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Bristol company named woman-owned business of the year

Sarah KaeckToday there is alternative to just about every traditional product and service. There are alternatives to taxi cabs, phones, cable television and even bread.

A company in Bristol, Vt. is making a name for itself producing an alternative to plastic wrap. Bee’s Wrap does this by infusing cotton with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The end product is a washable and reusable alternative to plastic wrap.

“This all started because I wanted to remove plastic from my kitchen in favor of a healthier, more sustainable way to store my family’s food. But almost immediately friends and family were telling me I should start selling my wraps,” said Sarah Kaeck, the owner and founder of Bee’s Wrap.

In 2012 Bee’s Wrap was born when she converted her husband’s workshop to her own, hired some mothers with kids in schools to work a few hours a day and began selling to local retailers.

Her company has been growing ever since. Today it is housed in a 2,500 square-foot facility, has a dozen employees, has been increasing sales by nearly 50 percent annually and has more than 1,000 retailers selling Bee’s Wraps.

For her efforts, Kaeck has been selected as the Small Business Administration’s 2017 Vermont Woman-Owned Business of the Year. Bee’s Wrap is a 100 percent woman-owned business

She was nominated by her Vermont Small Business Development Center advisor Steve Paddock. VtSBDC advises small business owners at no cost through one-on-one business counseling.

“I nominated Sarah to recognize and acknowledge the creativity, effort, and skill she demonstrated in the creation and development of Bee’s Wrap.  She keenly recognized the market opportunity for an eco-friendly, effective, and stylish product that appeals to a broad range of consumers.  She has been a model SBDC client, who is eager for information, open to advice, responsive to suggestions, and always striving for improvement,” Paddock.

Kaeck has long ties to the SBA. To help expand her business she obtained two 7(a) loans in 2014 from National Bank of Middlebury. The 7(a) Loan Program is the Small Business Administration's primary program for assisting startups and existing small businesses by guaranteeing the loan made by an SBA participating lender.

Her first SBA loan was used to build a machine to increase production. The second SBA loan was used for exporting. In less than three years, Kaeck expanded her market in North America and began selling to Asia, Australia and Europe.

In addition to obtaining an SBA loan, Kaeck is currently enrolled in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program at Vermont Technical College in Williston, Vt. Emerging Leaders is a free executive-level training program for established business owners poised for growth. Upon completion, Kaeck will have a three-year strategic action plan for Bee’s Wrap.  

Over the last couple of years Bee’s Wrap has benefited from positive media coverage. The company has been highlighted in publications and news sites across the country, including The L.A. Times, Denver Post, Huffington Post, Boston Globe and BuzzFeed.

In April, BuzzFeed posted a video highlighting the benefits of using a Bee’s Wrap on its Facebook page and within hours it went viral.  Orders spiked so much, inventory had to be stored in the company’s reception area, Amazon had to make a special trip to Bristol to fulfill orders and Kaeck had to hire five additional people to meet immediate demand.

“Some of our success can be attributed to being in the right place at the right time. But it’s also because there is a market for this. People want to change their habits and more than ever there is a desire to have more options. We hope to be in the right place with new ideas as we head into the future,” said Kaeck.

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