Student-run non-profit promotes sustainability and community

By Maeve Lawler, Kasteel Well Bureau Chief

Four students in the entrepreneurial studies minor launched Bee the Message, a campus-based non-profit that sells beeswax wraps, donating all profits to The Bee Conservancy. 

The business began as a mid-term project for the students’ Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship class, taught by Lu Ann Reeb, the assistant dean and director of the Business and Entrepreneurial Studies program. 

Beeswax wraps, made of cloth or biodegradable paper coated in beeswax, serve as infinitely reusable alternatives to single-use plastics and food storage containers. The group, made up of Indigo Pinedo, Senter Bi, Jacqueline Cahill, and Quinten Rowland, sells the wraps for $5 at its table events or via its pre-order form.

The group’s donations to The Bee Conservancy will support the conservancy’s mission to protect bees and create “environmental and food justice through education, research, habitat creation, and advocacy,” according to its website

Beyond supporting The Bee Conservancy, the group seeks to bring the Emerson community together by sending messages enveloped the beeswax wraps, what Reeb calls its “value proposition.”

“After the pandemic, all of us, not just the students, were in a certain isolation frame of mind,” she said. “I think this is what [Bee the Message is] addressing—how to start building that community back.”

The non-profit’s goals are twofold: to promote sustainability and bring Emerson students together. Bee the Message held its first table event on Oct. 20 and promoted its product to Emerson students via Instagram. At the table event, the 45 wraps prepared by the group sold out, but students can pre-order wraps at any time.

To market its product to students, Bee the Message centers its catchphrase around “helping save the bees,” said Pinedo, a senior creative writing major and group leader. “We started off knowing that it was going to be a non-profit.” 

Beyond selling a sustainable product, the group hopes to unite Emerson students through kind messages in beeswax wraps. 

“We have a whole process where we ask the student if they want to make a message or we make a sweet message for them,” said Cahill, a junior marketing communications major. “It’s trying to connect Emerson students with one another.” 

The beeswax wrap comes in various designs, featuring honey bee, honeycomb, and flower-shaped patterns. The group buys the wrap in bulk from Amazon and individually folds and cuts each wrap into an envelope shape with a personalized message inside.

Pinedo acknowledges that sourcing the wrap from Amazon is not the most sustainable option but to meet the midterm project’s deadline the group had to make a compromise. 

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that would send the product fast enough for us to start up [on time]. So we had to go through Amazon but some sacrifices must be made,” they said. 

Although Bee the Message is a business launched for a midterm project, the students’ explorations of entrepreneurship will continue into next semester.

The E3 class is a yearlong, immersive experience for students in the entrepreneurship minor that teaches students how to build and launch a business. Reeb centers the fall semester class around entrepreneurial thinking before launching into the spring semester when students pitch individual business plans. The year will end with a pitch competition in April, where a panel of external judges hears students’ five-minute business pitches and award the top three pitches with cash prizes from $2,000 to $5,000. 

The mid-term project is referred to as the “$10 Challenge,” as Reeb invests $10 of her own money in each group, introducing students to running a business on a small scale. Students will reimburse her with their profits at the end of the project. In addition, students can each invest $10—but no more—of their own money to create an even playing field for all groups. 

“How you learn and how I teach you is to put you in the situation where you have a certain foundation—I call it layers of learning—about entrepreneurial thinking, and now you’re going to do a little bit of it but in a safe environment on campus, not in public,” Reeb said. 

In the project, students have to consider not only the product to sell but who the consumers will be—students, staff and faculty, or both—as well as marketing and finance. 

Reeb has a myriad of experiences in media and entrepreneurial spaces, which she said allow her to teach from experience in the E3 program. After serving as the executive producer at CBS Boston, she founded Boston Media Group, a company that helps various industries find effective communication strategies, and Legal Talk Network, a digital media group for lawyers. Reeb has now been teaching the E3 program for eight years. 

“Bee the Message came up with a very creative idea,” Reeb said. “Emerson students come up with great ideas. I’m always amazed every year.”  

Landing on the business idea of Bee the Message was a long process, said Pinedo. The group initially wanted to create messages in a bottle, using recycled glass bottles from Emerson’s campus. After researching a business for a class assignment, the group drew inspiration from a Vermont-based business called Bee’s Wrap—a group that sells beeswax wraps specifically marketed toward storing food.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god,’ this would actually be a great vessel for doing the same thing that we planned on originally, which was messages to connect people,” Pinedo said.

Collaboration is a large aspect of Bee the Message’s business, with each member assigned to a specific management task: Pinedo as the team leader, Cahill as the marketing manager,  Rowland in charge of finances, and Bi in business research. 

“We felt like a lot of Emerson students [are] very supportive of sustainable efforts,” said Rowland, a junior business of creative enterprises major. “They like to talk a lot of game, but we gave people an opportunity to actually show it.” 

Like her group mates, Bi, a senior visual media arts major, is appreciative of the group’s supportive approach to their business efforts. 

“I’m very grateful to my team members for supporting very important parts, whether creativity or participation,” she said. 

Bee the Message is planning a fundraiser event open to all students on Friday, Nov. 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Lion’s Den. Buying a wrap in advance of the event serves as a ticket for admission, though tickets will also be sold at the door for $3. The group is planning to host more table events on campus to sell wraps in the coming weeks. 

The group hopes its business is just one way for students to support sustainability. 

“I hope in the future that people also support other sustainable efforts that are made [at Emerson],” Pinedo said. “Bee the Message is part of a greater message about sustainability at Emerson.”