Bee Chi Organics only ambition is to share the knowledge of nature and the power of plants in the form of organic beauty and wellness potions. In this apothecary, bees and flowers go hand in hand; they are guilty of flower pollination and reproduction of their ingredients, as well as that miracle “Chi” energy that gives added health benefits. The products have a deep holistic approach and that “beachy element” covering the whole range: herbal hair care, oral hygiene, facial + beauty care, body + bath wellness, home goods and natural cosmetics (and of course all sustainably packaged!)
We interview Valerie Arsenault, she likes to call herself a bee and ocean obsessed and she truly seeks to bring both elements together in the form of a modern apothecary. Her philosophy is imprinted on her organic beauty and wellness potions on the deepest level: “Do no harm, create, grow, and inspire others to do the same.” Hoping to connect you with nature, enjoy this interview as much as we did!
What was the tipping point to start Bee Chi Organics?
Bee Chi began as Bee Cool, a wellness brand I started when I lived and surfed in a small Portuguese village where organic surf wax was nowhere to be found. I sourced a local beekeeper and started making my own and soon after wellness products followed. It blossomed from there and before long I was selling to folks from around the world. After a few years, I moved back to the States, leaving nearly all of my possessions in Europe except for my products. Here, my American tribe got to try my potions and it’s with great encouragement from them that I decided to give this a go, rebrand, go forth and prosper.
What is the mission of your organic beauty and wellness brand?
The mission of my brand is exactly the same as in my life: Do no harm, create, grow, and inspire others to do the same.
What is important to know about an apothecary?
The original “apothecary” was more like a pharmacist (not including the ancient times of healers and shamans) dispensing medicines and “drugs” to be taken internally or topically as treatments. The modern apothecary, at least ours, is driven by holistic wellness that includes beauty, self-care, hygiene, and the home. I’ve been studying and working with plants most of my life but do not claim to treat or cure anyone. Each apothecary around the world, like people, will be unique and will attract whoever resonates with their product & service.
Why is the name “Bee Chi Organics”, is it any related to bees?
Since returning to the US and re-branding in Hawaii, we are serendipitously starting an apiary here on our farm and so I kept “bee” in the name. A few of our products, like our tinted balms, do contain beeswax and ALL of our products somehow rely on bees, through the flower pollination and reproduction of our ingredients. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible to have an apothecary, and definitely not a farm, without the help of our little friends. We gratefully utilize their “Chi”, or energy, and hope to inspire others to respectfully realize bees’ great importance on the planet. I’m also ocean obsessed so my products have a “beachy” element.
What type of organic plants do you grow at your farm in Hawaii?
We’ve lived in Hawaii now for just over one year and are still uncovering what’s already here. So far, I have harvested and infused our moringa leaves, hibiscus flowers, coffee (including the super high antioxidant skins), leaf-of-life, and our many fresh fruits for eating and smooshing onto faces like papaya, avocado, banana, and mango. I’ve started to grow plenty of herbs, flowers such as calendula, roots such as turmeric & ginger, and vines like honeysuckle and passion, amongst many, many more. We are also growing cut flower gardens, and though everyone says it can’t be done, I’m insistent on growing wasabi. I love a challenge! I’m definitely taking advantage of the fact that we can grow things so easily here and we live in a rain belt so it’s like Jurassic Farm.
Of these ingredients, what are the properties and benefits for our skin and body?
I was excited to find established moringa trees on the farm, for example, as its incredible vitamin + mineral content is beyond that of any known plant. Taken internally or used topically, it truly IS what it’s called, a “Miracle Tree”, and so is used for a number of health and beauty benefits. We use our coffee in a number of ways, and infuse hibiscus flowers into a handful of our products because of its high vitamin C content and incredible skin + hair softening benefits. That’s just to name a few.
Do you have to treat the plants in a certain way to make sure they are great for your products?
Well, we’re lucky that our farm had been long abandoned and so not sprayed or fumigated with toxins for many years. We are 100% organic in our practices, incorporating permaculture and integrated pest management (IPM) which encourages nature to manage itself. In my gardens, I manage or encourage the many “weeds” that attract bees and other beneficial’s, so our ingredients are the definition of wildcrafted. Once we’ve seen the lay of the land, we plan to include aquaponics with an emphasis on the water vibrations using monatomic elements and sound (music). By harvesting as much as we can from home, from plants nurtured and loved in the happy soil, we can assure more of the Chi will be preserved in our products. When we open for appointments, we look forward to foraging and the ingredients literally going from the earth to the body.
What type of organic beauty and wellness products do you produce in your apothecary?
I’ve created a full spectrum of body and self-care products ranging from herbal hair care, oral hygiene, facial + beauty care, body + bath wellness, home goods such as organic coconut wax candles, and natural cosmetics. One of my favourite things is when I get to work with a guest to create a custom colour or scent, then whether they live here or not, they can keep reordering their own special potion. I create a lot of products that aren’t yet on my website but am selling here, in small, experimental (on hu-beings only!) quantities.
How does the production process look like?
Like anyone who loves what they do, there’s no turning off the process and so I’m creating new products and recipes in my head ALL of the time. There is no beginning or end to that part, but once I’m ready to concoct I’m finally remembering to write down my experiments which is huge! As I grow more and more of what I can use, as well as collaborate with other growers here on the islands, I won’t need to rely on ordering as many ingredients from the mainland and so part of the process, a big part, is the farming and the harvesting. Once I’ve my ingredients gathered and properly dried or processed, which may include extracting the plant “medicine” in oils over weeks of time, I start to play. I make a few variations of whatever it is, with different scents or textures, they usually store them in larger glass containers while they’re being tested on myself and willing friends. I never fear or have had any “adverse reactions” as every single ingredient I use is gentle and non-toxic (keeping allergies in mind), but I test for texture changes, scent preferences, and of course effectiveness. Once I and my tribe approve, I package my products in their appropriate receptacles, create the label on recycled paper, and put it on my site, or not.
And what about your packaging, what materials do you use?
I’m excited about our packaging! I’ve always used glass, metal, or compostable cardboard, but now I’m happy to have found Omnidegradable packaging options which can be ordered instead of heavy glass. This cuts back on shipping costs and resources and we offer a discount as an incentive. These products are meant to be put into whatever container the customer desires once they receive them. In providing this, I hope to inspire people to pay more attention to the details of what we consume, where things come from and where they go after, especially packaging, as our planet is inundated with it. All of our 1 oz. + 2 oz. bottles with droppers can be ordered with metal caps as well, all of our packagings is recyclable, and many of our goods are 100% compostable or biodegradable. As greater demand dictates and new eco packaging options are made available, like hemp, we will happily and eagerly shift our practices.
What makes your products different from other organic beauty and wellness brands?
I’ve not yet seen many (or any) companies offering sustainable packaging options, meaning giving the consumer a CHOICE of what packaging they want their products in. I’m sure others must exist and I hope as consumers demand plastic free/eco options, more companies will comply. It’s a fun challenge, creating an effective, 100% natural product AND making it look sexy while being sustainable. I won’t compromise on the sustainable part which also includes the labour + fair trade practices so I spend countless hours researching where every, everything comes from, including our minerals which support Made in a Free World. Also, we’re a one-stop-shop where you can get tooth polish, cosmetics, plastic-free shampoo, and a candle… all sustainable, all in one go. As we wrap up construction and open by appointment, I love the idea of being a destination locale where we’ll hold small events, intimate flower + coffee tours, etc. In other words, I’ve zero interest in going the Amazon, Costco direction and have no problem being the Big Island or even the neighbourhood apothecary. Those might be a few differences from the mainstream business model.
Being a traveller yourself, do you offer with BeeChi Organics a travel package?
Many of our products, such as our reef safe Sol Stick, are packaged in biodegradable cardboard and I offer packaging options on nearly ALL of our products that are lightweight and omnidegradable. They pack flat and light, then, it can be put into a glass container or whatever the customer chooses. We see many countries around the world having no recycling and so, out of respect, the idea of packaging truly going “away” is important so we leave nothing behind. Being in Hawaii, an extra 3000 miles out to sea, this cuts our weight/shipping costs way down as well.
You are based in Hawaii, how does a social entrepreneurial venture look like there? Do you feel there’s a change happening on the island?
I’m living here now but will be revisiting my Portuguese home and plan to go back and forth when I can. That place got into my bones and is very special to me so I’m working on distribution there, where I started. I’ve heard things are changing on the Island but haven’t been here long enough to know, oh, except for the new volcano eruption! That has put an interesting spin on living here. My local grocery has started carrying more organic goods and our farmers’ markets are growing every week it seems since I’ve arrived. This is promising!
What has been the greatest success of the brand so far?
Well, maybe I get off on the little things but the fact that I did my own website, all by myself, was a huge accomplishment for me. I am not techy, at all, in fact, I’m typing this with my middle fingers like a blind chicken pecking corn, so all of the computer work, labels, and social media is way out of my comfort zone. I just started taking pictures for the site and social media and recently did my first copy & paste, so to me, these are all little successes. Now I’m reaching out to select local shops + spas, sending my goods abroad, etc. so stay tuned!!
Do you have any future plans for Bee Chi Organics that you can reveal?
I’m really happy to see where this takes me organically. I’m so content to be on the farm, growing our food + ingredients, and finding time for travel and surfing so I’ll probably get more help with the things I’m not the best at, like marketing and PR. I hope to offer classes here, teaching sustainable practices and the basics like growing food and making soap… the things our grandparents knew. I’ve made incredible + talented friends that have so much knowledge to share, like dying fabrics from plants, ancient Hawaiian tool making, etc. so we are working on collaborations, perhaps incorporating some of their wares into our shop.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other businesses trying to make a difference for good?
Well, the woo woo answer is to always, ALWAYS follow your heart. If you pay attention, you can decipher the heart from the ego, and the heart will never lead you astray. When we live in service to others, there is always enough and we’ve no need to compete. We all have a unique gift that others will resonate with. This doesn’t mean we put our Self last, like the plumber with a leaky faucet. We just have to be gentle, especially with ourselves FIRST, then you can give from a full vessel.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
I recently learned the ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness called Ho’oponopono which translates to: I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. Just reading these words, in any language, can shift something inside and begin healing, even the most wounded.
Finally, where can we find you? Shops, online, worldwide…?
I recently launched my website @ www.beechiorganics.com and am adding new products and updating every week. I had to launch even if I didn’t feel “ready” or I never would. Within this year I shall be in a few shops here on the island and am working with my European distribution at this time, hopefully selling there by early next year. I occasionally have small gatherings here on the farm where we play with potions and sip hooch, please feel free to reach out if you find yourself on our volcano!
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