Hobbyist beekeepers Kate and Scott Mossman were just looking for a way to use up wax left over from their beehives when they established their beeswax wraps business last year.
Now, the Waikouaiti couple’s company, Mossy Bees, is exporting around the world.
Dr and Mr Mossman bought eight hives for their lifestyle block in Waikouaiti about five years ago.
They sourced bees from Oamaru woman Marian Shore, whose organic beekeeping methods appealed to them.
“[Marian is] pretty hot on organic beekeeping and she’s been an awesome mentor for us to try and figure out our way to look after bees sustainably,” Dr Mossman said.
While she was at home caring for son Harry (now 2), Dr Mossman taught herself how to make beeswax wraps by watching Youtube videos.
“It was really just a Thursday night in the kitchen. I thought I’d try and do something from Youtube and it worked,” she said.
She started making wraps for her family and friends and was then encouraged to start selling them at community markets.
“That went really well and it’s just taken off from there,” she said.
The business was a perfect fit for their lifestyle – they get called “the hippies in town” and have always been passionate about making environmental changes and “leaving the world a better place for the next generation”.
“We try really hard to reduce our plastic [use] and reuse what we can,” she said.
“We grow our own vegetables and Scott works in environmental mining.”
They mostly sell through Facebook, but have a regular stall at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market and are now working on building more of an online presence, including a new website.
Mossy Bees has also started to attract interest from international linen companies.
“That’s probably our biggest business,” she said.
“Huge international linen companies are getting on to this idea that we need to reduce plastic.
“We’re doing huge business orders, mostly in New Zealand and through Europe.”
The rapid growth of their business caught them by surprise and it has become a full-time job for Dr Mossman.
They still have just eight hives at their lifestyle block, but source their honey and wax from about 350 other hives around the Waikouaiti area.
“The good thing about beekeeping is everyone is really friendly,” she said.
“Everyone wants to share and help, so we’ve got some really good relationships with the local beekeepers.
“We buy their wax in exchange for selling their honey. It’s a real circular economy going on.”
The Mossmans have lived in Waikouaiti for about eight years.
From 2014 to 2016, Dr Mossman was commuting to work in Oamaru for her role as the co-ordinator for Sport Waitaki.
She has a PhD in education and worked with children with disabilities around the world before taking on the role with Sport Waitaki.
Dr Mossman has refined her method for making beeswax wraps a lot over the past year, mostly through trial and error.
“Everyone’s got their own way of doing things and we’ve just found through sharing with our family and friends and the farmers’ market and getting feedback from people about what they like, what they don’t like, has really been the best way of doing it.”
The process involved melting down the wax, pine resin and jojoba oil on a stovetop, brushing it on to cotton fabric and baking it in the oven.
“There’s quite a lot of work involved in cutting the fabric, making your mix and refining your beeswax.”
Refining the beeswax was time consuming and a lot of other beeswax wraps businesses bought wax in commercially, but Dr and Mr Mossman liked to know exactly where theirs had come from.
“We work really closely with local beekeepers to make sure that our wax is the cleanest and the purest that we can find.”
As their business continues to expand, so too does the need for more space for production.
They are building a new family home that will include larger and more commercial kitchen and workshop spaces.
The business has become more industrialised, but the treatment of the bees has remained the same.
They love their bees, treat them with kindness and, in return, the bees give them homemade products to share with the world.
They also want to keep their wraps affordable and are trying to manage business growth with affordability.
“Short term, we want to streamline our business for individuals so mum and dad and grandma can order the wraps that they want themselves, easily,” she said.
“Then, we want to grow it so we can produce more.
“We’re excited about what’s coming in the future.”
They love seeing people become more interested in living more sustainable lives, and their products being used in the community.
“When people realise how much they’re saving the environment and how much money they save, then they start to make changes.”
Beeswax wraps are a reusable, eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap, made by baking wax, pine resin and jojoba oil on to squares of fabric.
They are reusable, last 12 to 18 months and each wrap is estimated to save 65m of plastic wrap.