Melissa Buckley started making natural skincare products for loved ones. When she saw how effective her products were she felt a need to bring them to a larger market so she could help more people overcome skin issues and feel good about themselves. Thus her company Honeybee Gardens was born – a line of all natural, vegan and cruelty free cosmetics and body care. The West Reading, Pennsylvania-based entrepreneur initially found it difficult to get her products into mainstream markets and big box chain stores as a small business with no corporate backing. However hard work and perseverance paid off and today Buckley’s Honeybee Gardens is available at Target, with plans to continue expanding so she can provide long term financial stability for her loyal employees.
Buckley’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
The very first product I made was for my husband. His skin would get red and irritated every time he would shave, and I wanted to make something for him that would allow him to shave without discomfort. So I developed our first formula/product which was our Herbal Aftershave. We still make it today. Later I developed a hand salve for people with very dry skin. An elderly gentleman bought it from me and told me he had been to several doctors about the dry skin on his hands. He was a farmer and no matter what the doctor’s gave him, it didn’t heal his skin. But my salve hydrated his skin and made his hands feel better. When I looked in his eyes and saw how grateful he was, I knew right then I wanted to help more people. I wanted to give them solutions they could trust, feel good about using and afford!
How do you define success?
It’s been a journey! Through our success we’ve been able to help others (I run a group for other business women in the natural market) and indulge our passion for animal welfare (we donate monthly to animal causes and are active in the fostering community). Every time a customer sends me an email and tells me she hasn’t been able to wear makeup in years due to allergies or health conditions, but she can wear Honeybee and feels pretty again – well, it brings tears of joy to my eyes. We are 100% woman owned and operated (certified woman owned business)
Tell us about your biggest success to date
How does one define success? Being able to offer flex time jobs for women in my community so they can still tend to their family needs? Financially having the means to donate to no kill animal shelters and save lives? Making my customers feel good about themselves? I’m thankful every day.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Being an independently owned cosmetics brand and trying to compete in the mass market is my biggest challenge. All the other brands are owned by entities who have financial means beyond mine. They have groups of people and specialists behind them to ensure success. We’re not owned by Estee Lauder or a financial investment firm. It’s just us which makes it very difficult to compete in the same space.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Losing my family at a young age has forced a sense of independence and desperate desire to succeed.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
No matter what obstacle you face, find a way to overcome it and persevere. Let nothing hold you back. Believe in yourself, always.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I walk outside and sit in nature. Experience the vastness of it. And know my matters are small in comparison.
Who is your most important role model?
I would have to say my mother. She was killed when I was 19. And we had a tough life. But she always told me, over and over, never rely on anyone else for anything. Get an education and pave your own way. Make your own decisions and create our own destiny. So I did. ◼