The story of Sandy Bee Mine is as much a love story as it is a story of small business, family, and self care. Even our namesake is a love story. Sandy is the matriarch of our little family, wife and mother. My parents, Sandy and Dave, have always taken care of each other in their own way and my father’s decision to name his budding little startup bee and honey enterprise after my mother is his ode to their lives together.
This isn’t the first time my father wanted to name something after her. When I begged for a dog around age 10, my dad took me out to look at a friend’s litter and without a second thought the cutest black lab pup, the runt of the litter, was riding in the bed of the truck with his ears flapping in the breeze on his way home with us. I went through a lot of potential names for that puppy; he was nameless for almost two weeks. Everyone else had ideas, bad ideas like Sparky and Spot. But my dad just wanted to name him Mom. To convince us he was right, he would go around the house pretending like we had already made the decision to call the dog Mom. Come here, Mom! Sit, Mom! Stop barking at the Mailman, mom! Mom pooped on the rug again! He had a litany of these, and every time he would crack himself up, face turning beat red and tears in his eyes. King of the dad jokes and always making himself laugh.
Needless to say, we did not name the dog Mom, but this story suggests the kind of torment our family still puts each other through. Dave and Sandy retired from life in the north in the summer of 2014 for greener pastures and a slower lifestyle. After 56 years in New York, they settled on a few acres in Western North Carolina. As you can probably tell, Dave is an enthusiastic man. Semi-retirement did not suit him well, and he explored a few interests to keep himself busy before deciding to take a beginner beekeeping course. Keeping bees well is tricky and rewarding, it provides a thought-provoking, active challenge. And it gives you a sweet reward at the end -- people have been calling honey liquid gold since the ancient greeks and romans. This was the perfect challenge/reward ratio for Dave, it was love at first sight.
Most fathers have “wisdom” to espouse, and Dave is no exception. He always said that you should tap into the business side of things, breaking even on all of your passions by leveraging your knowledge. *Cue obligatory daughter eye-roll.* Naturally, then, after successfully keeping bees for a couple of years and sharing it with family and friends, Dave began to sell his honey. The rest, as they say, is history -- the business was built one small step at a time. Every day presents a new challenge that forces us to stretch our creative-logistical-savvy muscles to implement the best solution for our products, customers, and business.
Their move to NC was the start of a more ingredients-conscience lifestyle for my parents, but I have always been a label nut. And not just food -- fabrics, house paint, plastics, toys, etc. etc. I am every day horrified at how entrenched toxicity is in our everyday lives. So when my Dad asked me to help him make some products for the business, I was intrigued. Soap was the first on the docket, and when I used my first bar of homemade, all natural soap that smelled like lying in a field of wildflowers and made my skin silky smooth, I was hooked. The internet is a vast trove of ideas, and I began to build us a personal care line derived from products of the hive. Soap didn’t quite make the cut, but the next idea I settled on, the hard lotion bars, is still my best seller. Making the right products is a balancing act that pushes me with a creative challenge. It’s finding the balance between finding a unique idea, sharing it with your community, and getting the product right. For Sandy Bee Mine, getting our product right means keeping it pure and natural.
Starting a small business has been everything -- from extremely rewarding to exhausting at times. We have made friends in this community -- from fellow beekeepers to farmers to chefs and honey lovers. We have started this business from the beginning and are looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.
Pictured: Thunder dog, will sit for treats.