Aligning the brand with my journey toward an inspired life.
From real life experience I’ve learned these three things:
- Lesson #1: In the English language, the same word may have wildly different meanings in different contexts.
- Lesson #2: When you start down a path, you may end up in a very different place than you expected.
- Lesson #3: Identity is a lot more than a name.
Here’s the story of how all these lessons came together for me.
In 2008, I retired from the all-out commitment to a professional services business from significant burnout. I had some money saved to carry me along for a while. I had been yearning for years to return to my fine art roots and within months, I was in my make-shift studio, painting with encaustic. Also a student, I took painting classes and studied privately with master encausticians. I also traveled – and sought out encaustic art. I spent time in nature; hiking, fasting, and practicing self-care. Passion for the encaustic medium and the wax itself grew within me. In an effort to immerse myself even more, I started keeping bees so I could get closer to the wax and harvest my own wax for painting.
I was enamored with the bees. I was afraid and excited all at the same time to become a beekeeper. I had a wonderful mentor and soon after that found a second mentor. I became obsessed and wanted to share this new world with others.
I started blogging about my relationship with bees and the name Waxing Kara® launched the blog. It was a perfect play on words: the bees made wax, I was all about the wax, and I wanted to increase the conversation and awareness of the work of the bees. For me waxing signified the growth of my interests and the relevance of the bees. Probably a bit ambitious, I realized that waxing also means to make profound statements; I wasn’t claiming to be profound, just hoped that others would find meaning in what I was sharing. And, I also loved that waxing refers to the cycle of the moon from the new moon to the full moon – and I thought that was pretty cool, and a great part of our natural world. As I look back, I can’t remember considering the other meaning of waxing – that of removing hair.
Well, I quickly learned that bees make much more honey than wax! Do you know that? And the honey that the bees were making in my beehives was amazingly delicious. At first, I shared it with friends, and I still had lots more. So, I began to think about selling it to the world and opened a small store and simple website – with the same name as my blog: Waxing Kara.
That’s when lesson #1 became important: in the English language, the same word may have wildly different meanings in different contexts.
Especially among our younger customers. They often misunderstood what we did. It wasn’t unusual to answer phone calls from people looking for waxing appointments. The day I opened our first retail space, a man who stood about 7 feet tall walked into my shop asking if I could wax him. Most people didn’t get it – as the connection to the wax had been lost in the product presentations. I was still writing the Waxing Kara blog – but not everyone saw that.
Soon the sale of honey far outstripped the blog. I expanded to offer additional honey-related products. I had to create packaging and all the other elements of a business that included our name and logo. I had warehouses of stuff with the Waxing Kara logo. I struggled with the decision to change our name for years. How would I practically and cost-effectively change the name in mid-stream.
Lesson #2 was already making it self clear: when you start down a path, you may end up in a very different place than you expected.
Of course, had I foreseen that beekeeping would drive a product, manufacturing, retail store, and online business – I would have looked beyond the cool play on words of waxing and created a name that would cover the larger scope of this venture.
Even though logic urged me to change the business name, I found myself caught in the name is my identity trap compounded by the sunk costs of so much photography of our products in the Waxing Kara packaging, along with other printing and packaging inventory. I just couldn’t let myself change gears and redo everything overnight. The thought of this was paralyzing to me.
So strategically, we stepped back to carve a pathway to a new name that represented who we had become.
- We were granted a trademark for “Bee Inspired” that we added to packaging and labels, website, signage, etc. wherever we could.
- When we did professional photo shoots we didn’t show products, we only showed ingredients whenever possible.
- We began featuring models instead of packaged products.
And, importantly, we came up with plan after plan. In the midst of all the planning, three major things happened:
The first: Another company began using our Bee Inspired trademark. A very expensive win later, we still had too many Waxing Kara printed labels, boxes and packages. Then, two 200-year floods destroyed my investment properties that were helping to fund this new business. Last, but not least, COVID stopped the world and resulted in the aftermath of an economy struggling to rebound. There hasn’t been a “right time” to change our name – and I was still fearful of losing the recognition and reputation we had built. Again, I found inspiration in the bees. I had watched them leave a hive and swarm with confidence to establish a new hive. This is a regular part of their experience. I decided to bee-strong, and step out with confidence. With the help of several other, highly seasoned marketing and branding specialists, we forged ahead and here we are.
This was no small task. We’ve moved our entire web site to a new domain, including this blog that started some 12 years ago. Over 200 recipes and close to 450 blogs took about 4 weeks of time to migrate over and make presentable again. This was not all me. I had an additional small but mighty team both near and far who made this happen.
Moving forward, we are definitely in a better hive!
I’m grateful to say that my art will be re-entering our offerings in a way that it fits. I have learned so much from my early days of painting and harvesting wax from my own hives, it’s very satisfying to bring my encaustic art to the community we have fostered. I’m still learning new maker skills – now making soap with the help of an old chemist friend. And, my studies in professional natural skincare continues. I am slowly inching toward a few formulations that we will bring to market in small batches. I have been using these development products on my own face and body for a year and I am excited to share eco-cert worthy formulations that make a difference in the skin.
Our social channels have changed and over time, you will see changes in our products. We have literally taken every single bit of feedback into consideration as we relaunch each collection from the actual scent to the fragrance load in our candles. We are also boxing our candles to make shipping them to you a better experience.
We are turning everything into a gift. I’ve always reveled in the fact that honey is a gift from nature, but in this rebirth we deduced that everything that we make serves our customers well as gifts both for them and those that they send to. We are putting together gifting programs for corporate partners, other retailers and we’re making it quick and easy to shop by occasions or that special recipient you have in mind.
We continue to reach out to new and long-time beekeepers who cherish the bees as we do. We are thrilled to offer their limited batches of varietal and artisanal honey, along with an entire collection of artfully-crafted products for the home and body that we make by hand.
I continue to balance work and life with working at most 45 hours per week; (mostly) because I walk the walk. How can I possibly encourage each and every one of you to take care of yourself if I am not doing the same?
This brings me to Lesson #3: identity is a lot more than a name.
All of this change couldn’t possibly come together all at once, but I would guess that within the next 12 months the full change will be in place. And, I am proceeding calmly and confidently. I see now that our identity is relevant and strong – driven by our commitment, our vision and our mission. I hope that you will embrace our name Bee Inspired as the foundation of who we are and what we do.
I want to restate our mission statement here, so that you know that our commitment to this brand is unending. Our mission is to inspire good will and multiply its impact. As a lifestyle, health and beauty brand we strive to innovate naturally and sustainably with our gifts from nature. But bee-yond that, we pay it forward through our GIVEGETGRANT experience so that you can share that same wellness experience with your loved ones, and in turn, we can all support others in our communities in the quest for their best life.