You’d think that with such a steadfast desire to rid the world of single use plastics, that values, purpose and clarity would run strong throughout Beewise Amsterdam’s day-to-day business operations.
But as the company has taken off and expanded into stores across Europe, Carina Primavesi has been unable to loosen her grip on the controls and bring in the outside support that she’s so urgently needed.
Beewise sells plastic alternative products that don’t end up polluting rivers and oceans, strangling sea creatures, contaminating beaches or blocking up landfill. It’s a cause close to her heart but one that’s created the struggles she’s faced in letting go.
“I’m terrible at delegating,” Carina admits.
Until 2022, when she met Julie Perkins, founder of Wyseminds, she didn’t know there were many more business owners who were feeling the same.
The unscalable brick wall
Julie asked her to read The Founder’s Story of Sofia, her creative account of a fictional entrepreneur.
Sofia embodies everything that female founders experience at the start of their growth journey – she has the same thoughts that lead to the same feelings that lead to the same behaviour that lead to the same place: an unscalable brick wall.
Using purpose to navigate to growth
“My way has always been to just go for it. I do things and don’t properly research,” says Carina. “Before reading about Sofia, I kept adding to my product range with no proper thought or strategy to it.”
Pulled in multiple directions trying to keep up with demand, Carina’s ‘Sofia Moment’ was when she felt flat and unmotivated and began to doubt her ability to run a business.
“It was taking so much of my life. Every day. Most evenings. Most weekends.”
Using the character of Sofia, Julie and Wyseminds guided Carina towards a better approach that would free up the space she so urgently needed. She now sells fewer but more efficient products that are aligned with her purpose, which is to change people’s behaviour in how they use plastic.
“Now, whenever I feel impulsive, I bring it back to my purpose and ask how will this action help achieve it? This is a work in progress – I’m still learning this new way.”
Getting into your head to get out of your head
Carina was also guilty of keeping everything to herself. Julie encouraged her to get it out of her head through the simple art of putting pen to paper.
Taking the time to slow down and step back from her business had previously seemed a luxury she could not afford because, as well as being a founder, Carina had two young children. Systems and processes that would support operations sat firmly on the non-priority list.
“My head always felt like it was in a cloud but stepping back made things much clearer. Just getting it out of my head and onto paper helps me feel calmer and more productive.”
Creating awareness of plastic harms
Wyseminds helped ensure Carina was clear on her purpose and values first, which helped her to recognise that she wanted to offer more than just plastic alternative products. For her, it was more about a passion to dance with nature and enable people to live in a way that is kinder to it. This was the origin of the change she wanted to make.
While many Beewise items can be used time and again, others are consumable, therefore it made no sense that people would buy an item once then return to old habits. She needed to do more than stock and sell. She needed to educate.
“More and more microplastics are in the water that we drink and plastic is polluting the sea. But because people are not confronted by images of dead animals trapped in plastic debris they don’t realise how harmful it is. No one will change their habits if it means too much effort.”
Julie helped Carina to see that her desire to make it easy and convenient for people to live in a way that was friendlier to nature was in fact one of her leading values. By providing helpful information about each item in her range, and the positive impact it makes, Carina hopes to make choosing her products that much easier for people which will lead the direction on her new growth wave.
The end of ‘plastic fantastic’ the Beewise way
She first noticed how much plastic waste she herself generated after having children. As she met fellow parents, she realised how big a role plastic played in their lives too. From lids of cups that are chucked away to the packaging of ready meals, she was horrified.
“Most plastic waste is not recycled. I’d see someone open a plastic wrapper of two tiny rice cakes instead of them buying a large bag and putting two in a container. This lack of awareness triggered me.”
As well as a collection of environmentally friendly products, Beewise also provides research that often highlights little-known facts about a product. For example, the company sells reusable baking mats that do the same job as baking paper.
“People see baking paper as paper and think it can be recycled,” she points out. “But it can’t.”
Her blogs tell visitors that baking paper is a mix of paper and silicone and while individually, these materials are biodegradable (paper from trees, silicon from sand), when combined, they are not.
“How many people know this stuff?” she asks.
Beewise also provides labelling that explains whether the product’s packaging is compostable or recyclable.
Positive change through collective action
Living in a sustainable way is in Carina’s blood. Her grandmother was a pioneer in agronomics and ran a farm in Brazil, dedicating her life to the study of soils. As the world’s use of plastic increased with its devastating environmental impact, she was driven to do something about it. Her business idea fitted her personal purpose beautifully.
“In that plastic bottle of shampoo you buy in the supermarket, around 90% is water,” says Carina. “Shampoo bars contain only the nutrients and can be used in the same way as a bar of soap – just wet your hair and rub the bar on it. Just think how much plastic we could avoid if everyone switched to using shampoo bars.”
She wants the facts and research that she includes on her website to help customers make more informed decisions about living in a way that’s friendlier to nature. While an action towards sustainable living may seem small and pointless to many, it can have a huge impact if enough people do it and this is Carina’s main hope for Beewise.
With Wyseminds there to support her through the next phase of her business journey, Carina now recognises the importance of regularly stepping back to free space for a calmer, more considered approach to her operations. She understands it’s the only way to expand her company and focus on the bigger growth picture.