By Matthew Silvasi
Despite the fact that starting any new business often comes with overcoming financial hurdles, working up the courage to start can often be the hardest part in and of itself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the work that goes into running a business. The thought of hiring employees, managing the day-to-day operations, and trying to turn a profit can be a lot to juggle. However, I have discovered a local entrepreneur that dispels many of the myths centered on running a successful, and environmentally sustainable, business.
Zoe Arvantis, who grew up in Dexter, has lived in Michigan all her life. Quickly after graduating, she found work as an aspiring cook. After working in diﬀerent restaurants throughout the Ann Arbor area, she found it hard to ignore the environmental impact of the restaurant industry. Zoe commented, “Being in kitchens you see a lot of waste, and a lot of single use plastic supplies. I didn’t enjoy the mental burden of the day-to-day waste I was seeing and shamefully contributing to.” The time spent in the kitchen inspired her to create a more eco-conscious alternative to plastic wrap and earlier this year she started her eco-business venture, Bee Sweet.
What formed was an ingenious product that not only preserves left over food, but the environment as well. The process of making Bee Sweet Wraps starts with traveling to local thrift stores in the area. Zoe makes these trips several times a week, meticulously hunting for fabrics that really stand out. After she finds the fabrics that catch her eye, the hands-on work begins. “I wash all the fabric and cut it to the desired size,” Zoe told me. “I then melt local beeswax, American pine resin, and jojoba oil until it reaches a liquid state. Using a paintbrush, I paint a thin layer of the wax mixture onto the fabric. The fabric then takes a quick trip into the oven, giving the wax time to soak in. Once out of the oven, I cool it, fold it, and package it.”
Zoe’s product holds true to the values on which she founded her business. These reusable food storage wraps can last anywhere from one to two years. Once the wraps are no longer viable they can be cut up into small pieces and composted. From start to finish, Bee Sweet keeps the environment in mind while also creating an eﬀective way to store left over food. Zoe focuses not only on having a sustainable product but a sustainable business model as well.
By making use of her home kitchen, Zoe avoids the need of setting up a shop or distribution area while her business gets oﬀ the ground. Although Zoe is not against the idea of growing Bee Sweet, she demonstrates that you don’t need a big bank account to start a new business. The leap of faith can be made with merely an idea and a plan of action. Zoe learned this through her time working as a cook. “Over time, the grind of long hours, working with my hands, and a number of self-managed projects left me feeling confident I had the work ethic and drive to do anything I put my mind to,” she said.
Zoe has used her hard work and good business sense to provide something not only for herself, but also for the community. Many locals are thrilled about the ability to use a product substitute for plastic in a time where plastic use is completely out of hand. Bee Sweet customer, Amy, told me, “I’m always looking for more ways to be environmentally friendly. I like using Bee Sweet because I know how much plastic I’m keeping out of the environment. You hear stories all the time about how insane this problem is—whether you’re talking about the big plastic island in the Pacific Ocean or the amount of oil that goes into making plastics. It feels good knowing I’m supporting a local business and being eco-conscious.” Zoe is proud to be part of a movement that allows not only herself to flourish, but the community and the planet as well.
Taking an entrepreneurial risk doesn’t have to be a huge enterprise. Zoe shows the key to running a good business isn’t the size or money involved, but the ideas on which they are founded. “I love knowing that I took a step out of my comfort zone in order to provide a more eco-friendly future,” Zoe commented.
Learn more about Zoe and her business adventures on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/BeeSweetWraps/. Bee Sweet wraps can be found at Argus Farm Market, Downtown Home and Garden, and the Ypsilanti Food Co-Op.