Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about myself, and how I went from living in a two-bedroom flat with nine other people, to running my own business.
As you’ve probably guessed, I grew up in India. I’m from Delhi and lived there until I was 19, when I was sent to Britain to have an arranged marriage. I moved into a small flat in Birmingham with my husband Raj and his family, and had my first son, Ajay. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that ten people in a tiny flat isn’t the best recipe for harmony! This was the 80s, and a dutiful Indian daughter-in-law was expected to wait on her elders. I found it quite stifling, to say the least, so it was a relief when my husband and I decided to move to Dundee so that he could pursue a medical degree.
I loved Dundee – I loved the people, the town and, of course, the extra freedom I had in running my own household and not being at the beck and call of my in-laws. Finally, I had my own space! My twins, Arun and Risha were born in Scotland and as my husband worked though his degree, I started my own career, as a psychiatric nurse. It’s a rewarding profession in many ways, but didn’t suit me, so I went into social work. I did enjoy it, but it was never my ‘passion’.
Fast forward ten years and we had moved to Cambridge – truly a beautiful city, and one that I still call home today. Soon after moving, my daughter started to suffer from hayfever. I didn’t like the idea of giving her tablets, and had heard that local honey could help. I was looking for a new hobby, so I took a beekeeping course and bought a hive for the garden. Soon, the family was eating honey by the jarful, and my daughter’s hayfever improved. Life was good.
A few years later, I developed stress-related dermatitis when my mother-in-law came to live with us. (I’ll leave you to put two and two together…) My skin was red, sore and itchy. The recommended treatment for dermatitis is usually topical steroids, antihistamines and paraffin-based creams. Needless to say, none of those appealed. I decided to look for a natural alternative, and thought of all the beeswax that was going to waste. After a bit of trial and error, I found a blend of beeswax and seed oils that did the trick and my dermatitis cleared up. What’s more, my skin looked better than it had ever done in the past.
I’d always been interested in natural skincare (back in India women used yoghurt as a hair mask, cleanser and moisturiser), so I started to think of other ways of using beeswax and oils on the skin. I experimented with different blends until I had a few key products that I would whip up for family and friends. Word spread and soon I was making them for friends of friends, and their friends! As my children grew they encouraged me to start a proper business to sell my products. So that’s what I did.
I still make all of my products by hand, even sewing the muslin cloths to use with the cleanser. And my own bees still provide a lot of the ingredients. The business side of things has been a bit of a steep learning curve – I never thought I’d learn so much about the different attributes of plastic bottles for example! But it’s been worth it. It makes me so proud when people tell me how much they love my creams and balms. I get huge satisfaction from knowing that I’m helping people to feel better about themselves, and finally I’ve found a career that I’m passionate about.