Passionate about crafting, nature and sustainability, Jennifer Doyle makes reusable food wraps, candles and balms from organic beeswax at her home studio in Ballycommon, Co Offaly.
Jennifer describes herself as a “beginner beekeeper” and is surrounded by a strong community in this particular field.
“A neighbour of mine is a beekeeper and he encouraged me to do a beekeeping course in Tullamore,” she says. “Initially, I was terrified of the bees, but I really like pushing myself and facing my fears. I put my first hive behind my mother-in-law’s house because I have young children and was just being cautious. I soon added another.
“You have to be really calm around bees because they can sense if you’re not,” she continues. “When the queen is there and all the bees are busy working, they’re not too bothered by you. The suits are great and I’ve never been stung.”
With a studio behind her countryside house, Jennifer has been in business for a year and a half. The pandemic has impacted in-person sales, but she has seen a significant shift online in recent months.
“All the big markets I would usually attend have been cancelled except my local farmer’s market,” she says. “There was a big influx of online sales in March; online has really taken off this year.”
Jennifer has Millbee Studio products stocked in around 50Irish stores; including cafés and lifestyle shops.
“In normal circumstances, stocking your products in these different shops is great for getting your name out there,” she says.
“I am advertising my business more this year as we don’t have the same traffic, with the lack of markets and fairs. I use Instagram to get my products out there and I have started posting stories of myself speaking about Millbee products. It’s very hard to avoid going online now, it’s one of the first protocols when setting up a business.”
Taking an eco-conscious approach to business is very important to Jennifer in tackling the issue of plastic pollution. She hand-crafts reusable food wraps which can be used as an alternative to cling film or tinfoil.
“The wraps are completely natural and are made with organic cotton fabric, which is infused with a blend beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin,” she says. “They are great for covering leftovers to keep food fresh. People use them for wrapping up loose loaves of bread and in kids’ lunchboxes. They can be used for up to a year.”
Jennifer explains the flame of a beeswax candle is particularly bright, creating a calming ambiance with the subtle scent of honey. She also produces a multipurpose balm scented with organic lavender, which can be used to soothe dry skin.
Jennifer’s beliefs around sustainability are carried into her home-grown business.
“I think, when you’re starting a business and you can be sustainable, you should be,” she says. “Everyone should be going in that direction, if they can. I have two kids, and for their future I think we need to try and make as much effort as possible.
“I put a lot of thought and effort into how I package my products,” she continues. “Everything is recyclable. I don’t use any plastic in my packaging and I wrap my jars in a paper alternative to bubble wrap. I don’t use plastic lids; my labels are made from recycled paper. All these little things add up and I am constantly trying to think about the most sustainable products and packaging to use.”
With her business, Jennifer aims to encourage people to live a more natural life. She considers health and wellbeing important aspects of life; even more so, now, with COVID-19 impacting our lives.
“Supporting Irish businesses really lifts community spirit and gives a sense of togetherness,” she says. “I think we all have to pull together – it’s the only way around it and starting local is one of the best things you can do. There is so much support for Irish businesses in recent times, it’s a lovely collaborative feeling and I am very grateful for that local support,”
For more information about Millbee Studio visit Jennifer’s website.