Kath Austin, is formerly a successful charity fundraiser, has a lifelong passion for positive social and environmental impact.
With a young family, Kath started a sideline project looking at ways to address the horrifying amount of single-use plastics the family was getting through. After 18 months of development, the BeeBee beeswax food wrap went into production.
Kath also has an insatiable interest in good food, a passion which informed the development of BeeBee Wraps. Kath believes food should be fresh, as local as possible and uncomplicated. Her food heroes include Yotam Ottolenghi and Anna Jones whose dog-eared and food splattered books sit proudly on her kitchen countertop.
1. What is BeeBee Wraps?
BeeBee Wraps are a reusable alternative to clingfilm made from organic cotton and beeswax. Because we use cotton we can print them with gorgeous designs making them instantly more attractive than clingfilm and far better for the earth too. Our team is based in Cambridge where we manufacture and we ship all over the world.
2. How did you come up with the idea of BeeBee Wraps?
I’d just had my second daughter – so I was spending a lot of time on my bottom under a baby desperately trying to drink a cold cup of tea and reach for the remote! I had time to think about the kind of world I wanted her to grow up in and what difference I might be able to make. I looked at the plastic I was using in the kitchen, especially to wrap food, and wondered what else could be used in its place. That’s when a friend suggested beeswax wraps and after lots of googling, I set about making some.
3. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
There are countless obstacles. I think we often consider obstacles to be temporary. Once you get over one it’s definitely a good idea to expect the next. Plain sailing is just not a thing in small business! I think the hardest parts were managing the ever-growing machine that is BeeBee, learning fast how to do (or not to do) things. We’ve grown so fast that working out how to take the next leap is a challenge, planning working capital and resources is very tricky.
4. What makes you different from your competitors?
BeeBee has always had sustainability at our core, like many others, but we understand that change will only come when we appeal to our customer’s sense of what they want. So we make our wraps beautiful and our packaging a reflection of that. We believe that the eco-alternative should not be a compromise of aesthetic and should, in fact, blend in with standard products, even market-leading products. That’s where we set ourselves apart from the rest!
5. Should all new companies have the environment in mind when starting out?
In an ideal world, no company should be doing harm. There are businesses which just causes so much harm like oil companies with their catastrophic oil leaks let alone the environmental considerations of fossil fuel. Most companies are fairly passive and whilst don’t overtly cause harm can operate in a much less destructive way. We chose to only use organic cotton from the beginning, this is because it was the “better than” choice to standard cotton. If all companies made a choice like that we would see a considerable impact. However, as is often the case, the profit margin matters more and as we see with our wraps, they do end up being a premium product. I would love to see them be more accessible to lower-income customers. However, I wonder if what needs to change isn’t the cost of products but the consumption culture. Do we need this product?
6. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur is going to be a roller coaster ride. Seek out support early on. Get yourself onto an incubator or accelerator programme like Cambridge Social Ventures and then build a support network like a board of non-executive directors.
Learn early on what it means to take time away from work for yourself.
With all the enthusiasm that comes with early ventures, it’s often the case that you think you can do tasks you just can’t and need to find expert help. Be honest with yourself and know when you’re not up to it. Seek out some help, go back to learning the basics, try not to make a mistake which is harder to fix than not doing it at all.
We would like to thank Kath for speaking with us today.
Jake Russell is the owner and founder of A Nibble of Business. Since its creation in 2015 it has been funded and operated solely by him. Jake is currently running the website along with being a student. View all posts by jakerussell