Carly Stein is the 27-year-old founder of Beekeeper’s Naturals, which draws on restorative hive compounds like propolis, royal jelly, and bee pollen, along with the most well researched plant-based superfoods to bring forward healing solutions and hero bee products with unparalleled quality and impact. Carly is pioneering a new category of natural, groundbreaking nutraceuticals made from healing beehive compounds and plant-based ingredients. With a passion for saving the bees and an obsession with their medicinal magic, Carly ditched Wall Street for an apiary in the hills to lead a wellness company that offers a unique line of superfoods and medicines to its customers. We chatted with Carly about the inspiration behind her business, the magic in bee products, and her tiny, fuzzy coworkers.
You started Beekeeper’s Natural about three years ago. Can you tell me about your trip to Italy that inspired you to start BKN?
Absolutely. In college, I spent a semester studying abroad. I had saved up for months to go on this trip, squirreling away my tips from waiting tables. I was so excited to travel and take in the art, culture, and energy overseas. But once I got to Italy, I came down with a particularly bad case of tonsillitis.
It was rough. I already had an autoimmune issue, which makes me allergic to most antibiotics, but I was also burning the candle at both ends. The result? My tonsils swelled up to the size of golf balls! It was really painful and it looked like I was going to have to go home and get surgery. Desperate, I stumbled into this little Italian pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for any sort of medicine—it’s amazing she understood me through my swollen throat and broken Italian. Immediately she nodded and handed me a bottle of bee propolis extract.
I had no idea what propolis was. Like most people, the only product I thought bees made was honey. But, I had nothing to lose, so I took the propolis as the pharmacist instructed. Within a week, my tonsils were nearly back to normal and I was strolling around Italy, eating gelato—no surgery needed! This was the first time any sort of remedy had actually worked for me, and it was life-changing.
Of course, when I returned to Canada, I couldn’t find propolis anywhere. At one point I did find a bottle at a particular health food store, but it caused me to have a reaction. (I later found out that this was because there was pesticide residue in the propolis—yes, my body is that sensitive.) I wasn’t willing to live life without my miracle secret weapon, so I decided I had to create my own pesticide-free propolis. That led me to start beekeeping and formulating my own clean wellness products for myself and friends. It all snowballed from there. Eventually, I decided to go all-in and launch Beekeeper’s Naturals!
Other than in North America, bee products have been a mainstream market item for a long time. Who do you believe can most benefit from using bee products, and why did it take so long for them to spread to the West?
I believe that everyone can benefit from bee products. They are an entire wellness arsenal unto themselves!
- Propolis is amazing for supporting immunity and loading the body with antioxidants.
- Royal jelly contains ultra unique compounds that support brain health.
- Bee pollen is such a powerful energizer and is full of nutrients—it’s nature’s multivitamin.
- Raw honey is packed with nourishing enzymes and natural germ-fighting properties.
Plus, sustainable beekeeping comes with major benefits for the planet. By reducing our reliance on pesticides and upholding a higher standard for the industry, we can help save the bees (whose populations are rapidly declining worldwide). Bees are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat, so our food system (and environment) would utterly crumble without them. Sustainable beekeeping and greater societal awareness have the power to shift that.
As for why it took so long for these amazing products to spread westward, I think it’s important to note that honeybees are not native to North America. North America has plenty of its own native bees, but honeybees were brought over by European settlers for the sole purpose of making honey. Because of that, I think we lost a lot of the ancient cultural knowledge about propolis, pollen, and royal jelly that is still widely prevalent in other continents. North Americans have grown to only associate honey bees with honey.
When you used propolis to help cure your tonsillitis, I am sure you weren’t expecting it to be a cure-all, but it was! What other uses are there for propolis, specifically that can be useful to women’s health?
There are so many! Propolis is really an incredible substance. It was used by the ancient Romans and Egyptians for so many purposes—from healing battle wounds to beautifying the skin! Here are some of my favorite science-supported ways to use it:
SKIN: Because of its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, I love using propolis as a natural bee-osporin for minor scrapes, burns, and cuts. I also sometimes spray a little of our Propolis Spray on my face and let it sit, like a mask, to calm down any inflammation.
TEETH: There is a reason propolis is found in so many brands of mouthwash and toothpaste. There is a lot of research showing that propolis is a powerful ingredient when it comes to fending off cavities and oral disease. When I am at the hives, I love chewing raw propolis like gum.
DIGESTION: When I’m traveling and eating things that would normally upset me, propolis has really helped. Its germ-fighting properties and ability to soothe inflammation can do wonders.
WOMEN’S HEALTH: Propolis is also great for fighting candida. It contains pinocembrin, an antioxidant which acts as a natural fungicide. I’ve talked to many women who have had a lot of success using propolis for vaginal yeast infections—and urinary tract infections, too!
Before starting BKN, you were working as an Analyst for Goldman Sachs. What was the most rewarding part of transitioning from Wall Street to beekeeping?
I learned a lot working at Goldman Sachs—it was where I gained a lot of the skills that have helped me build Beekeeper’s Naturals. But, ultimately, it wasn’t a line of work that I found impactful or inspiring. I’ve always known that I wanted to make a difference in the world, and the most amazing thing about transitioning to BKN is that I get to have a real impact in two areas I’m passionate about—health and sustainability.
When most people start a company, they imagine their co-workers to be people, not bees. Would you have ever guessed that you would be working so closely with insects and honey?
Growing up, I always loved the natural world. I loved hiking and learning about nature, and I really loved watching insects. The first time I tried beekeeping, I was hooked. They are such complex and intricate creatures—they’re almost hypnotic to watch. But even after I started beekeeping in college, it just seemed like a fun passion project—I couldn’t fathom turning it into my career! I always thought I had to go the traditional route to success, which is why I moved to New York and got a stable job right out of school. The moment I decided to take a risk and work with bees, my life drastically changed for the better.
A lot of brands are starting to transition to natural products and ingredients. What are the benefits of going all-natural, not only as a business but for the body?
Going natural comes with endless benefits for the body. We have around 2 million pores on our skin, and through those pores, we readily absorb chemicals, both good and bad. Between pollution, processed foods, and pesticides—both in our foods and our personal care products—we are exposing ourselves to a lot. Unfortunately, we really don’t have a full picture of the long term effects of this type of prolonged chemical exposure. So when you have the ability to make a choice, I really believe in using natural, less processed ingredients that the body recognizes.
As a business, we have a platform and this voice. I believe it should be used to support and stand up for the things we believe in. For me and the rest of the Beekeeper’s Naturals team, we believe in positively impacting the health of our customers and the planet. One of the ways we do that is by kicking out chemicals like pesticides and creating natural products that really work. Our end game isn’t about profits. It’s about making a lasting positive impact.
One of our favorite things to talk about at Cora is how, as women, we stand in our power. When do you feel most powerful?
I feel most powerful when I’m communicating with other powerful women. I’m so inspired by the amazing women who I’m fortunate enough to work with and meet. I get so enthused by the situations where we can learn from and support each other. It’s that level of connection that helps me feel strongest.