Contributor: Josie Golden
Ask Alison Derrick, founder of BeeInspired Natural skincreams, what she loves most about her business, and she is momentarily lost for words.
Is it the exercise she gets trekking backwards and forwards from the office (her bee hives) to the factory (her kitchen), the enthusiastic response she gets from repeat customers overjoyed at the healing properties of her creams, or the passing trade, who, seeing an open door, are welcomed inside to her Aladdin’s cave of wonder to samples the goods for themselves.
“I’m spoilt for choice really,” she laughs. And it’s not hard to see why.
It’s now more than 25 years since Alison began keeping bees near Hampton Court Palace, just a five minute journey to the equestrian stud from her Thames Ditton home in Surrey.
“A friend and I used to spend idyllic afternoons working on our nearby allotment,” she explains. “Not being huge fans of shopping, our idea of escape from young children was to grab a trowel and trug and head to our ‘farm’.
“New tenants on the allotments turned out to be a friendly bunch of beekeepers whose obvious delight at keeping such fascinating insects was hugely infectious.”
Some 15 years after first keeping bees, Alison and her friend began dabbling in using beeswax and honey to create organic and natural skincream products, having made less complicated balms, furniture and leather creams and candles to that point.
“I grew more convinced that we should be embracing the healing properties of honey and wax, so Dianne and I started experimenting in ways to kindly harvest the goodness of the bees’ first aid box to nourish human skin too.”
It took them some two years to work out how to make the creams which would meet their own brief and then obtain the right certification to allow them to sell to the public.
These days the two friends still keep bees together, but it is Alison and her husband Robin who develop and create the products.
“We follow a simple formula we call BLEND. All our products are British, Luxurious, Ethical, Natural and Delightful!”
True to her word, Alison is with the product from conception to point of sale. It is Alison who visits her hives, carefully inspecting them, extracting their surplus honey stores and scraping excess sticky protective propolis ‘glue’, and it is Alison who comes back to her kitchen and rolls up her sleeves to get to producing a wide range of award winning products.
The range on offer is breath-taking, yet each and every product is designed in a carefully researched and informed way.
“My richly absorbent happy nappy cream, with soothing calendula oil, for instance, has been developed with painstaking consideration,” she says. “This particular formulation is extra rich with beeswax to form a natural barrier combined with botanical oils and honey to gently moisturise – a perfect combination for bottoms! Indeed Calendula, the marigold flower, has been used for generations and is known to be beneficial for treating any skin inflammation including chronic conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea acne and any type of dermatitis.
“In this cream, we have soaked the almond oil with marigold petals to infuse the goodness into the oil, the calming qualities of which will be transferred to your little one’s skin. What is not to love?”
And it would seem mother really does know best, and that Alison is on to a trick when looking back at what our mothers did in the, some would call, older simpler times.
Her re-useable handmade beeswax food wraps are an excellent case in point. Following the suggestion of a fellow local crafter who’d just returned from the Antipodes, she decided she had to introduce them to her ‘hive products’ range.
“I use beeswax from my friend Keith’s bees and his sister Alison makes them up for us, so it’s all still locally sourced and produced. These re-useable wraps are all the buzz in New Zealand and Australia for wrapping food as they keep food fresh and moist with no need for cling film, plastic bags, boxes or aluminium foil.”
The washable, 100% cotton and pure local beeswax wraps are simply ingenious. They can be used to wrap food (apart from raw meat and fish), or cover containers. Using the warmth of your hands to mould the wrap into the shape you need and since beeswax does not absorb smells or bacteria, they are the perfect addition to a greener more planet-friendly kitchen.
“Robin’s mother used wax cloth in the kitchen, but I didn’t find it until clearing her kitchen after she passed away and couldn’t work out what it was – that was more than 35 years ago and now the penny has dropped and I realise her wartime generation had less wasteful solutions – they had to be watchful of their purses and resources – something we need to re-visit!”
Another of Alison’s strong eco credentials is her absolute desire to use entirely recyclable packaging, both for the actual products as well as what she sends them off in to happy customers.
“Whilst we still have to use some plastic, it’s 100% recyclable, even our airless pump for our creams,” she explains. “But we have now made the decision to change our packaging to simple re-fillable glass jars as I feel uncomfortable myself contributing to plastic recycling, and I know many of my customers feel the same. We will make an immediate change but will also have to use our existing stock of pumps otherwise we’d be even more irresponsible!”
She has also come up with an ingenious idea for gift wrapping products. “I struggle with the idea of gift boxes, often enclosing another box, and accompanied with enormous printed ribbons which really have no use but are too good to throw into the recycling bin. So I offer a choice for gift presentation – your item will come in a bag made with Liberty Tana Lawn or recycled linen, tied with a plain (recyclable) ribbon and a personalised gift tag. In turn, we hear our clients re-use these bags for wrapping precious jewellery, or for storing things safely in a handbag, tool box, or brief case. The uses are infinite!”
Local, eco-friendly, kind to nature and family-run. What’s not to love about BeeInspired?