From a secret side hustle to a certified B Corp buzzing business, Beekeeper's Naturals' Carly Stein
Joining me today is Carly Stein, the founder behind Beekeepers Naturals.
Founded by Carly Stein in 2017, Beekeeper's Naturals is an innovative company on a mission to reinvent the medicine cabinet. Using unique remedies from the beehive (like royal jelly and propolis), the beekeeper-led team is committed to providing the cleanest, most powerful solutions to modern health issues—like brain fog, chronic stress, poor sleep, and scratchy throats.
Unlike competitors, they apply scientific rigor to their product development and commit to third-party pesticide testing to ensure they’re creating natural remedies that actually deliver.
This has been one of my favourite episodes to date, Carly has such a special story and shares so much of the actual how of building her company, you’re going to get plenty of valuable pieces of gold throughout so make sure you’ve got a notepad and pen handy!
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Carly: Yeah, so I'm Carly Stein, I'm the founder and CEO of Beekeeper's Natural's, and Beekeeper's Knoxville's is a natural medicine company. So our mission is to reinvent the medicine cabinet using cleaner ingredients, sustainable ingredients, things that truly work and not making any compromises. When it comes to what you're putting in your body. You look at the medicine cabinet today, we have two very different ends of the spectrum. We have like nasti, cherry flavored cough syrup full of refined sugars and chemicals that are not actually healing, but just not for the symptom. And on the other side, there's this wonderful world of not for wellness. And there's a lot of great stuff there. And there's also a lot of stuff that's heavily marketed and doesn't really get the job done. And so we are really trying to marry the world of nature and science and reinvent the medicine cabinet. And one of the key features of our company is that we draw on a lot of different medicinal ingredients from the beehive going beyond honey. And we also are dedicated to saving the bees and supporting sustainability.
Oh, I love that I was actually just having a look in my medicine cabinet, in my bathroom, and I was like, yeah, I don't have anything natural in here. It's like old old stuff that you buy over the counter.
Doone: And it's interesting when you look in your cabinet, when I'd been obviously reading about your brand and like all these amazing reviews and things that you've said about the products, and I was like, wow, this is really weird. I don't have anything natural in there. And it's a weird thing because you have so many natural things in your fridge now. You have so many natural things in your skin care, but not yet in that category. Like for me personally.
Carly: Yeah, no, it's a really interesting thing. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts on this subject matter, obviously. But the first thing is, you know, when you're sick, your body's in a vulnerable state. The last thing you want to do is be introducing chemicals, refined sugars, flavors, preservatives, dyes. And so medicine was not really made to heal in a lot of cases. You know, there's some wonderful aspects of modern medicine, of course, but in a lot of cases, the medicine that we buy at the drugstore, it's meant to kind of mask the symptoms and get us through our day. But it doesn't it's not really helping us in the way that it should. And then just kind of to your point about what's in your fridge or your makeup cabinet or something like that, we've seen this better for you. Mission permeate every sector. There's clean food, clean beauty, sustainable fashion. And the one area that's truly loved is medicine. And I think it's because with medicine, at least, I'm like this with beauty products. I'm like, OK, sure, I'll try it. I don't know if it's working, but like, give me more. But with medicine, it has to work. Like, if you have a sore throat and you use the beekeeper's nozzles propolis spray and it does not help your sore throat, you are never using one of our products again and nor should you. So you're held to a very different standard when it comes to medicine and there is a lot of kind of upfront investing we have to do on the efficacy side, on the science side. And that's all stuff we're committed to doing. But it means that before we bring a product to market, we're spending a hell of a lot of money compared to kind of our cosmetic or food counterparts. So that's why I think there hasn't been a lot of innovation in this area. And for me.
Carly: This is like my obsession because of my own health issues, and so for me, there was like no other road I was going to go down. But certainly it's it hasn't really kept pace with what the customer of today wants and deserves and demands for themselves.
Yeah, totally. Absolutely. I'd love to go back into your past when your health issues were starting and you get to learn a little bit about your story before you had the light bulb moment to start this business and what the problems were that you were facing and how that led into starting the business.
Yeah, so. Oh, my gosh. I had. All kinds of health issues going up, so I had chronic tonsillitis, I don't know, have you ever had tonsillitis? I had have you had strep throat? Anything like that?
I haven't I'm very happy to hear that, but for any listeners, tonsillitis, strep throat, these sort of things are quite common and they're very painful. And typically, when you have something like tonsillitis or strep throat, you take a course of antibiotics and you'll recover in like a week or so. And if you have a chronic condition, you get your tonsils out. So that would have been the normal path for me. But I have an autoimmune condition where I cannot take antibiotics, so I cannot take antibiotics at all. And what that meant was that when I got tonsillitis or strep throat or anything viral, there was nothing I could really do. My body wouldn't recover quickly. I had a really weak immune system and so I would be sick or, I don't know, three weeks at a time.
And so think about this started when I was a little kid. So my whole experience growing up was, you know, missing. Huge amounts of school and sitting on the sidelines and being sick and in pretty severe pain with no medicine, that could help me. And when it came to taking my tonsils out because of my allergies, antibiotics, it wasn't the safest path to go down. So I have my tonsils. I still have them today, but I grew up constantly ill. And because of my allergies, a lot of one antibiotics are just not in the conversation for me. But a lot of what sold at the drugstore I would actually have an adverse reaction to. So everything from like the Neosporin and Nyquil and these these traditional things that we take, they would make me sicker. And so I grew up seeing, like every specialist flying around the country, like just trying to solve my problem. I saw every doctor, every naturopath, every like constantly just searching. And then from a pretty early age. We figured out that not much was happening and we had spent a lot of money and time that we couldn't really keep up with trying to solve these problems. And so I started really exploring the world of thoughtfulness. And I was really excited and I did a ton of research. I'm a person who has to do a ton of research based on where my health was, that my health has changed a lot now. Now we'll get to that. But anyways, I started doing a lot of research on the world of doubtfulness and I was really excited.
There was all of these cool, natural plant based alternatives that promise these unbelievable results. And there wasn't necessarily the most science that I was finding, but there was a ton of anecdotal evidence and a lot of these things have been used for years and years. And so I got a job started saving up money. And these wellness alternatives tend to be quite expensive. So I started buying these things and using them and I very quickly became very disillusioned with the world of natural wellness because I would end up spending time researching and buying these fancy celebrity endorsed food products. And they would in many cases do nothing. And sometimes I would have a negative reaction. So I was just really frustrated. I was like, where do I fit in the system? And it's, you know, a lot of people struggle with this. I had a chronic tonsillitis. It certainly wasn't debilitating and it wasn't life threatening. And I'm very fortunate for that. But it certainly altered my life. It caused a lot of stress, pain missing out. It was it really affected my wellbeing. And there's a huge population that struggles with autoimmune and these things are just not as accessible to this community anyways. So that was my experience and that continued up until college. I was constantly searching for the latest and greatest, only to be disappointed. And I kept when I could see different doctors getting different opinions. And everyone was kind of like, You're out of luck, kid. And in college, I did a semester abroad and went to Europe. I was studying in Sweden and I was traveling around and I busted my butt waitressing to get out there.
It was like my first big trip, so excited. And when I went to, I was doing like two weeks in Italy to meet up with another friend. And when I got to Italy pretty soon after that, I got really severe tonsillitis to the point where I was having a very hard time breathing. My tonsils were so swollen it was hard to get Aaron go. And I was going to have to come home. And I was like, oh my gosh, I'm not missing out again. Like, I worked so hard to get out here. And every time I get this opportunity in life, it gets shot down because I'm sick and I'm so tired of that. And so I was like, I'm just going to figure this out. Like there has to be a solution. And I went to a pharmacy in Florence. It was it wasn't like a natural fancy store. It was traditional pharmacy. I just looked up online where I could really talk to a pharmacist and I went and spoke to the pharmacist. I rattled off my list of allergies, my symptoms, all the things. And she was like, oh, you need propolis. And I was like, OK, what's that? And she's like propolis from the BS. And I was like, OK, so honey. And she's like, no, no, no, not honey. Totally different. It's propolis. So I had never heard of this stuff before. Like many of us, I thought that the only thing the bees did was make honey guilty.
I mean, I completely thought that.
And I thought I was like, OK, this must be like a language barrier. I don't know. But she's adamant that I try this. She feels really confident. And she was like really relaxed, given all of my symptoms and like the state I was in. And I was visibly sick and I was like, OK, I'm just going to try this. And I was also twenty one. And so I was like. I'll try it. And so I bought this propolis from her and I started using it, following her instructions, and then about five days I made a full recovery. And that had never happened to me before. I had tried at 20 years, 20 years. Like a game changer. Yeah, not exactly 20 years, because I started getting sick around like nine years old ish, I think, anyways. But a long, long time of searching. And for the first time I had this experience of recovery and I didn't know that that was possible for me. And I started doing a ton of research on propolis and the more medicinal compounds that come from the beehive. And I learned that propolis is certainly not new.
The first recorded human use dates back to three hundred B.C. and propolis has been written up for having some incredibly beneficial properties. Its antiviral, its antifungals, antimicrobial antiinflammatory. It's full of antioxidants. So these are all things that are amazing for combating germs and reducing inflammation and swelling, which is what you need when you're sick. It's really interesting, actually. In the 17th century, propolis was listed in the London Pharmacopoeia as an official drug. So a lot of people think propolis is like the OG antibiotic, like it's really what people were using long before we turn to a lot of the sort of medicines we use today. So it's really interesting. We have this really longstanding heeling history. If you look at propolis is a compound. There's over three hundred beneficial compounds inside propolis. It has a really wonderful effect on the body and it's wonderful for autoimmune and sensitive people generally because it's really sensitive on your system and it's something that your body can really kind of integrate. So I have found my problems right here.
So I had found my thing. I was feeling better. And as I was traveling around Europe, I started to notice things like propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen were more commonplace. I remember finding brand supplements in France with royal jelly. And I saw all these like anti aging compounds as well that had royal jelly. And then when I was in France and then in Copenhagen, I bought this energy supplement that had bee pollen. So I started finding these products everywhere. And it's not like they're so widely accessible, but I was looking for them and I just started noticing that there was a greater awareness.
So I started incorporating them into my routine and I felt a huge difference. I was somebody who was getting sick monthly and I really wasn't getting sick. And when I did have something coming on, I was able to kind of stop it before it got bad. So my health radically changed during that semester abroad. And I certainly wasn't thinking about starting a company. I was just like, oh my God, I found my thing. I love the products. They work for my body. This is great. And so I finished my time abroad, came back home to finish up college in Canada where I'm from, and exams rolled around. And I had one too many all nighters cramming and I got sick. And I wasn't so worried this time because I was like, I just need propolis. Being sick is no longer a monthly affair. So I thought I just needed to get my hands on some propolis. And I went to like every health food store and there was shelves and shelves of organic honey and manuka honey. But nobody really knew what I was talking about when I asked for propolis. It's like people thought I was insane asking for this. I finally found some propolis at this farmer's market in British Columbia and it was forty dollars for like the tiniest tincture and it was organic and artisanal and all the things. And I went back and used it and I had a really severe allergic reaction. And so I was like, what the hell, how is this happening? I just came off seven months in Europe where I used propolis literally daily.
Why is this happening? And at that time I was a T for my chemistry class. And so I actually ran a toxicity panel on the product I had purchased and I found out that there was pesticide exposure. And so that led me down a different path where I was like, it's organic. How is their pesticides? And this like, isn't that the whole point of organic? And what I learned was with products and I'm sure there's a lot of inefficiencies in the organic world, but specifically with new products, organic is not a great benchmark because the bees fly. You can't put a leash on them. So just because their hive sits on organic land, if the neighbors are doing something dirty, which they you know, pesticides are widely used, in many cases they are. The bees will get exposure. Oh, gosh, I know it's brutal. So for somebody who's autoimmune and really sensitive to pesticides, organic doesn't paint the full picture. And even if you're not, if you're paying the extra money for something organic, like it should be pesticide free, you're trying to get your body clean and away from these toxic ingredients. But anyways, that experience. It was illuminating and it made me realize, you know, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So I know the byproducts work. I'm not allergic to be products. All of a sudden I am still allergic to pesticides. So I need to start beekeeping and run quality control. How the hell do I do that?
So I literally went on Google was started reading blogs about beginner beekeeping, YouTube videos. I literally bought the book Beekeeping for Dummies. I actually met the guy who wrote it a few years ago and I was like, I like almost crying. It was really embarrassing. It was I just it was extra. It was not. It was awful.
But anyway, I love that you like your fan girl moment.
Is the guy so funny and he's like not used to being approached by that. So he was like, are you having a panic attack?
And you're just really cool.
It was really embarrassing.
I want to share with him and I'm like standing so awkwardly and so stressed out in the photo actually didn't even post. It was like, I look insane even though he's so friggin cool and made a big difference to my life clearly.
So anyways, I started learning all about beekeeping and then I was like, OK, where do I get these? How do I do this? I'm a college student. And so I Googled beekeeping and I found the local my local chapter for the Beekeeping Association. And if anyone's interested, most parts of the world have a local chapter for a beekeeping association that meets monthly.
Even right now, most places are doing it for you. So I started attending these meetings and I was not the typical. I was not a member of the typical demographic that attends these meetings, and I ended up meeting this guy named John. He is a third generation beekeeper who moved to Canada from Romania. He's a retired biochemist and he basically moved to Canada to live in the woods and keep bees and be a recluse. And lo and behold, this annoying cheerleader shows up just like begging him to teach her about bees. And so basically, I convinced him to let me be an apprentice. I started working for him for free. He was in the middle of Victoria, B.C., in the forest. So why is pesticide free as you can get in the middle of the forest on an island in Canada? I went to college in Victoria, British Columbia. So I was fortunate to go to college in that beautiful place. But anyways, I started working with him. I started as his apprentice, and it was just this incredible learning experience because I'm learning from somebody who's generationally been exposed to bees and then also has a science background. And then at the same time, I was taking science courses. I was still achieve my campus. So I would go to the hives and work with the bees and create all these products and learn about them and then bring them back to the lab where I had a free run and perfect my extraction type.
And I I didn't know it at the time, but looking back, I was creating this product line and just perfecting it for myself. And, you know, it was it was actually a really beautiful, accidental way to start a company, because I think a lot of time I mean, when people start companies, they're thinking about the longer term, they're thinking about profitability and how you scale this. And inevitably you cut some people not you don't necessarily have to. I really believe you don't have to do this. But you've we've all seen a lot of people cut corners on the pursuit of profit. And so I never thought I could start a company. I was just making what works for me and doing it as best I could. And so I have this beautiful experience where I was just able to really learn about something and really perfect something and become an expert in something with no pressure. And that's what happened. I completely fell in love with the bee. I am obsessed with playing mad scientist and creating products, and I really changed my health. And at the start, you know, I never thought it could be a company. I never thought I studied sciences. I never took a business course in my life. I never thought I could start a company. But I started sharing these products with my roommates. And next thing you know, people on campus were Facebook messaging me.
They're like these products, where can I buy some from you? And I was like, OK, I don't even know you. But what was happening there was I realized that. These one these products work for a meaningful population beyond myself, and there's a real appetite for something natural that's effective in the medicine space and there is clearly a lack of options. Even if you're not autoimmune, even if you don't have these allergies, there's an understanding that when you're sick, you want to put something clean in your body, but you also need something that works and is going to address the symptoms and you want something that also helps you recover more quickly. So I was hitting all of these things and sorry, this is a long story.
I love a long story. Please continue.
Good, good. So I was making these products and I was just madly in love with what I was doing. I completely fell in love with the bees. I've always been pretty interested in environmental affairs and just like a nature lover. And I started to really learn about the importance of pollinators and how these really sustain life on this planet and how intricate these creatures are and how it's matriarchal society. Like there was all of these things about bees that were just like, oh, this is the coolest. So I fell completely in love with bees. I was already in love with building products and I like solving problems. And so I had this dream of starting a bee product company, but I was graduating with negative funds and starting a bee product company. When I went to basically any adult was like, that sounds really weird. You probably just get a job.
And I imagine people are also like it's a bit hippy dippy, like, oh, what do you mean?
Yeah, totally. Oh yes. People thought I was crazy. And so I went in the complete opposite direction of a hippie. I had a job. I was very fortunate to have a job offer out of school at a hedge fund. And the specific job that I was offered was to be focused on pharmaceutical research. So I was doing pharmaceutical research for these hedge fund people to then place monetary bets on. So it was great. It was research, which is my thing. It was science driven, but it was also like a hedge fund, which was a little fancy and gave me some good income out of school.
And so I joined this hedge fund. I was there for about ten months. And then 10 months into that, I got recruited by Goldman Sachs, which is a big investment bank, to join their team. And I became a trader at Goldman Sachs and I was there for just over two years. It was a wonderful learning experience. It was. The most I've ever could hate a job, and I've had some pretty intense jobs through high school and college and like it was rough, but it was rough because it was so out of line with my values and what I care about and what I want. It was in many ways a really wonderful experience, and I feel very lucky to have worked there. But basically I've never cared about finance. And there I am at a very large finance firm, working crazy hours with a huge amount of responsibility, doing something that is really meaningless and inauthentic to me. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn't really connect with my co-workers and I felt incredibly isolated. And again, the hours were quite intense. I mean, I work longer hours now, but I work on something that I love and am passionate about. When you're working wild hours at a place where you don't feel like you're really being treated kindly and you're working on something that you don't care for, it's tough. It's really tough.
And you also you don't see that like the outcome. You don't see the goal that you're, like, trying to reach because you're just now in the process.
What am I doing this for? So that my parents can tell their friends that I have a good job and independent or like I can have a slightly bigger shoebox of an apartment in New York. I don't know.
I was playing a lot of all nighters. I started to I'm an anxious person by nature. I started to really struggle with anxiety. I was having panic attacks. I remember I went to the doctor at Goldman and I was like, I think I'm having a heart attack. Feels like just a panic attack. So it's already pretty bad. Panic attacks are pretty severe.
And I got to a point where I was just like, I'm really unhappy with really, really unhappy. And I know I have a good income and I'm on a good trajectory, but I don't think I can do this. And so I sat down and I made a spreadsheet about happiness because that's what I was going to at that time, spreadsheets. And I was trying to identify the points in time where I felt the happiest and the things that I kept coming back to or working with the bees, which is a little hard to do. And you're splitting time between New York and Toronto time and building products also a little bit hard to do. But I was like.
I can kind of do this, it can be my hobby, and so I started sourcing products, I would just buy products from my mentor out in British Columbia and you would just send me bulk rob products. I actually have some real problems I can show you. Oh, please do. Maybe I'll grab it right now.
Yeah, grab it, please.
Ok, so a lot of this is just like a good visual because people think propolis coming in with a totally different thing. But I started ordering raw product.
This is raw propolis. So John would just like send me raw product. And I bought all this lab equipment and I turned to my, like, teeny tiny studio apartment here in New York into like a lot like my friends would come over and they would be like Karley was like, this is like Breaking Bad, do you need something? And I was always like trying to make sure that we don't go back to my place is so weird. But I started making so I started ordering raw product from my mentor and making it into accessible, viable products. And I would go on weekends and sell them in farmer's markets and pop up shops. And it was like my secret moonlite after work job. Your secret side hustle. Yeah, it really was. I was always so paranoid that. If I was at a farmers market that someone I work with would show up or their wife or something, and I was always on edge of it, but it was it was where we started to drive, honestly, obviously. But I started to really drive a lot of joy from being able to share these products I was making and the interactions I was having with customers. And it was, again, a beautiful experience because I didn't think that I could start a company.
I really thought this was going to be like I have my job that I hate. And then on weekends I got to do this is a fun hobby. And I was thinking, like, you know, my mom loves to bake and my mom's a teacher and baking is not her job, but she makes a lot. And I was like, OK, why can't my hobby be making these products into medicine and selling markets rolls off the tongue. And so that's how I was thinking about it. And then what happened was people started I started to just build up this customer base. People started to email as people started to follow me around to different farmer's markets. And they would share these incredible stories, incredible healing stories of their own, some of them similar to mine, some of them very different. I remember one gentleman shared a really impactful story about his experience with Lyme disease and how propolis somehow helped to really stabilize his immune system. And he was very passionate about it. And then I had this other customer. She had a six year old with all kinds of autoimmune. And he had he would get canker sores in his throat and was very, very painful for him. And she she would email me and to me videos of him, like spraying it and like in the morning before school, opening his mouth to spray it and the canker sores went away.
And so we're sharing all kinds of healing stories with me. And I was like, well, it makes sense as a substance because it's anti inflammatory. So any inflammatory condition, like a canker sore, it's going to have a soothing effect. And it's antiviral. So germs, bacteria, any sort of viral propolis will be supportive. Its immune support, like that's what propolis is. It's an immune supporter in the hive. It actually functions as the immune system for the entire hive. So it makes a lot of sense that if there's anything immune related, propolis will be supportive anyways. So people started sharing these stories and then people started asking me to send product to like their sister in law in Chicago and all over. And next thing you knew, I was spending my entire salary, like shipping to different places and all of this. And it got to a point where I was like, I think that I have a real customer base. People like this. I know the science is there and this is what I want to do. And if it's this needs to exist in the world, it helps people. And if it's not me, someone else is going to do it.
And I think it should be me. So I left Goldman and the twenty sixteen. Everyone thought I was having a full blown mental breakdown. Like literally everyone in my life was like very concerned about me. Everyone was like, this is not what you should do. What are you doing? Oh yeah. And not only that, people were like aggressively concerned, like people would be like, this is the worst decision of your life. You have this incredible job. People would kill to work at this firm. You're going to end up living in your parents. My my one of my bosses at Goldman, actually, he told me that he did this like I remember he when I told him he brought me into a boardroom and he started he has no idea what our margin structure looks like or how my companies evolved. But he starts putting, like, arbitrary numbers of like, here's where you'll end up with your little blue product company and here's where you would end up. You made partner at Goldman Sachs and like it basically showed a very bad situation on one end and a fantastic one on the other. And that was like upset. I remember like kind of trying not to cry in that moment, but also being like, yeah, I'm going to fucking do this.
Yeah, you're like this if it really gives me the fuel and further conviction that I'm going to prove you wrong.
Yeah. So anyways, I thought I was like having a full mental breakdown and I really wanted to get away from all of that.
And I had this dream of like going back to Europe and putting my head down in a cafe and just like writing my business plan. And I didn't know how to write a business plan. By the way, I Googled how to write a business plan. Like for everyone listening.
I didn't know I knew a lot about finance, which was not at all useful in the first few years with this, and now is like a little bit useful because I can have good conversations with our CFO.
But like I would not say that was a huge leg up. I knew nothing about business and how to start a business I knew a hell of a lot about. The products and the science behind them, and I you know, my biggest asset, I think was I knew a lot about how to research effectively. I knew what constitutes good science, what kind of trials to look at, what kind of science was being manipulated for a certain result versus what to understand. But on the business side, I had no idea. And you don't need to have an idea. You just need to be. Aggressive in your pursuit of information and understanding, so anyways, I had this dream of going to Europe and for no one knows me and just writing my business plan and setting it up and then coming back and really starting the company in America where there's a lot of interest in health and wellness and a big market. And I couldn't afford to go to Europe. So I put all of my savings into the company and had just enough to survive for that year on a very. Budgeted lifestyle. So anyways, I couldn't afford to go to Europe, but I could afford to go to Southeast Asia because I had enough for a flight and then the cost of living there was actually.
Significantly better than my rent in New York, which I couldn't afford, of course, moved out of my apartment in New York, went to Southeast Asia. I spent three months there. This is this is, I think, end of twenty sixteen. Start of twenty seventeen. I spent three months there, just literally. I myself, because really everyone in my life thought I was insane and I, I kind of broke down everything, like I exited my good on paper relationship with a lovely person that just wasn't my person. And I acted in this great on paper job and in pursuit of this concept that makes no sense to anyone. And so anyways, I Googled how to write a business plan. I started writing, went out. I started to understand how fundraising would look and put together kind of an action plan for that. And I came back to the US start of twenty seventeen had completely run out of money. At that point. I was living on my best friend Adam's couch and I stayed there for over six months. So God bless Adam.
Shout out to Adam deserves a mention.
I mentioned him on everything I ever do. Pretty much he's my best friend, my brother. But anyways, I thought I had fully run out of money at that point, but I had done a lot of research on fundraising and just reading the same thing I learned about bees reading these for Dummies books and listening to podcasts and just learning what venture capital is. That's a word I didn't know. Even working in finance, I wasn't really aware of that. That space is quite different than public markets. And I started to put together a small seed round and I basically dialed up all the rich people I know a lot of them were people I met in the finance world who I worked for. And I was like, here's my idea. Would you be interested in investing? And pretty consistently they were like, I don't understand your idea at all, but I know that you're a workaholic. I mean, seen the way, you know, your work ethic is. And I trust that you'll figure it out like you're not going to you'll you'll find something. So I was able to put together a small seed round, not a huge amount, but just enough. And I went to my other best friend, Daniel Miller, who's now our our CEO. He was a corporate lawyer at the time. And I was like, how do I set up a company? I don't know how to do any of this? And so he started helping me out. And then something that was really important to me early on was so this is just an interesting thing. In the US, there's the FDA and then when it comes to natural, it's the Wild West. There's no regulatory structure policing it. There's a little bit more structure in Europe and in Canada where I am from, there is a body, Health Canada.
They do regulate natural products. And what you can do is apply to get and then number, which is a natural product number. So we have export numbers on all of our products. And basically what they do is what it means that we've legally validated the health claims we make. So sometimes you see products in the US that are like cures everything and we'll make you glow and there's no scientific or legal validation. And so for us, when we say throat spray, when we say on our screen shots, when we say cognitive memory, say those words, we've legally validated those health claims. And a lot of people don't know about this. I knew about this because I had to deal with all of my health issues. I was I had to look out for things within because I wasn't able to take things that don't because I didn't know what I would get.
And so I went to Daniel and I was like, OK, you've helped me set up the company. You're amazing. Do you know anything about how to get NP's? And he's like, I'm an M&A lawyer. No.
And then I was like, You're the smartest person I know. So, like, I feel like you can figure it out. Like, if I can figure this other stuff out, like, you can figure this out. So we started the process together of trying to get Northpoint and Daniel. This whole time was just like helping out a friend. And I think he kind of felt that for me. And he was also working crazy hours at a law firm and he would get sick all the time and go to the local drugstore and spend like 50 bucks on cough syrup and stuff to mask the symptoms only to get sick again.
And he thought I was like a crazy hippie chick just doing something weird, but helping out a friend. And so as we're going through this process where he's having to legally validate the science of these products to the Canadian government, he's like Carly. Stuff like this is real, this work, and I was like, yeah, that's what I'm doing. And then he had one night we're in a really bad sore throat and use the propolis. And it literally like he was fine the next morning and he came back and he's like, I want to get involved. You need a business partner. It was like, I don't need a business partner and we're a sustainably driven company. So I don't care about your JD MBA. You don't have experience. So I love you and you're the best friend ever. But like, this seems like a poor fit if you you know, you can't bring that perspective into this because it is really important to me. And now we have amazing conversation with our team members that people need to really understand the intricacies of the business and the impact we have environmentally. So anyways, I turned him away. He went out and did a Masters apprenticeship in beekeeping and came back to me several months later, a certified beekeeper. And I was like, OK, overachiever, you're in.
That is awesome. Oh, my God, he's the best.
And Daniel. So he left the world of corporate law January twenty eighteen and he's now full time our CFO. And it's awesome and very lucky to get to run my company with my best friend. And that kind of brings us today. So now. We have quite a few products, we're all about reinventing the medicine cabinet, I have the most amazing team, we're sold nationally, we're sold at all Wholefoods locations across the US and Canada, and where our propolis sprays consistently in the top five of the top selling immune products on Amazon. And we have yeah, it's great. We've a growing team. Holy moly.
That is just the coolest story. And like, I feel like I had to do the least amount of work I've ever had to do. You just like breezed through the story without me having to ask you any questions, which I am just so grateful that I got to sit here and listen to that amazing story. Wow.
I'm wondering when you look back at your, like, marketing over the last two years since Daniel joined. What do you think has been the reason for the success and crazy customer growth and customer acquisition?
Yeah. So I think for one, we're obsessive about product, our product work at the end of the day and we will not bring something to market that doesn't not only work, but is accessible to the most sensitive systems. I'm a great guinea pig for all of our products. I won't bring something to market that I don't use. So we're really obsessive about product quality and efficacy. And I think that's, you know, you can only get so far with a company built on promise.
It's really important to be obsessed with your product and be obsessed with the landscape and understanding your customer base and what they need and solving problems for them. So that's number one. If our products didn't work, we would not have grown like this. And then on the marketing front, it's really challenging because we have such a nuanced product line. We're dealing with ingredients that the average person hasn't heard of. There's generally a lack of trust in the wellness space and specifically when it comes to medicine, when people are sick, they just want to get better. Like the last thing they want to do is try something that like maybe will work. So it's really important that we, again, make products that truly work but also have strategic, decisive. Messaging that people understand, trying to kind of bring this down to everyone's level because the average person, again, doesn't know what propolis is, so how can we how can we make this just understandable in a quick snap? Second and so really speaking and we've figured that out through a lot of customer testing, a lot of trial and error. We've done like the long winded campaigns where I try and teach every single person about every single product and people tend to get for it.
And check out. We've done the thing where we speak to the specific symptom. And ultimately what I've learned is that you need to speak, you need to meet your customer where they are speaking to their needs. You know, I have I so I mean, as you can probably tell by this podcast, I tend to like go down a rabbit hole verbally and when I'm researching and when I'm doing anything. And so I want to share all the amazing products and people names joke that I'm like the Windex dad from Big Fat Greek Wedding. I'm like a proposal on everything. But really and even if something is the best miracle product ever and it is a cure all, it's really important to be specific and meet your customer where they are and speak to the problem that they are going through. So you know what? I want to talk to other entrepreneurs. I really emphasize, especially with I mean, with anything I really emphasize the importance of getting to know who your customer is, where they live, how old they are, what other things do they consume? What are they dealing with? Like what is the problem that is still plaguing them? I think it's wonderful when you are your customer.
I, I think that's a really wonderful thing. And, you know, it's not always the case. And I think companies can evolve in a beautiful way without that because we're all capable of empathy and understanding. But it really, if you're not your customer, get to know your customer, spend time with them. I it was unintentional, but the work that I did in the early days at farmers markets, standing in a booth all weekend, every weekend and just talking to people who are using my product, coming back the next weekend saying like, I like this, but not this so much, I would say why? And I really got to know that. And you don't have to do that. You can replicate that with customer service when you put out a product, get a good focus group going and survey them digitally and get to know what they like and what they don't like and be ready to move. Because you also don't don't fall too in love with your master formula, because it's not just about you. It's about meeting your customer where they are. So be open, be open minded, be flexible and continue growing alongside your customer base.
Absolutely, I think that's such an important one that sometimes, even though it's the most obvious thing, sometimes people can actually forget that. And of course and and as you're seeing with your brand, word of mouth is so important and it has to be inherently built into what you do so that, you know, one person tells five of their other people and you didn't have to pay to acquire those customers at all.
Yeah. And I mean, that's kind of what social media is. That's what influencers are. It's people who have amassed a following in their word of mouth carries. And so, you know, you also need to be really clear on your messaging. This is something that I've messed up with all of, you know, sharing too many products or too many benefits, like you need to really make it digestible for people and allow them to have their own experience and then trust that if it works for them. And you can trust that when you've worked your ass off making a great product that it will carry. But we live in a world where information is easily disseminated. So that's a wonderful blessing for an entrepreneur.
Absolutely. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to launch their own business?
Ok, so for me, my biggest challenge was and continues to be myself, I have you know, I really have to rub up against the narratives that I carry and challenge them and question them. And, you know, I see this with. All genders of young entrepreneurs that I speak to, but for whatever reason, maybe it's just my network, but I've seen it a little bit more with women where we we need something to be perfect before you bring it to market or we need to go to our MBA before we do this or we need some sort of external validation before we make these moves, because we're not we're not so sure of ourselves or we just don't know how. And that's all bullshit.
Like nobody knows how. I still I have a pretty big team and I still don't know how. And I tell them that all the time. And the only thing that I know how to do and the only thing that kind of matters is an entrepreneur is resilience and being able to figure out the things you don't know how, because especially as a CEO, your job changes at least every six months with every phase the company takes on your whole job changes.
And so the only thing that you consistently need to do is be good at being bad at something and dedicated to that thing until you get better at it. So my advice is all of these kind of limiting beliefs start to question them, start to just just look at what's the opposite of that? What if that's not true? Just start asking yourself. Make a habit of it. This is what I had to do. I had to make a habit when I had these really limiting beliefs of saying, OK, what if the opposite happens? What if that's actually not true at all? What would that look like? And I journal about it and I have a major journal in practice. And that's really important for me because I'm full of self-doubt that I have to fight against constantly. And so for for female entrepreneurs, I would say. And I hope that this actually doesn't resonate with a lot of people, because I hope that people are not riddled with self-doubt and are full of confidence. But what kind of barriers are you placing on yourself and what sort of external benchmarks are you telling yourself that you need to achieve prior to starting when? The truth is you had this idea, if you care about this and are passionate about it and there's no one better to do it than you. And what if you just did it and then figured it out is unlike all of the other great entrepreneurs do?
Totally. That's so strange that you say that you just spark something that I remembered from a few years ago. I'd been doing like a self development course. And one of the exercises that they gave us at the time was just when you automatically go to say yes or no to something, just to automatically be like, what if? What if I said yes or what if I said no? And just no matter what it was, if it's like, oh, you get invited to a wedding and you automatically say, yes, but then what does it look like if you say no and prioritize yourself instead in that moment to not travel overseas to do something or whatever it is and those little, you know, self kind of exercises that you can do to question things that are happening like in your mind, it's just so critical. And I'm so glad you just reminded me of that. I'm going to start I'm going to start doing that, too. I think a lot of people do suffer with the with the inner critic, certainly, myself included. So that's really cool. Thanks for sharing. I'm conscious of time, but we have the six quick questions part of the episode. Are you still good for another five or six minutes?
Yes, I am. OK, question number one is what's your why?
My why, when I started, it was my customer base, now it's my customer base and my team.
Amazing. Question number two is, what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that's made your business pop?
I don't I wish that I could point to one silver bullet, we've had a ton of celebrity endorsements, but I don't think it was one thing. I think it was slowly grinding away, creating our Instagram following and interacting with our customers. And we, like our customer, loved him, which is our customer service team. We're very dedicated. We're always talking about surprise and delight. So we've created a lot of micro moments by focusing on connection. Sorry, I know these are quick ones.
I want to be a bit longer if you've got time. I'd love to hear what you mean. Like what's an example of those micro moments?
So we always as a company are talking about surprise and delight. How can we surprise and delight customers? How can we connect with them more fully? How can we do a better job of understanding what they need from us, not just on a product level, but in their interactions or as a platform? So we spend a lot of time surveying directly, interacting with them over Instagram and email and then trying to reward people who support us by just sending them an extra thing with their order sometimes or little things like that. And it's really interesting because we've had we're very fortunate. We've had the Kardashians endorse us publicly and know that using yeah, we've had a lot of really amazing things. But I think sometimes people are entrepreneurs and these things are amazing. We're very lucky. But it's not like a celebrity endorses you and then you're a success. My experience has not been that the company radically changed overnight. It's a lot of different people speaking about their experience with the products. And so, again, just focusing on building connection. And you also build connection by solving people's problems. So it comes back to focusing on product that works, but really just focusing on, especially in today's isolated world. And I was saying we were isolated before Koban in lockdown because everything's digital, but creating opportunity to really hear what people are struggling with. And I got to meet them there and speak to that directly and create a safe space for it. So sometimes it's like a physical surprise and delight extra like a sticker pack with our products. Sometimes it's just an email thanking dedicated customers. Sometimes it's a post about mental health where we really encourage conversation. Sometimes it's conversations like these that we share with our customer base where they can really get to know different pieces of us. But it's creating a lot of micro moments in different areas, from an email campaign to an Instagram post to. You name it, where you can connect.
Yeah, I really love that. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter and that's around things that you're listening to, podcasts, books that you're reading, places on the Internet in these times.
I'm a big podcast. Let me just actually tell you the name of this new one that I'm obsessed with. I just got really into it. His name is Josh when students call it the portal. The portal. Yeah, I'm sorry. With Eric Weinstein. So I really love that. I really love a podcast is actually I think they're based in London. It's called not overthinking it. Oh, my God. I'm obsessed with it. I'm obsessed with it. These two brothers and it's like I like the name too, because it's not overthinking, but also not overthinking. So anyways, I think it's witty, but specifically for business. Etel Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, that podcast that's out through Stanford, that is like my number one risk for entrepreneurs when I started my company. Oh my gosh, I went back and like at the beginning, listen to every episode. And, you know, there's a lot of, like, interesting business podcasts where you get to know people. But I found there were so many applicable takeaways from that podcast. So that's one that I love. And then I really, like, invest like the best. Again, he interviews some really great people and I find that there's kind of tangible takeaways.
So those are some of my faves. And then right now I'm rereading Dalia's book, which is a really good one. It's just thinking about corporate structure. But I read a lot of just kind of like I think I read like a list I found on Google Business Books when I started. And I think it is really important to continue thinking about these things. And then the other thing that I that I'm really lucky to learn from is I have a lot of entrepreneur friends and I spend a lot of time trading stories with them, learning about what's working for them, sharing what's working for us. I have a really incredible network of female entrepreneurs. I think it's really important to build that network for whatever reason. There's not a lot of female entrepreneurs we need to see more. But creating that supportive structure and sharing what's working for you and building real connections there is so important. I cannot tell you how many times my brilliant girlfriends who run brilliant companies have given me advice that's fundamentally shifted my path.
So trying to find people who care about the things you care about and can provide different perspective is really important.
Yeah, I totally agree. That's totally how Female Startup Club came about, because I was asking girlfriends in my network how to grow my e-commerce business at the time and yeah.
Lead you in a funny way, but I totally agree. It's so important to have those connections. Question number four, and this is what I'm super excited to hear your answer to is how do you win the day? And that's around your and rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful but motivated and productive.
Hmm. So pretty much every day I will first of all, I have to, like, fight to not check my email in the morning or slack. So that's like a constant struggle for me. Like this morning I did a really shitty job of it. I was like, I'm going to get up and go journal. And then right away I'm like on slot and then I'm on Slok for an hour in my bed, which is insane. Anyways, don't do that.
I slip in and out of doing that.
Yeah, it's tough, but I try really hard to just have a practice at kind of centers me before I start my day. And you know, it doesn't have to be a lot of time. I certainly don't spend a lot of time doing it, but I do a few things. One, I do kind of a gratitude list, so I just write down three things I'm grateful for. And then have you heard of the Hofman process? No, it's a little bit OK. So I went to do I went to this place called Hofman and it's basically like a week long sort of retreat, but it's not like massages and yoga. It's like basically therapy. It's wonderful. It's unbelievable. And it's all about it. It's all about looking at your patterns that don't serve you the patterns we take on early in our life that they're not necessarily who we are. They're just patterns. They're things that we engage in that are either limiting or self sabotaging or we just want to get rid of. And it's like this deep exploration of that. So I love that. And I think they have actually an Instagram page where they do these like guided meditations. They do something called a quad check where you just check in with different parts of yourself. But I use their rocks. I like to write. And every morning it's like little journal prompts. And so it's I think it's just called the Hofman process up. It's not like the cleanest stop. I don't think they've updated in a while, but they have the option to do the quad check and it's where you check in with different parts of yourself. So it's like my emotional self feels.
And what is my emotional self meet today? My intellectual self feels was my intellectual self need. Today my body feels what does my body need today? And it's just a really great way before you get to. Swept away with the entire day to check in with what's your emotional state, what are you worried about and how can you support yourself? That for me, very frequently my intellectual state feels anxious. And then the second problem, which is like, what do I need today? Is like, OK, I'm feeling anxious as fuck. I probably need to, like, meditate for ten minutes at some point today and just be kind to myself because like, there's no way I'm going to get everything done. And I find that starting your day with those little check ins is really important. Yeah, I love that end of day. I've been trying recently, it's tough because I live on the East Coast, I have a West Coast team members, so I tend to work like East Coast and West Coast sometimes. And so what I'm trying to do and thank God for my assistant, because she's actually the one who's trying to do this and enforcing it with me is trying to have just like an hour at the end of the day where I just stop and I just like, don't look at anything. Nothing important is happening. Everyone on the team knows, like, Carly's not going to look until tomorrow morning in most cases, even though I tweet a lot. And then I try to just read a book or do something that's kind of indulgent. So sometimes I order a pizza and watch Emily in Paris.
Oh, my God, I love Emily and Paris.
I know. I know. It's like the guilty pleasure. Yeah. So good. So good. Or it's, you know, listen, the binge about Harry Potter, which is my my guilty pleasure lately, or just like read a fantasy book, like I have so many business and personal development books I'm always reading. And I just recently started reading Aragón. It's like this book about Dragons. And it's I think the target demo is like teenage boys. But, you know, the trying to do something that's indulgent for me, that's like just for me, it's pure joy at the end of the day.
I love that question. Number five is if you only had a thousand dollars left in your business bank account, how would you spend it?
Yes, I would be scary. I think I would a thousand dollars, I think I would probably find an entrepreneur who has a really great idea and give it to them because there's not so much you can do with a thousand dollars. But maybe it would be like a base for somebody to go on increasingly incredible.
I love that. Haven't had that as an answer before. I love that. Very cool. And last question.
Question number six is how do you deal with failure? And it can be around a personal experience or just your general mindset and approach to it?
Failure is so important, it comes back to that resilience, and I fail at things all the time, like I more often than not I feel it, little things. And I now I'm teaching myself and constantly re teaching myself to see failure as an opportunity to build that resilience muscle. We really need to build our resilience muscle like that is the most I mean, I'm sure you experience the most single, most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur. And I always come back to this quote I. I think it was I don't know who said it, but it was like, if you live so cautiously as to never fail at all, then you fail by default. And I really believe that failing means you're doing something. And the most important thing is to be in action and be in pursuit of your mission and purpose. And so failing is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just an opportunity to strengthen and a redirection.
Yep, absolutely, totally. I've loved this episode so much, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing all these amazing stories and learnings and lessons that you've had along the way. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so, so much fun.