Meet the Sister Bees …
Ludington teachers and longtime friends Kimberly Ambrose and Amber Boerema began raising bees together nearly four years ago. The duo had always dreamed of starting a business, and after researching the benefits of beeswax for skin and lips, the ideas started to buzz. They began making lip balm with beeswax from their three hives. Batch after batch, they kept adjusting the recipe until finally, they had the perfect product.
Sister Bees now has 15 organic flavors including coffee vanilla, chai and bubblegum along with seasonal specialties like blueberry cheesecake, summer sangria and cherry pie. The Sister Bees also hand whip eight silky skin care products including Bee Beautiful, Bee Baby and Bee Buddies (to protect pets’ paws!). The ingredients, sourced from the US, are simple, all-natural and, of course, include beeswax.
Photo by Dave Weidner
Kimberly’s younger sister, Kelly Bonnema, moved to Michigan in 2017 and joined the hive as a co-owner. The trio created a website, developed packaging and began marketing their products. In September 2018, the Sister Bees entered the Mason County Momentum Business Plan Competition and were selected as one of five finalists to give a five-minute pitch, Shark Tank-style, in front of a panel of judges. When the winner was announced, it took a moment to sink in. Sister Bees won! The prize: $50,000 and three years of mentoring from the judges, who are successful business owners. Kimberly, Amber and Kelly are now employed full-time at their company and the products are sold across the country.
Amber, Kim and Kelly are three gals who truly care about using the best ingredients to make the best products.
The Sister Bees still handcraft all of their products, ensuring each lip balm and bee tin comes with lots of love from Northern Michigan.
How does Sister Bees compare to Burt’s Bees?
“We get asked that question a lot—it was actually one of the questions at the Momentum competition. Burt’s Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz and his story is fantastic. He was a hobby beekeeper who harvested his wax and made his products, starting with just lip balm. Everyone loved it because it was very simple, very earthy, very relatable—a guy and his hive. As demand grew, he partnered and later sold the company to Roxanne Quimby, who sold to Clorox. Since then, the product line has become huge and super developed, because it has a multi-billion dollar company behind it. We believe a product’s story and its makers are a part of what you’re buying.” —Kim