BY BARB BERGGOETZ
When Jennifer Bland gets an idea, she doesn’t waste any time putting it into action. Within five months, she went from knowing literally nothing about honeybees to developing a business using beeswax to make skin products and starting an apiary on her property northwest of Bloomington.
“I kind of do things on a whim,” Bland admits. “The last thing I thought I would do is start a business.”
Now, not only does Bland create her own handcrafted body butters, lip balms, and soaps, she also designs her own packaging and sells everything online through her business, The Virtuous Bee.
Bland first considered raising chickens, but a beekeeping display at a Rural King farm store caught her eye and she started researching and educating herself about the practice. Then she noticed hives in a field near her home. The owner, Wayne Justice, became her mentor, and she used his beeswax to start making lip balms and body cream. In fact, she says she’s gotten a lot of help from many local beekeepers. Soon she had her own hives, and while a few hives didn’t make it through the winter, she now has six hives from which she will produce beeswax and honey.
Bland, a hair stylist for 25 years, uses her knowledge of chemicals and skin products to develop her products, which are made with as many natural and organic ingredients as possible. They don’t just include honey and beeswax, but also peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, sage, extra virgin coconut oil, and hemp. Everything is made in her home at 6020 N. Bottom Road.
“I knew I had a solid product. I had been using it and my friends tried it,” says Bland, a Bedford native who moved to Bloomington in 1991. “The process is kind of like cooking, and I love to cook. I really enjoy making the product. It’s therapeutic.”
As for her relationship with the bees, “You just fall in love with them and want to foster them,” says Bland, who lives on rural acreage with her husband, Luke, and son, Jett, 7. “You see the community working together. It’s amazing.”
For more information, visit thevirtuousbee.com