Foundation Year Programme, 1997
It was like alchemy. It was awesome!
Michelle Rosetta Hamer was at a crossroad. She had a family to support, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to work for someone else. She wondered: “What have I done with my potential?”
An idea started to form. Michelle cared passionately about the environment. She had gone on protest marches on behalf of First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. She had what she describes as “maternal environmental rage issues”. And she desperately wanted to channel that rage into a message that would make others aware and care.
Michelle had also found that she couldn’t wear her favourite perfumes without getting severe headaches. It’s the additives, she figured, alcohol and parabens. So she had been experimenting with making her own scents using essential oils, bergamot in particular. It wasn’t long before people stopped her in stores or bank lines to tell her, “You smell delicious. Where did you get that?”
And Michelle had, she says, “a ridiculous amount of energy”.
Michelle decided she wanted to create a skin lotion that was free of chemical additives, an all-natural product. She pulled all that together and that’s pretty much how she started her company Bee23 Natural Beauty (www.bee23.ca).
Now Michelle is not a chemist by training. She is not a lab technician. But she had an entrepreneurial drive. And she had taken the Foundation Year Programme (FYP).
“You learn to dissect information and put it back together,” she says of FYP. “And as an entrepreneur you have to learn how to assess information, process and then learn how to use it.”
Michelle read and read, learned and experimented. She created the formula for her first Bee23 product, what she would call Hotty Balm, a natural skin cream. She did it while living off the grid, no electricity, in northern Ontario.
“It was like alchemy. It was awesome,” she says.
In time, Michelle developed other products in the line, selling at local markets and on line. The “ridiculous amount of energy” she had was put to good use.
“I’ve done all my own marketing,” she says. And working with a computer savvy designer she came up with all the packaging and graphics.
Michelle has stayed true to her idea of channeling that “maternal environmental rage”. She says: “The business is a way of getting the message out ... It is a triple bottom line business model. Your profit does not exceed the health of self, community and planet. That means essentially there is a natural ceiling on growth. However, you are more than capable of making a profit that will feed yourself, your family and your community prior to becoming a monopoly that becomes toxic in nature to its environment.”
All this from a moment where she wondered about her potential.
“And now I am selling on King Street West in Toronto. That’s pretty cool.”