How A Former Goldman Sachs Banker Turns Her Autoimmune Condition Into A Modern Healthcare Business Centered Around Propolis

Food & Drink

Carly Stein-Kremer never envisioned herself to be an entrepreneur while working comfortably as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in her early 20s. But challenged by a chronic autoimmune disorder growing up, Stein-Kremer always knew it was an inner calling to service her community with more modern, efficacious food and supplements.

“I found propolis when I was in Europe, and it was the first time for me to solve my ongoing health challenges with it,” said Stein-Kremer, who later cofounded her entire business, Beekeeper’s Naturals, based on this resinous compound produced by bees and best known for fighting viruses, bacteria and supporting immunity.

After Stein-Kremer returned to the U.S., searching for a propolis boosted honey, she found out there was invariably a trace amount of pesticides, one of the leading causes for declining bee populations. In a recent study published in Insect Conservation and Diversity, scientists warned how this trend could threaten global food supply since bee pollination plays a significant role in plant reproduction.

This phenomenon, also known as colony collapse disorder, is also pushing a slew of food and beverage players to increasingly focus their missions on saving the bees and sourcing pesticides-free ingredients from regenerative farms, including New York City-based coffee shop Beepublic. Founder Jonathan Ledee, who claims leading the consumer goods industry as an example is central to their long-term business strategy, stresses how he works with and directly supports high-impact non-profit organizations in the education, maintenance, and preservation of local beehives.

“My hope is that,” Ledee wrote me via email, “by accelerating our overall environmental footprint we will disrupt our industry enough to strengthen our supply chains with better social and agricultural practices and increase the accessibility of sustainable bee-friendly goods for everyone.

Since then, Stein-Kremer’s obsessions with beekeeping and creating healthful products using propolis have begun to blossom.

“I started to really focus on the integral role [bees] play in our ecosystem, and these more nuanced medicinal ingredients coming from the hive,” said Stein-Kremer, who also onboarded former attorney Daniel Millar as her cofounder, “and before I knew it, I had engineered a product line for myself.”

Cultivating An Immune Support Platform

Since launching Beekeeper’s Naturals in 2017, the company has developed a range of medicinal and functional food products, including an immune support throat spray, superfood honey, brain fuel, and capsules made with pre, pro, and postbiotic to support complete gut health — all of which are grounded in third-party science, according to Stein-Kremer, a Forbes 30 under 30 alum.

“Practitioners are actually prescribing our products as we’re furthering our mission to disrupt the traditional medicine cabinet,” she said. “We’re able to have a really strong impact on the environment, creating pesticides-free ecosystems where bees are thriving and multiplying in populations” by partnering exclusively with sustainable, small-scale apiaries globally.

Beekeeper’s Naturals has quickly expanded from 5,000 retail locations to over 18,000 across major North American banners, including Target
, CVS, and Walgreens
, doubling revenue year-over-year, while seeing its online sales, particularly Amazon
, increase by triple digits. Most recently, the company’s propolis throat spray that Stein-Kremer claims to be selling “1.8 sprays every minute” top-ranked the cold and flu category on the e-commerce platform.

“We’ve been able to really champion propolis, and be the company to bring propolis in so many different health applications to the mass market,” she said. To some extent, Beekeeper’s Naturals has become a cult favorite for immune support enthusiasts, attracting celebrity investors, including Cameron Diaz, Nas, and Lily Collins.

$14 Million Raise To Accelerate Expansion

For years, Stein-Kremer and her team have laser focused on reinvesting in sustainability and growing their business, and she stressed 2023 could see incremental growth for Beekeeper’s Naturals.

The projection, alongside the company’s future retail expansion, will be supported by a latest $14 million financing round co-led by Devonshire Investors and CAVU Consumer Partners, with additional participations from food-as-medicine focused VC Vibrant Ventures led by managing partner Jarret Christie, one of earliest believers in the brand, and Muse Capital.

Commenting on the freshly injected capital, Christie said: “Carly and Daniel’s vision for Beekeeper’s Naturals has improved the health of millions, while providing critical support for bee colonies. Bringing on a veteran of the CPG industry Dave Jones [current CEO] was brilliant and provides a blueprint for sustainable consumer goods companies seeking to maximize impact.”

“Beekeeper’s Naturals answers the call of modern consumers who demand cleaner, better-for-you and efficacious alternatives to traditional OTC products,” said Jared Jacobs, Partner at CAVU Consumer Partners and Beekeeper’s Naturals Board member. “We are proud to partner with Carly and Daniel, along with the strong team they have assembled, to reimagine the medicine aisle and help build one of the leading, trusted, natural health & wellness brands.”

“We are thrilled to be supporting Beekeeper’s Naturals as they accelerate their growth at retail and online,” Suzanne Agnello, SVP of Devonshire Investors, said in a statement. “The company’s propolis and beehive-based products have broad application and are helping reinvent the OTC medicine aisle. We see significant opportunity for the brand to continue its rapid expansion.”

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