This episode of Make it Bake it Grow it features Anne and Roger Clapham from Clapham’s Beeswax.
Beekeepers since 1971, Anne and Roger Clapham kept bees commercially until 1996. They sold honey, candles and beeswax products at the Granville Market and other retail outlets around Aldergrove, British Columbia. In 1986 Roger’s mother gave them the family recipe for beeswax polish and the company bloomed into eventually selling in over 200 stores around North America, with a few in the UK and Japan.
“They used to call me ‘bugs’ in school. I always loved insects. I enjoy earthworms and ants,” Roger says. “Spiders and flies,” Anne adds.
Since they had a relatively small set up of 200 hives, they kept with retail sales only due to the heavy glass jars which is hard to ship, and low profit margins. They were already working seven days a week with a young family, so when Roger’s mother suggested introducing another product to their line, they were hesitant–but considered the possibilities. “Anne and I have always been a good team together,” Roger says. “Give us a cup of tea or a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit and we can decide just about anything.”
Beeswax is a bi-product of honey. It’s lighter to ship, and can be stored in a plastic container. “It was a wholesale-able product–which was a delight to us,” Anne says. Continuing retail sales at farmers markets with their honey and candles, and a polish product ready for wholesale locations, Roger took a two week work trip down the west coast to California. Cold calling is, “like nailing jello to the wall,” but they kept at it, forming face-to-face connections and received their first wholesale orders.
“About being self employed, it’s helpful to remember that there are three kinds of people: People who make things happen, people who have things happen to them, and people who wonder what happened. And if you’re on your own–you have to make things happen,” Roger says.
Just two to three years into selling Clapham’s Beeswax Polish the product had taken hold with antique restoration at the Smithsonian museum support centre and wood workers across North America. “Our first customers, really, were the artisans. Our Salad Bowl Finish was a request by our artisans–our woodworkers–to produce a safe, food-grade product,” Anne says.
Clapham’s made a point to focus on smaller outlets and boutiques, but a turning point in their business came when they received orders from Homestead House, Home Hardware, and Lee Valley. “We kept at it. It takes patience, courage, and determination. You just have to nail away at it. You never know which of your initiatives will pay off,’ says Roger.
“[Entrepreneurship] is about the passion. And if you really care about it–that comes through. And if you don’t really care about it–that comes through just as clearly,” Roger Clapham says. “You got to believe in it with your heart and soul because it’s a tough row to hoe being self employed. Self employed people live a different life.” The Clapham’s believe, “business is nothing more than an extension of daily life. People who live reasonable lives run reasonable businesses.”
You can hear the full interview on the Make it Bake it Grow it Podcast. Check out Clapham’s Beeswax Polish, Food Grade Salad Bowl Finish, Leather Dressing, Body Care products and other beeswax items at www.claphams.com.