In this insightful interview with Kara Brook Brown, the founder of Waxing Kara, we hear about her journey through entrepreneurship, the highs, the lows, her advice on trademarks, and her best organization tool!
How did you come up with the idea for your brand?
Many years ago I stood before a painting by Tony Scherman and was so fascinated with the painting I decided to explore painting with encaustic. Encaustic is paint that is made with beeswax, pigment and tree resin. A sustainable art form appealed to me, so in 2010, I started beekeeping on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to harvest wax for my encaustic paintings. I soon learned about the importance of bees to our planet’s sustainability and the preciousness of honey, especially its nurturing and healing properties. I became captivated by honey production and the plight of honey bees in this country so I became a honey bee advocate and began raising bees on a small scale and have increased each year. We have planted at least 40 acres of wildflowers, fruit trees, and berry bushes, an incredible habitat all for bees (and other winged creatures) with consistent blooms from May through October.
This link tells my whole story about how I got it off the ground and my design process!
What problem are you solving with your brand’s products?
Honey is Medicine. The use of honey as medicine is nothing new. It was an ingredient in medicinal compounds and cures made by Egyptian physicians 5,000 years ago. The use of honey as medicine is in other ancient practices from traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda to Mayan shamanism. In the past ten years, there has been an explosion in scientific research on honey as medicine at Universities, research centers, and medical clinics around the world. You can read more here and here.
Why do you tell customers your products are the best?
Because they are made/bottled by our hands right here in the USA. The larger honey brands are acquiring honey from around the world, and while that may seem appealing it doesn’t support American beekeepers or the business of American beekeeping, which is extremely important to our food supply. Mine is a mission-based business, and we care about the greater good, not just the bottom line. In addition, the origin or American made honey is more widely understood/traceable.
Read more about our ingredient sourcing here!
Who inspires you as a founder?
All the women before me in business have paved the way for me. I am both grateful and in awe of their accomplishments as it made my journey far easier.
What is one thing you wish you knew before starting your company?
The nuances of trademark enforcement. When you own trademarks it is your duty to enforce them. It can get very ugly and it’s an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in. It’s extremely costly, so relying on lawyers is not always an option.
I realized that another bee company was using our trademark. I tried to open up discussion and resolve the violation, and failed. They insisted it was theirs. I was forced to become a detective to figure out when they first started using the trademark.
I took to the internet archive. I went back in time to when I first started using the trademark and reviewed their site for a 2 year period of time. They did not start using the trademark until 12 days after a big festival where my products were rolled out in their region. I had to hire 2 different law firms to resolve this matter.
It was a big expense and unnecessary aggravation that I could not have imagined. And while I am not able to share the details of who the company is, I can tell you I’ve since learned that this was not the first time that this company found themselves in this very situation. It was disappointing to realize that any other beekeeper would be anything other than supportive of a newcomer beekeeper.
What would your biggest advice to new business owners be when it comes to trademarks?
I think that the advice that I have is that, no matter how you approach your business, if you want to be casual about it, or if you want to be serious about it, going through the trademark process is absolutely necessary. It will never be casual if it is taken seriously, and, if you have a good idea chances are good that there will be some less-than-honest person out there who will try to take it from you and call it their own. So, you have to be financially ready for the commitment that this process takes, not only in researching and reserving your mark but in enforcing your ownership once it’s yours. It seems to me to be a never-ending and always evolving matter.
Tell us about a low point in your entrepreneurial journey. What happened? How’d you make it through?
Technically, I am still getting through it. I started this business with a firm financial foundation. I own two commercial properties that are located in a very desirable historic town in the center of Maryland. The region is considered a suburb of Washington DC. Due to a manmade situation (overdevelopment in a watershed area) there were not one, but two devastating floods, one in 2016 and one in 2018. I am still in the midst of legal activities that could be potentially crippling if I let them be. Instead, we hunkered down, we focused on our production processes and improved them, we attempted sales representation (and failed) and have managed despite some failures in this last year to become profitable.
What’s the best organizational process/tool you swear by?
I’ve been sweet on GMP since the moment we opened our doors. We spent almost a year spelling out our processes, filling notebooks with procedures and then getting it up on a cloud based system (at least a few times) before we got it right.
Help us get to know YOU. Lightning round:
- Last book you read? Not done yet, just got Regenerate by Sayer Ji
- Favorite wildflower? All of them
- Ingredient/food to pair with honey? Breakfast cookies
- One word you hope your employees use to describe you? Benevolent
Where To Find Waxing Kara