Today we’d like to introduce you to Konni Vukelic.
Konni, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a beekeeper and founder of Three Bees and co-founder of Wellness Rising Coalition and now newly founded Bee Well Being Foundation, I am passionate about what I do. Good health and natural cures are two of my many interests. I always say beekeeping is the job that found me. Before beekeeping, I spent 30 years working in retail.
In 2010, I got divorced. Divorce was the catalyst for change. I no longer had someone at home influencing what we ate so I began to take strides to create a healthier lifestyle for myself and my kids. I began reading and researching anything and everything related to health and wellness. Honey came up time and time again. Despite the fact that I didn’t think I really liked honey, I was going to include it in my diet because of the numerous health benefits. I began my search for local honey and coincidently my mother had recently met a local beekeeper who lived within minutes of my home, Dennis from Dennanne Farms.
I was extremely excited to be purchasing real local honey and even more excited that the honey in my memory was nothing like the local honey I purchased. I was hooked and I soon finished up my first purchase. It wasn’t long after making the initial connection I returned for another purchase. In the course of the conversation, I shared that I was looking for work. The big box company I worked for had cut my hours. Prior to Obamacare, I was a part-time employee working full-time hours. In order to not have to provide benefits to employees, hours were cut as a result. Dennis asked if I would be interested in learning beekeeping and helping out on the apiary. I thought, “Why not”, “I can do this in the meantime until I find work.”
It didn’t take long until I was in love with beekeeping, and one year in, I invested and bought a few hives which I care for along with the other hives at Dennanne Farms. It wasn’t long before I began making my own personal care products. As part of my ongoing research into wellness, I learned about many toxic and substandard ingredients. Soon, what began with simple scrubs, evolved into a full line of personal care products including unique herbal salves, deodorant, honey face wash, herbal toners and more.
Around the same time, I was beginning to sell at farmer’s markets and offer my products for sale alongside the honey. Soon, I was burning the candle at both ends with all I was doing between beekeeping, working in retail, and starting my own business. I struggled to find balance in all of it, to be there for my kids while juggling so many things in my professional life. At one point, I sat a prayed about it and asked for guidance feeling overwhelmed with it all. Less than two weeks later, in July of 2015, I received my answer in the form of termination from my 17-year job.
It was at that point, I decided I would look for another job (albeit half-heartedly) and work hard to grow my business as quickly as possible and I would trust whichever path opened up for me. Since then, I have been working hard to grow my business online and at local markets. My love for health and wellness has continued to grow and as a result of growing relationships at and through the farmer’s markets.
Many of the people I met personally impacted my business. Specifically, Elida Cano who passed away earlier this year from Cancer. Elida was instrumental in the creation of my deodorant because she needed a clean aluminum-free deodorant. Now, it’s one of my best sellers. Elida invited me to her Cancer survivors group where I met many ladies who after having their breasts removed from breast cancer didn’t know they should not use an aluminum-based deodorant. Currently, the number of recurrences of breast cancer is something like 50% of women who have had it, get it a second time. With numbers like seven in ten people dying of chronic disease in America today, one in two men getting cancer, 1 in 2-1/2 women getting cancer, and more than that getting heart disease, the reality of healthcare in America is a scary one and I wanted to impact those numbers. I quickly became aware that the only way to really change that is thru education. It is, however, a momentous task that is better accomplished as a collective.
Enter Lisa and Jenel. Two years ago, my now friend and business partner, Lisa Rising, began mentoring under me as a beekeeper. Lisa and I met at a market and we share a love of bees, gardening, good food (particularly pie) and conscious living. Working together, we began to brainstorm and collaborate around topics of health and wellness. Shortly thereafter, we began networking and met Jenel Zafer who also shared a common vision and passion for health and wellness. Together, the three of us began what is now the Wellness Rising Coalition. We started with a vision to help others on their wellness journey thru education, as well as connecting them too well-researched resources made up of local farmers and producers, holistic practitioners, and companies that exhibit transparency and conscientious practices.
Now, my time is split between beekeeping and what I do for Three Bees and my newest mission with Wellness Rising Coalition as a newly founded non-profit; Bee Well Being Foundation. As things are evolving, I am excited to be heading up a non-profit as I look to make even greater impacts through a recent collaboration with the United Relief Foundation. The United Relief Foundation is active in making a difference for veterans and Bee Well Being Foundation is looking to impact veteran health with the development of our transformational wellness program.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No definitely, not. I doubt any entrepreneur would say the road is smooth. Getting started is often the hardest part. Stepping out of fear and believing in yourself can be the first big obstacle people face. So, first things first, you have to take action on your dreams. Then, staying in the game on the days when you are unmotivated and things aren’t going as expected can really challenge you. I recently heard someone say if you haven’t ever wanted to quit and walk away from the business you are not an entrepreneur. So, developing good habits, having discipline and persistence matters more than knowing everything and doing it perfectly. Two of my favorite sayings are “You can’t win if you don’t play” and “Action beats perfection every time.”
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Three Bees and Bee Well Being Foundation story. Tell us more about it.
I am known for my passion for clean chemical free skin care products that help you “Bee Well, Stay Well” and the education I help to provide around that. I am most proud of the recent expansion of Wellness Rising Coalition to include my newly founded non-profit Bee Well Being Foundation to bring that education to veterans via our non-profit efforts with the United Relief Foundation. It’s an honor to stand for those who have stood for us and need help healing as a result of their service.
What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I feel there are more opportunities for women than not right now. I believe there is huge support for women as strong but nurturing and empowered individuals. In the wellness space, there is a lot of need for women to confront the challenges of their past and share authentically to help support others and lift them up.
- Website: www.threebees.net
- Phone: 630-890-0099
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: three_bees_honey
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/threebeeshoney/
- Twitter: Three Bees @followthreebees
- Other: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BeeWellBeingCommunity/