For Lisa Graham, the Queen Bee behind YYC Beeswax, starting a business around beeswax products wasn’t something she always planned on pursuing.
“YYC Beeswax came about as a little bit of an accident. I was not really expecting to start a business,” Graham says.
After volunteering for a beeswax candle-making session hosted by the women’s resource centre, Graham was itching to make more. She even went back for a second session, but there were no beeswax sheets left—and so she sought out her own supplier and dove right back into it.
“I turned them all into candles, saw the quantity of candles I had, and [realized] it was way too many. I was quite certain I would never be able to burn these in my lifetime,” Graham says.
So Graham turned to Kijiji and started selling her candles as a side gig. While her product was a hit, she noticed that buyers weren’t just looking for candles.
“People started contacting me saying, ‘Hey, we love the candles, but we don’t want the finished product. We want the supplies to make them.’ [I kept] hearing the same story coming up all the time,” Graham says.
Recognizing the high demand for the raw material and beeswax products, Graham started YYC Beeswax.
Starting off with only rolled candles and beeswax sheets, YYC Beeswax expanded into a bath and body line with their lip balms as well as a zero-waste sustainability line with beeswax food wraps. They also provide the base materials like wicks and beeswax sheets for crafters who want to try their hand at candle making.
Handmade beeswax-based products aren’t the only thing that Graham’s business has to offer. After hosting a candle-making session for her friends, Graham realized that people enjoyed learning the craft just as much as they loved the product itself—and so Graham started facilitating workshops.
Coming up to its sixth anniversary, Graham continues her reign as Queen Bee and even manages her own beehives around the city as a way to stay close to nature.
With YYC Beeswax, Graham is also able to connect two very different areas of interests.
When she completed post-secondary, she left with two engineering degrees under her belt—an undergrad in software engineering and a master’s in biomedical engineering.
But the arts were another interest for her. Like her grandmother and mother, Graham had an affinity for the arts. When she was younger, she remembered being surrounded by artisanal handcrafts. Later on, she also got into music and learned how to play the flute and the piano.
Between art and science, Graham was undecided about which path to follow.
“I’ve never felt like I fit in either category. In the art space, I feel like I'm too scientific. In the science space, I feel like I'm too artistic,” Graham says.
“I wanted to create something . . . my own world where I can bring the arts and sciences [together] because I do very strongly believe they complement each other.”
When YYC Beeswax came to fruition, it became a space where both art and science can thrive.
As the company grows, Graham wants to focus on building more educational opportunities. In addition to her workshops, she is currently writing a beeswax-crafting book, which includes scientific experiments that either debunk or prove certain beeswax myths.
“We are teaching people to make things with their hands [and] to be crafty, but we also want to have the scientific evidence behind it to support what we're saying,” Graham says.
Going forward she wants to expand her business and further her beekeeping prospects, possibly exploring the option of indoor beehives. In the meantime, Graham is focusing on her book—staying true to her dedication to the arts and sciences.
“My whole reason for being is to take the science and the technology and merge it with the arts as much as I can,” Graham says.
To learn more about YYC Beeswax, watch our interview with Lisa Graham here.
This has been a Home Grown segment, brought to you by connectFirst Credit Union, showcasing Alberta producers, artisans, and farming communities.