To meet growing demand, many brands of natural and ethical cosmetics are being created. This is the case of Madu Beecare, created by Annika, Nina and Karina who grew up in a family of beekeepers, and who are sensitive to the benefits of bees. They set up their company to offer products based on ingredients from the hive. During an interview, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the creators, Annika.
Hello! So, can you introduce the concept of Madu Beecare?
A large part of our DNA is bees. Our wish is to create a range of sensible, sustainable and natural products that make consumers aware of the importance of bees in our ecosystem and of the challenges they face. We come from a family of beekeepers, we grew up with this knowledge of the products that come from bees. We would like to help everyone to make a small scale change because if everyone does it, it has a big impact. The goal is to make a transition to more environmentally friendly products by supporting the bee cause.
How did the project start in concrete terms?
It started in January 2019, by my own fascination and desire to make my own cosmetics. My hair is very long and I always pay attention to what I put on my hair. It was difficult to find a product that suited me because if you don't want silicones, it takes away a huge part of the market. The oils on the market were leaving a greasy film on my hair and that didn't suit me.
So I started looking for a suitable product by making my little concoctions at home. I shared them with friends and I felt there was a demand for this type of product. In addition, I included products from the hive every time. A lot of people told me to get into this industry. Then I told my sister and my cousin about it and they quickly joined the project. Honestly, it's great to be in a group because alone, it's impossible, it takes a lot of time. Plus, it's reassuring to share your ideas with someone else, you clearly go further together.
The steps to create the formula took 8 to 10 months. In addition, we are working full-time or studying alongside this project. The formulation takes a lot of time and that's something we didn't want to do too quickly either. One thing led to the creation of the company in Belgium and a crowdfunding to start production. When we launched our crowdfunding, we achieved the goal within the first twelve hours, which was quite amazing. We didn't expect it to go that fast at all. We finished with 177% and that allowed us to do the first production which will be finished in more or less 10 days. The crowdfunding helped us to open the first chapter and we can't wait to see the next steps.
Does the name Madu Beecare have any special meaning?
At the base it was called "Ambrosia" which is supposed to represent the nectar that the Greek gods ate to become immortal. It has a nice meaning, but it was already widely used in industry. The word " Madu " actually means "honey" in Indonesian, it has an exotic side. We used to think it was very cute and quite catchy, we remember it quite easily.
Are all stages of production made in Belgium or elsewhere as well?
Beeswax and honey are made at Rocherath in Belgium. In the beginning, we tried to create a product by ourselves, by watching YouTube videos. Afterwards we started working with a Belgian laboratory to help us make the formula more pleasant and as effective as possible. They also helped us to test the formula. In fact, there are three months of testing for every product that wants to be sold on the European market. Afterwards, they helped us to produce also on a very small scale. At the moment we have produced a thousand bottles, so we are still at the very beginning. Most of the steps are carried out in Belgium. In addition, we do the communication and marketing ourselves.
Some raw materials come from Europe because they are not found in Belgium. Despite everything, we try to choose the options that are as reasoned as possible. For the packaging, our bottles and pipettes come from Europe. We say a big no to everything that is outside Europe.
Did you develop Madu Beecare for the benefits of beehive products?
Yes, our goal is to integrate the benefits of everything that comes from bees in the care. I grew up in this environment and I am convinced that it has a positive effect, studies prove it. We also want to link natural products to bee protection. In our family beehives we can see that there is a huge decline in the bee population. So there is a lot that needs to be done and that everyone can do at their own level. For this, we donate 1€ per bottle sold to the association Apis Bruoc Sella. The association is committed to re-flowering towns, helping pollinators and raising awareness in schools. It's really about linking these two worlds and making as many people as possible benefit from it.
What are your goals for the future of Madu Beecare?
We are already working on a second product. We obviously want to expand the range and integrate other elements of the beehive. For the oil, we have decided to use beeswax. To melt the beeswax, it has to be heated to 65°. However, if the honey is heated above 40°, all its benefits disappear. It is like sugar in fact, there is no more antibacterial property. In the future, products will have honey in them. We will probably also use propolis and royal jelly: so we have several options.
In addition, we will develop the commercial side. We would like to start selling in local, organic, very specialised shops that are in line with our values. It's a very specific sector and procedure, you have to understand how it works. We try to talk to people who have more experience than us to get a little inspiration.
Recently, an article was written on apitherapy. Are you trying to do this kind of thing too?
We are not specialised in this because I would say it's more part of the scientific community. However, in our family we have added a tube with a mask to a beehive. By putting on your mouth and nose you can breathe the air from the hive for an hour. It is a therapy that can help people who have breathing problems. One of my uncles built it because he himself uses it.
I think that the article you wrote was about the bee venom. There have been several scientific research articles that have come out of it and frankly, I wouldn't be surprised. For me, everything that comes from bees is special. However, I am not a scientist so I can't really say whether this is correct or not. It's great to see that there are other ways in which bees can help. I read the article and I think there was one person from this therapy that she was doing to herself. However, it is important to know that bees die when they sting by losing their stings. So she was careful to select bees that were going to die soon. It must not become an exploitation either.
If someone asked you for advice for a more sustainable lifestyle, what would it be?
To start little by little, there is no point in being overwhelmed directly. There are many ways to make a transition, you have to find what suits you best. Trying to get informed and talking to people is important too.
Finally, don't let yourself be taken in by the greenwashing because it's everywhere. When big brands come out with organic products, you have to pay attention to the products used but also to their origin. It's a criterion we've paid attention to: we really tried to go up the links in the supply chain. The laboratory works with certain suppliers so it knows whether the products are organic or not. However, when we asked where the ingredients were produced, they could only tell us where the supplier came from. We really had to push them to do some research. So we know where our products come from. Sometimes we contacted the supplier directly.
This is something we will pay even more attention to in the future. This is our first experience, so we are getting to know how this field works. We now know that it is a important step. So we will start these conversations earlier in the process of creating a formula for example. We told the laboratory that we want to know from the beginning where the ingredients come from and favour Europe. It's a whole procedure that needs to be put in place.
Do you have any advice for someone who would like to start this kind of business?
You have to hold on and I think this is not specific to us. Basically, I've been living in London for a few years now and I know a little bit about the business creation process there. It's much simpler than the one we have in Belgium. It brought us extra paperwork to create our company.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with people who have had a similar experience. I use Instagram very strongly in that sense. When I meet an interesting company, I make contact with them. We always have things to learn from each other.
In short, hang on, don't be afraid to ask when other companies have done it and just go for it. We don't know how it will develop. You have to be clear about what you want to do yourself and prepare yourself as much as possible. Some companies succeed and others don't work so well but if you don't try, you'll never know. You have to go for it and do the best you can.
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