Introduce Yourself & Tell Us About Bee And You?
I am a Food Engineer, and I graduated from the Food Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University in 1996. Later, I worked as an R&D and quality director at one of the leading companies in the honey business for 13 years.
In the meantime, I completed a master’s degree in the area of bee products at the Food Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University. I directed and coordinated many national and international projects. Some of those projects were granted achievement awards by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, and Eurowards-Turkey.
My entire work and research experience have been all about the bees and their valuable products since graduation. When I began learning more about beekeeping and its useful products, I understood that I made the right choice. Once you become close to the world of bees, you admire how they live, as each action is a purposeful activity. As much as I learned about their fascinating harmony in a hive to survive, I’ve become more interested in beekeeping.
Consequently, I devoted myself to doing research and adding value to bee products. In my research thesis, I aimed to evaluate the best methods to detect the origin of honey. It is very crucial to understand the authenticity of honey as it is one of the ten most adulterated products all over the world. My research was the first study in identifying the authenticity of Turkish mono and poly-flora honey.
When I was working as an R&D and Quality Director, I struggled with a significant problem. I had a 5-year-old son who occasionally developed a fever condition. For that, doctors prescribed antibiotics each time this happened, causing him to develop allergies to antibiotics. I desperately knocked on the door of many doctors to find a solution to this problem.
After a long search, a physician told me that the only cure was to improve his immune system. So I started looking for natural ways of strengthening his immune system. Then I came across propolis and royal jelly in numerous literature I browsed. At that moment, I thought it was the most promising chance for my son’s health. While I was so happy with the idea that my son would recover, I had no time to waste getting pure propolis.
Since I have been in the honey industry for many years, I could contact some honey producers, and I asked them to produce propolis. They used to throw propolis away. Because propolis is not edible in its raw form, and it has to go through extraction for human consumption. So I developed an extraction process in the lab, and I started giving this propolis extract to my son. The result was amazing.
I was giving him the propolis extract alone and also as a mixture of honey and royal jelly every day. As a result, my son had not become sick for months. Based on this experience, I decided to produce propolis as a natural immune enhancer for all the children and mothers who had similar problems.
In the beginning, I convinced Taylan Samanci (Agricultural Engineer), who is my husband, and my academic adviser Prof. Dr. Dilek Boyacioglu (Food Scientist), to start our business. So, we started producing propolis and also other bee products for the first time in Anatolia in 2013 at Istanbul Technical University Technology Development Area. The extraction process that I developed for propolis won a prestigious award for innovation from Research Institution.
Eventually, I could build up the first plant for propolis extracts in Anatolia. I am so proud that the flavonoid and antioxidant contents of propolis extract are at least three times higher than any other competitors’ brands in the market. My company aims to produce these unique products worldwide with our brands Bee And You and BEE’O, serving those who suffer health problems and want to improve their immunity in natural ways.
What Are Your Responsibilities As a Business Owner?
I love my job, beekeeping. The bees and their medicinal products from their unique world are exceptional for me because they helped my son recover. The most valuable part of my job is to provide a healing option to people.
Thousands of encouraging messages I receive from our customers receiving medical treatments and people with increased life comfort. I love what I do with every person we touched.
My company runs all operations with the ultimate goal of producing and offering healthy and nutritious bee products to our customers. I am directly managing our business system that is based on many subfunctions on a daily run. Raw material supply and quality testing are crucial for us as the harvesting time of bee products extends from early May to late November, depending on the region.
It is vital to follow up with the practices of beekeepers and harvest time in the field through our apiculture experts and analyze the quality of the products. Research and development activities are carried out daily as our most significant difference relies on scientific facts and data. Our sales operations are divided into two functions as domestic sales and exports. Our sales function includes online channels and pharmacies and retailers, either locally or internationally.
Furthermore, we care about being honest and sincere with our customers. Through the years we’ve been building our brand from scratch, we always believed in the power of truthfulness and reliability, and we targeted to keep the natural power of those products. We communicate with our customers all the time.
We follow through with their questions and commit to answering quickly and clearly as we value their opinions very much. Since the backbone of our company relies on science, we provide our customers with scientific research findings in beehive products. That is how we could have managed to become a family with our customers based on trust, honesty, and scientific facts.
Currently, our activities are carried out by a dedicated team of food scientists, researchers, agricultural engineers, sales teams, marketing experts, and beekeepers who are deeply devoted to their mission to create nourishing and delicious products with health benefits.
Using proper technology, we extract all biologically active compounds from propolis and save raw honey and royal jelly in their purest form. There are currently 100 employees on our staff, and we are Turkey’s largest producer of propolis with our 35,000-sq ft facility and with our expert team.
What Sacrifices Have You Made To Become An Entrepreneur?
I am so proud of my family who supported me through my entrepreneurship story. Of course, when you work at a busy pace, the support you receive from the family becomes even more critical. For an entrepreneur, it is crucial to have the support of your partner. My husband, Taylan Samancı, Beekeeping Expert, Agricultural Engineer, is also my business partner. He’s always been my biggest supporter. Looking back on what I’ve lived in the last seven years, I accept that it was very challenging for me as a mother of two. But I am so happy to give the miracle of Anatolian propolis to people and help them leave healthier.
How Are You Marketing Bee and You? What Strategies Work & What Don’t?
We focus on R&D studies and continue to develop new natural, innovative, and value-added bee products. Our aim is to reach more customers in the US and other countries by telling them the health benefits of propolis and other valuable bee products. We strongly believe that we can grow our brand by increasing the awareness of the customers for 100% natural and environmentally friendly bee products to improve their health.
Our goal is to contribute to nature through the precious pollination effect of bees on plants, by promoting beekeepers through our contract-based business model, while providing healthy and nutritious bee products to our customers.
Today, I am confident to say that our local brand BEE’O and international brand BEE&YOU are blooming! As a young company, founded in 2013, honored with 28 awards in the last six years with its innovative, natural, and healthy line of bee products, we believe that we are on the right pathway.
Currently, in addition to 3500 retail outlets in the United States, BEE &YOU is also sold globally in South Korea, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, United Kingdom, Qatar, United Emirates, and Cyprus.
What Have Been Your Most Satisfying Moments In Business?
Well, our products target to make people healthy. After consumers using our products, they immediately share their observations and experience on their health as feedback, which is very encouraging for me. I knew customers having infertility problems have had a child after using our products. Similarly, parents with children having appetite problems told me that even their kids began eating foods that they did not consume before.
We produce those valuable products correctly and deliver them to the consumer in their most natural form. Our consumers feel this difference when they consume these products and send us messages of thanks and gratitude. While doing all these things, being honest and sincere is also very important. While building our brand, we take honesty and sincerity as a principle besides quality. We are in communication with our consumers all the time and answer to their questions with great care, quickly and clearly.
We value their opinions. Since we are a company with a scientific background, we inform them about scientific issues. That’s why we managed to become a family. I believe this is behind our success.
I want to share a woman’s cancer story. In those days, she was undergoing cancer treatment. After she reached me, she decided to consume propolis as a supplement. Meantime, her physician recommended doing the surgery. Six months after she began to consume propolis regularly, she gave me the good news. She said that surgery was not necessary anymore. Tumour became smaller. From that day on we became good friends. Based on this experience, I believe that it is priceless to create such a difference in people’s lives.
Tell Us About A Time Where You Had To Take A Risk When Starting Bee And You?
We began our journey as a start-up company in the technology development area of Istanbul Technical University. We did appreciate many privileges provided to start-ups such as business training, allocation of space, and eligibility for project funds from the state resources for a specified period.
However, the biggest challenge was all about our unique product, propolis. In those days, the beekeepers did not harvest propolis from their hives as there was no market for this local product in the country. Therefore, we were supposed to develop a business model to gain their attention for producing this valuable product for us. The first time in our region, we offered contract-based agreements to the beekeepers with a purchasing warranty of their products at a fixed annual price.
It was very challenging to convince them that this model will work. In the beginning, we started organizing many seminars and giving briefings to them in various locations, and eventually, we could start with about a hundred beekeepers who would provide us with good quality propolis. This business model allows the production agreements signed directly by the beekeepers without the middlemen or distributors. Today, we are so proud that we have deals with more than 2,000 beekeepers who are very satisfied with doing business with our company, with a total of 350,000 beehives in Turkey.
Moreover, the customers were only aware of certain bee products such as honey, pollen, and royal jelly. It was a great challenge to introduce propolis, of which many did not even hear what it was. Hence, we focused on using digital communication channels, gave presentations at many national and international conferences, and created interview opportunities on many TV channels.
We aimed to provide scientific information about the health benefits of propolis and other valuable bee products. Another significant challenge was to introduce raw honey without the application of any fine-filtering and heat treatment to the customers in Turkey. Because all major honey packaging companies preferred to apply the pasteurization process to honey for increasing its shelf-life, we needed to tell customers why raw honey is superior to those products such as losing its pollens and decreasing health benefits. Raw honey was a new concept in the beekeeping sector in the region at the beginning of our journey.
I strongly believe that our in-depth knowledge and applying scientific facts are the most significant factors in our success.
What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
I’m a technical person. And I became an entrepreneur with all that technical background. I quickly realized that I should learn the sales and marketing side of the business. So, after establishing my company, I had to get an MBA degree and learn more detail about marketing and business. After I became an entrepreneur, I realized that every information I discovered later had a cost. If I knew these things at the beginning of this journey, I would be a more planned and fast-mover.
In the beginning, even small obstacles seemed to be big problems for me. Then I realized later that they were just common problems in the journey of entrepreneurship. Well, of course, I became tired and even exhausted from dealing with those problems. I would have been more comfortable and confident if I knew how to handle those small obstacles before.
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