After suffering from severe headaches, Michelle Rosetta realised the trigger was her favorite perfume. Although the scent was soft, with research she realised there were severely detrimental synthetic chemical additives in her products. As a woman and mother, she immediately saw the connection between what she wore on her skin, her health and the impact it had on those around her and the environment.
A high-performance facial moisturiser for her maturing skin that kept up with the wear and tear of living life “off the grid” and demanding activities in the elements became very important for Michelle. Many of the nasty ingredients in her perfume were also in the majority of the facial moisturisers. She was not able to find anything in the marketplace without all of the harmful additives that fulfilled the qualities of a product she wanted to use.
Taking matters into her own hands, Michelle set out on a journey to gain the knowledge and skills to create a natural waterless formula that would soothe, restore and rejuvenate with all the aspects of a potent facial moisturiser and none of the contaminants that actually can dry, irritate and take away from a youthful complexion. In relying on the naturally occurring complexities in our own environment while fitting the formula very closely to the skin, she was able to create powerful blends that melt into the body and work for serious sensitive skin conditions.
Good well-sourced ingredients have always been very important not only to BEE23 core values but to how the product works. BEE23 are Proud to use beeswax sourced from small independent Ontario farmers through Bees Are Life Inc, along with pure extra virgin cold pressed olive oil from the Olive Oil Boutique and high quality pure essential oils.
BEE23 products are not only full of the ‘good stuff’ but they are blended together in a formula that acts like an invisible breathable non-comedogenic barrier while working to attract moisture into the cells, keeping it locked in.
Hey Michelle, how is it all going so far?
I can say at this moment in time if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing what I am right now, I probably would not have believed you.
Let’s get started then! When did you launch your company?
I officially made my first sale in 2008 however my company has grown alongside my children incrementally. I don’t really consider myself truly in business until about 5 years ago when I moved to Toronto and really had to learn to hustle to make it in the big city!
We salute any hustler, so what were the first steps you took to launching Bee23?
I was a part of a women’s business program, wherein I worked on a proper business plan. I did do my research but I think the major issue was that I wanted what I wanted for myself and couldn’t find it in the market. This was the motivation for moving forward to figure out a solution to my problem.
How has the journey been so far whilst building Bee23, any anecdotes to share?
What can I say it’s been quite the story. I think an entrepreneurial spirit such as myself really likes an adventure and that’s what I created with this business venture. I don’t know that I can articulate all of the ups and downs of the past 10 years. My business survived so much from a formation in an off-grid cabin 40 mins outside of Thunder Bay, ON.
I was making a product on a propane stove, jumping in a cold sauna and putting little leopard heels on to go to a business event in town. Then I went on to realise that if I were doing this for real that I had to get to the city, there was no other way to build and network. I packed up my family and our animals, this included two dogs, deep sea frogs, and an old quarter horse and then drove to Toronto with what I could fit in a small Uhaul. It was a culture shock, to say the least.
The only place that would rent to us was an old property management company that had probably been on Lakeshore Blvd for 50 years. I made it work and in hindsight, it probably was the best fit because now that we finally are in this beautiful condo, no one really talks to each other.
I became friends with one of the tenants on the third floor because our youngest children were the same age and playing together. She was a single stay at home mom. We pretty much co-parented for the first 4 years that I was in Toronto. She did a lot of the cooking and would have us over when I didn’t have time to cook. She minded my youngest children when I had to work or had events and trade shows. I took up the role of bringing the kids to activities and trips out of the city. Never mind that her family literally took us in for holidays and when I felt like I had had some business fails, such as making a poor choice or not doing an interview the way I thought I should, her Auntie would tell me to get it together and know that I got this. My friend really taught me to be tough, say what I had to and not back down. I absolutely needed to start my life out in that building in this city because it gave me necessary business skills that I wouldn’t have today otherwise.
If I had been able to get into the place that we are in now, I never would have survived as a single parent with young kids and trying to launch a company.
You focus on selling paraben free & phthalate free skin care, did you have to research heavily into this before offering this in your product?
I did a lot of research. Much of the research was accumulated prior to creating a non-toxic product line. When I think about creating my original formula now, it seems like such an undertaking. I took hours under an essential oils mentor for many years to learn about oils. I did a lot of self-education in regards to the skin and how our body works. The amount of knowledge I have accumulated over the years is quite substantial. I am learning all the time, especially because I still write for myself and an environmentally conscious parenting magazine. So I am still constantly attaining new knowledge.
What marketing tools are helping you to boost sales?
Social media is pretty amazing! But I do find being more ‘mature’ it can be difficult to navigate the online presence and use it to it’s fullest potential. I suppose this is where hiring supports is a good idea. However, email marketing to my subscribers is absolutely one of the greatest high impact immediate response tools I have. As well, word of mouth online is invaluable.
I am very lucky to have almost a split demographic, wherein I have ladies my age and older alongside a very active and growing young demographic that use the product under makeup and for blemish control. This younger demographic is quick to post when they love something and so excited to share it publicly. This is magic to sales.
Can you tell us, how you funded your company? Was it bootstrapped investment backed?
It’s a definite bootstrapped organic growth project. This can make growth slower but I have also learned to be more careful and resourceful with my money. I believe it made me smarter. As well, the fact that I live off this company and make enough to invest back into it, as a single parent with four children in Toronto, I feel this is a testament to what I have been able to create within my own resources.
Have you had any mentors throughout your business journey? If so can you tell us if it has helped in any way?
I think I always wanted a mentor but it just didn’t happen. I’ve been very lucky to have had important advice at crucial times that made a big difference in the directions I chose. I try to self-educate. I think the biggest influencers in my life were strong women. It doesn’t mean the relationships were always sweet but I learned to be tough, stand up for myself and think smart. The women in my life have been my greatest teachers and without those life lessons, there is no way I would have had the strength or ability to pack up my family and move from Northern Ontario to Toronto in order to launch a business.
Where are you looking to expand to next?
I’m currently excited about some overseas interest but that’s all I want to say right now. I’m so excited for the adventure because I think just capturing that venture for my customers here on social media will be so much fun!
What is the best business advice you have received recently?
Everything I’m focused on right now and want input on is about infrastructure. I need to be able to leave my business for a week without it falling apart. That’s when I know I’ve actually built something with a solid foundation that can evolve into something greater.
The best business advice you can give to someone?
I think that reality television shows and other media have really skewed our view of how a business grows. Perhaps in Silicon Valley and in IT, you can make an app and then you are a millionaire seemingly overnight but even that took previous learning. When you are building a business it takes an organic amount of time put in to mature; your company branding, your own knowledge, your following, your product and your reach all take time to mature.
When someone told me it would take a good 5 years to even start really making my business move, I was like “that’s too long.” Then if it’s your own brand, add several years onto that. I truly believe your business grows with where you personally are. I’ve been working on this technically for 10 years and 5 seriously in Toronto.
If someone had said to me 5 years ago that they loved me and we’re going to invest a million dollars I would have never been ready. My product wasn’t ready, my brand wasn’t ready and I wasn’t ready. It’s really important to know that you are making money in your current moment so you can pay the bills but true growth depending on what your vision is, takes time.
The other myth that I think has been left over from the 80s is that we all have to conquer our market and make millions of dollars to consider ourselves successful. That isn’t true. It’s a totally patriarchal view of economics and it is actually hurting us as a society. There is no reason at all that by making a gross of whatever amount that houses and feeds your family, allows for you to contribute to your community in a positive way and offers the ability to have some luxury in life and not go bust is not successful. We also have this idea of scarcity when we start businesses, that there may not be enough room for us but in reality, there are so many people on this planet if you do your job well there is absolutely no reason you cannot capture part of that audience to provide for yourself.
Yes! Yes! We couldn’t agree with you more Michelle. Who do you feel is an inspiration to your life?
In regards to a direct inspiration to be better in my life and giving me the drive to focus my energy in a meaningful way, that is definitely my children. If I can give them nothing else, then to simply live my life in a way that I feel is a meaningful story to them, then I have lived the best life that I can.
I also love women’s stories of prevailing. I love Coco Chanel’s life story. I loved Erin Brockovich’s story. I always think of J.K. Rowlings sitting in the coffee shop seizing her moment to create despite difficult times. But I also listen to a lot of stories in regards to social justice movements and know the sacrifice and courage it takes for so many of these women, such as Rosa Parks who is only one of so many historical and current activists to fight for what they know is true.
What has been the winning moment for you so far?
There are too many for real because I think maybe my winning moments are not what everyone considers “winning” moments. My business is closely linked to my life and my own personal transformation. I love making my customers feel good. Every time a customer comes back to me and gives me hug because they feel I have made their life better there is no other feeling like it. At my most recent event, I had two women come up to my booth, as I was introducing the product, this gentleman interjected and said “I have to tell you ladies this is the best stuff ever, nothing has ever worked for me and I swear if you buy it you won’t regret it and you will never go back.”
Apparently, this gentleman has everyone at his mother’s elderly home using our BEE23 Hotty Balm since I sold it to him just this past Christmas. He was so excited to be there and just be a part of what was happening. Of course, the women bought and now are loyal customers. The other fun most recent win was at a meeting last week. I was having a project meeting with another business owner when one of her clients came in early. We chatted a bit and discussed what we were doing. When I stated I made product for the face and body that was excellent for smoothing, moisturising and protecting from pollution, the woman said: “It’s not called Hotty Balm, is it?” It was so awesome because she was so excited to meet me and apparently had bought our product 5 years ago when I first got into Toronto. She and her mom have been devout Hotty Balm users ever since. She said when she put the product it on it gave her hope. That just felt like such a cool win for me. Nothing at all replaces that feeling.
Any setbacks you have come across so far?
I tend to look at setbacks as moments of redirection. However, I have had many seriously humiliating moments with bringing my children with me because I have had to for a very long time. I once had to drop an order off at a store and my son called me from school to say he wasn’t feeling well, just as I set out to drop it off. I needed to drop this order off because we actually needed the money for that weekend. I figured he probably wasn’t as ill as he thought he was and I decided to bring him with me. He said his stomach wasn’t feeling well and I told him we just had to do one stop. When the manager was going through my order at the front till my son turned white and threw up all over their front carpet by the register. I died a thousand deaths. I first felt bad that I had brought him with me when he wasn’t feeling well and obviously I felt mortified that he had thrown up in their store. Nonetheless, as the moral of the story goes I did get paid and now 2 years later they are carrying my full line of products but at the moment it was bad. There are so many more stories like that I can’t count.
So next time you know, that when a childs gotta go, they gotta go! Have you at any point throughout your career trajectory had self-doubt?
At least, a few times a week but now I know to ride with it.
How have you rallied through that?
My business is not just a bottom line, it is directly associated with my need to feel like I left the world a better place. It is an act of sustainabilty. A decade ago I was very angry about our environment, what was in our cosmetics, household products, and food. I was also angry about a lot of issues such as nuclear power and global affairs that I as an individual had little daily control over.
Not that physically rallying against these issues is not important, it is but I really felt that I needed to put all of what could be unused negative energy somewhere positive. As well, people are more apt to listen to me in a pink polka dot dress than in academia gear and at a podium. Most people that would listen to my environmental ranting in such a situation already know and want to listen. I wanted to be able to talk to those that maybe were not interested or found such topics overwhelming. Creating a non-toxic product that worked for a lot of the reasons we were trying synthetic cosmetic products was one area I could have control over and create an important dialogue about what we put on and in our bodies and how it affects our health and beauty, as well as our planet.
Back to business, what are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Honestly, I need to regroup. It has been very busy. A good busy but I also need to look at what numbers and goals I want to actively work towards. I usually do this in January but our January this year was so busy that I never took my incubation time to work out my year. This is not good business practice. I am at a new stage of growth which requires a revamped business plan. I want to create the infrastructure I was discussing earlier to support the imminent growth. I have a great network and I am currently looking at new space, which is exciting!
I also have a goal of taking a full week off and riding my motorcycle somewhere with no cell reception. It is absolutely imperative for me to do this for the health of myself, my family and my business.
What does success look like in your eyes?
Success for me has always been a full table of food and family, along with wanting a healthy share in the cosmetics market of course. I’d be lying if I didn’t include that!
What does it mean to you to truly #BEYOUROWN?
I think the most important thing to remember is that everything we do is truly an extension of ourselves, and we do have the ability to create that extension in whatever way we wish. When you are aligned with what truly speaks to you, the bumps never seem as bumpy and the wins are just so life-affirming. Yes, of course, I have financial goals but they are still a back seat to the way what I do makes me feel.
I think to #BEYOUROWN is to have the courage and belief to follow that call that speaks to us when we hear it. And to express our path, our purpose in a way that fulfills us as beings. This is what inspires others to become and in turn makes our world a better place to be.
Congratulations on your recent exhibition at the Enercare Centre, what else is on the horizon for 2018 for you?
I have several markets and tradeshows in the Toronto area as per usual. I’m excited to head to Ottawa for the Ecosphere Canada Tradeshow this July. This would be a new show for us and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I absolutely love the organizers. I have my sites on some adventures that I am really ecstatic about but it’s too early in the planning to start chatting about it. However, if you follow our feeds you can see whether we are loading up our motorcycles to hand out Hotty Balm at gas stations along the way to the East Coast or hanging out in L.A. We always have something going on, I wouldn’t want it any other way.