted brand for everyday health solutions.