Beauties, we’re passionate about supporting small brands and recently we reached out to bee-loving brand Neve’s Bees co-founder Julie Macken to talk all about their fabulous family run Natural Beeswax Cosmetics & Skincare brand…. Find out all about them and what they’re doing to save the bees through their gorgeous products… and what we can do to her our pollinators!
What inspired you to create Neve’s Bees?
It all started when Neve, aged 9 at the time, noticed a pile of honey jars in a house we were looking to buy.
“Why have you got all that honey?” she asked,
“Because I have bees,” replied the owner.
“And what do you do with it all?”
“I sell it.”
“For how much?”
“£5 per jar.”
(under her breath “£5…£10… £15…) then silence.
When we got back to where we were living at the time she pipes up, “I think we should buy that house with the bees. I’ve spoken with Grandad Jim (my father) and he’s going to buy me a beehive for my 10th birthday”…which he duly did! And we’ve had bees ever since.
The idea of the skincare came about because both Neve and I suffer from very dry skin and eczema. With a background in chemistry, I have long been somewhat obsessive about the ingredients in skincare. It was only when studying for a qualification in Herbal Medicine did I realise why the products I had previously been using simply didn’t work for me.
Most skincare products (body lotions, face creams, hand creams etc.) contain water mixed with oil (see if it says ‘aqua’ on the ingredients). Any product containing water mixed with other ingredients needs preservatives – these are specifically designed to kill cells and disrupt the natural flora of your skin – rather like anti-biotics disrupt your gut bacteria. Even many products deemed ‘Natural’ or ‘organic’ contain preservatives which change the natural balance of your skin and whose long-term impact is not yet known.
The Neve’s Bees story started with Neve and I making a few fun ‘lotion and potions’ blending our beeswax with pure natural plant oils and butters. We soon realised that we could make a comprehensive range of skincare products using only truly natural ingredients that felt so much better on the skin than the stuff we’d previously been buying.
You’re passionate about supporting our pollinators… how do you do this through your brand?
There’s a shocking statistic that estimates we have lost up to 97% of our native wildflower meadows since the 1970s. Of course, it’s a shame that this beautiful habitat is no longer there for us to enjoy, but even more importantly, these wildflower meadows (be there large fields or small patches of gardens, parks and verges) are vital for pollinators – to feed, to shelter and to breed. Without them, many of our pollinators are simply dying off. Those of us who were alive in the 1970s might remember car journeys in the evenings where the windscreens became covered in splatted insects – we just don’t see this anymore.
Research tells us that pollinators are responsible for around 1 in 3 of the mouthfuls of food we eat – without them, this food simply would not grow.
There are a number of key factors causing the drastic demise of these vital pollinators:
- Climate change
- Unnecessary use of pesticides
- Loss of insect friendly habitat.
…and this last one is where we think, with your help, Neve’s Bees can start to make a difference.
We donate 10% of our profits to The Wildlife Trust and other local nature recovery charities to preserve our nature reserves, restore our meadows and educate children to look after nature
We’re working with our local Eynsham Nature Recovery group to bring back wildflower meadows along the Thames Valley and throughout Oxfordshire – we’ve just planted our own 5 acre wildflower meadow in our field. We offer it to grazing cows and sheep in the winter and leave it for wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Throughout the year, we give away packs of pollinator-friendly wildflower seeds for you to plant in your gardens, parks, verges – or wherever you think needs some wildflowers – little patches of wildflowers throughout the country creating joined-up habitats for the pollinators to flourish
We share hints and tips, and (hopefully!) interesting information to help you and your friends and family to be part of nature’s recovery and to feel the joy that immersion in the natural world can bring.
“Every space in Britain must be used to help wildlife.” – Sir David Attenborough
How can we help protect our bees?
As the well-known supermarket chain says, “Every little helps!”
So looking at those 3 key issues affecting our pollinators, it’s all interconnected. We can do small things to reduce our carbon footprint, stop using pesticides – I loved the ‘no-mow may’ initiative – those dandelions are such an important food source for our pollinators in the early spring and, after all, the difference between a week and flower is simply an opinion!
And finally, if you can leave a little patch of your garden, allotment, window box over to wildflowers, this provides a safe haven, a pollinator ‘service station’ which can really help these important pollinators to flourish.
Check out our socials for hints and tips on what you can do, and have a look at our website – we include packs of bee-friendly wildflower seeds with all orders over £12
Has the pandemic impacted your brand?
Yes! But actually, looking back it’s helped us. Pre-pandemic, we sold approximately equal amounts through Country Fairs & Christmas markets, through shops and online. When the shops and markets all shut down we had to totally rethink our strategy – either we shut down or try to develop our business online. We truly believe in our products and our brand and really didn’t want to give up when it feels we’re just on the verge of getting our message out there! So, we threw ourselves into e-commerce. Gosh, what a steep learning curve! But the mistakes and successes have really taught us what works for us and have enabled us to move forward. In May, we launched a totally new (much more user-friendly) website and are embarking on some new ways to stay in touch with our customers.
What is in your wellbeing toolkit?
Immersing myself in the great outdoors! I take Bella, our lovely Fox Red Labrador for 2 walks a day around our local woods. In November, I joined a local wild swimming group and haven’t looked back. We swim in The Thames at least twice a week – including when it was -2C and snowing outside and there was ice in the water! It just makes you feel so alive! The sense of community and connecting with something so beautiful and real makes you feel so full of vitality. It’s also rather entertaining when swimming in the icy water in your swimming costume and waving at passers-by on The Thames Path dressed to the nines in gortex and thick boots!
Wellbeing is a work in progress, so what would you consider to be your biggest wellbeing challenges?
I think one of this issues facing many small business owners is the self-doubt that descends every so often – you didn’t win that order you had set your heart on, the ad you invested so much energy into didn’t get noticed, you didn’t win an award – and you start thinking ‘oh no, what am I doing, I can’t do this, everyone is doing it better than me…’ I still most definitely go through this now and then, but I’m learning that, for me, the best way through these ‘dips’ is to simply get outside – stand in the rain, jump very splashily in that muddle puddle, swim in the river…and Mother Nature seems to put it all into context. When I get back to my desk, nothing feels so bad anymore!
What are your favourite products from your range and why?
We’re just launching a new facial range. Neve and I have been using them for years, tweaking the recipes now and then, and we love them – the Sweet Orange and Calendula facial balm with hot organic cotton face cloth followed by our Neroli and Bergamot Facial Serum is my favourite. I know I’m blessed with good skin but it leaves my face feeling so soft and supple and looking glowing and Neve’s plump (now 19-year-old) skin looks like she’s had an expensive facial!
What’s your favourite skincare ingredient and why?
Well, I’m going to have to say our beeswax aren’t I! We source only local Oxfordshire beeswax, from our bees and from my friend, Viv, who lives down the road. Simply washed in water and filtered through cloth, it still contains all the vitality of the plants from which it was made. As a natural humectant, beeswax draws water from the air to keep the skin plump and hydrated (it acts in the same manner as Hyaluronic Acid, which is a trendy ingredient in skincare at the moment) However, beeswax is totally natural, not synthesised and, because it’s been used for thousands of years in skincare, we don’t worry about any long term consequences of its use. After all, around 65% of what you put ON your skin gets absorbed INTO your body – if you wouldn’t eat it, ask yourself why you’re putting it in your skin?
What’s next for you and your brand?
We have some exciting new launches coming soon, including our facial range which I’m really excited about, and we’ve just recruited Ross (my husband, Neve’s father) into the business to look after operations and our manufacturing so Neve can focus on New Product Development, and I can focus on sharing our messages…. The one thing we can’t agree on at the moment is what should be his title. Neve is Queen Bee, I am Deputy Queen Bee. I wanted Ross to be our ‘Favoured Drone’… but as an engineer by profession, he can’t cope with this! We think we’re compromising on ‘Ops Bee’ – but any suggestions would be welcomed!
If you’d like to share in our bee facts and info on how to save our nation’s meadows and protect our pollinators, and would like know about any new products or promotions, sign up to our newsletter online through www.nevesbees.co.uk or checkout our socials (insta, twitter, facebook @nevesbees)
Thanks for reading!
Julie, Deputy Queen Bee x
Thank you, Julie!