From the outside, a beehive can be intimidating. The thick, layered, coned shaped shell that nest hundreds of little black and yellow buzzing bodies, aggressively swarming around and around. From the outside, it’s hard to believe that a hive and its community of dwellers can produce anything sweet or good.
Honey, the natural preservative and sweetener, is produced by honey bees. Their resourcefulness of extracting pollen from, not only flowers, but weeds create a natural nectar that has been used in home remedies, recipes, and even home goods for centuries. Honey can even be used in skin care, as was my experience with beelove.
Beelove is an organic honey and skin care line based in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago. The company uses urban bees, who yield more honey than rural bees and have a lower mortality rate, to create their line of high quality products. The products vary from glass jars of rich, raw, edible honey, to skin-based products like body lotions balm and scrubs.
This line was perfect for me and my incredibly dry skin. The products hydrate and conditions the skin without the heavy texture, or the need for multiple applications. My two favorite products were the body scrub and the body balm, which left my skin feeling moisturized, tight, and, of course, smelling insatiably sweet.
The rich quality of the product was excellent, but what I was truly seeking was the the story behind this awesome line. As founder and CEO, Brenda Palms Barber, shared with me, “…beekeeping, whether by profession or hobby, is passed through storytelling,” and I wanted that story!
I was invited to interview Brenda, and the employees of beelove, at the Sweet Beginnings LLC facility. The social enterprise is wholly owned subside of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), and is the largest beekeeping entity in Chicago. NLEN is a non-profit human services, and workforce development program for training citizens returning home from incarnation. Emily Bennet is one of the four employees who shared her journey with me; the program, as she stated, “gives [her] hope.” Emily, and the group of over 400 people who have come through the program, will have marketable skills gained through Sweet Beginnings and NLEN that will take them further into their search for job opportunities.
I was honored to be in the presence of individuals who were willing to openly share their personal journey with me. The stories that were shared were as raw as the honey made at by beelove. They each shared drops of golden wisdom from their past and how they were planning on shaping their future. Daniel Washington shared that he is striving to keep it “honest and modest,” as he continues through the program. While LaKeshia Howard, who shared that it was her last day with the group, asked companies who are hiring to simply, “give us a chance.”
Their stories, and the stories of others who create these products, do not end after the program is over. There is coaching, financial classes and plenty of encouragement for these career seekers. They will continue to rebuild their personal hive and produce for themselves something sweet and good.
Thank you again to Brenda, Patricia, Daniel, LaKeisha, and Emily for sharing your intimate stories with me and my readers.
Fellow seekers, I encourage you to do several things after reading this post.
- Support the brand. It is a local brand, and, of course, is ‘rated haute’ by the seeker herself! Find this brand at over 29 Mariano’s stores in the area.
- Listen to the stories. The full interview is truly humbling. Click on the audio below.
3. Share the story. If you know someone who is looking to make a “u-turn” in their life and is seeking employment, I encourage you to point them towards this program.