Like for so many businesses, the pandemic has been a challenge for us at SuperBee. Right before Thailand registered its first case of COVID-19 back in January last year, we were working hard towards expanding our range of beeswax wraps. More designs. Additional sizes. Bigger production volumes. The journey ahead of us looked great.
But then the pandemic hit. Our inbox was filled with order cancellations from retailers around the globe who sold our beeswax wraps in eco shops from Qatar to California. Global border closures and lockdowns made shipping out orders from our online eco store a challenge. With every week, we saw our website’s visitor numbers dwindle. At some point, our cash flow had almost dried up. We had to do the unthinkable: we had to let seven of our team members go in order to survive.
While laying off employees is an agonizing experience for every small business, it hurt us even more. As a social enterprise, SuperBee’s core mission is to support communities in rural Thailand with employment opportunities, training, and wages that are 20% higher than the salary suggested by the Fair Trade Association. But now… had we failed our team?
Turning SuperBee into a one-stop eco shop
It didn’t feel good. While it was the best decision to make in order for our business to stay afloat, we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving seven dear colleagues without an income. So we made a pledge: we’ll do whatever it takes to hire them back as soon as we can.
To do so, we had to take risks. Instead of downsizing our business to keep our cost-benefit ratio healthy, we did the opposite. We looked for eco products beyond our beeswax wraps and expanded SuperBee into a one-stop eco shop with products that help fight plastic waste in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen. We developed Hexawash as a green alternative to laundry detergent, we launched our Dentos Toothpaste Tabs in collaboration with a local company here in Chiang Mai, and found ways to save even more plastic and paper in the kitchen with our reusable kitchen towels and eco dishcloths from organic cotton.
Our efforts paid off. Thanks to our increased production, we managed to hire back all seven team members and even expanded our sewing team!
Making eco-living easier
Now that we’ve taken SuperBee in a bold new direction, it allows us to help people achieve an eco-friendly lifestyle beyond the kitchen. Our Hexawash, which lasts for up to 300 laundry cycles and is the perfect eco-friendly and non-toxic alternative to traditional laundry detergent, has quickly become one of our bestsellers. So have our reusable make-up remover pads. And we’re not stopping here. Soon, we’ll expand our eco shop with more sustainable products to help you fight plastic waste around the house.
So in hindsight, the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise. Not only have we been able to bring back—and even grow—our wonderful team, we also managed to increase our impact on plastic waste, helping customers turn their homes even greener than before.
A big ‘thank you’ is in order. Without the support of our customers, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Your purchase didn’t just help keep SuperBee afloat during the darkest months of the pandemic, it helped women in rural communities around Thailand feed their families and send their kids to school. Khob khun ka!
Bee Inspired: see how some of our vendors launched their eco-stores in our Vendor Spotlight series!