Practical Activist Q&A featuring: Tara Murphy, CEO, Bee's Wrap
- Bluestone Staff
- August 18, 2021
Feature image by: Barbee Hauzinger, Owl’s Iris Photography
Tara Murphy became the new CEO of Bee's Wrap in early June. Bee’s Wrap is a leader in the sustainable food storage space and a fellow member of 1% for the Planet and the Certified B Corporation community. There’s a Vermont connection too: Bee’s Wrap is headquartered south of us in Middlebury, Vermont. We’re also big fans of Bee’s Wrap’s products which are washable, reusable and compostable. (Three reasons they should be in your pantry!) We also share a kindred spirit with their mission: committed to using business as a vehicle for social change, bettering the lives of their customers, employees, community, and planet. Tara and husband, Bruno Murphy run High Hedge Farm in Charlotte, Vermont where they raise 100% grass fed and finished beef, pork, the occasional meat-bird with a little eggs and honey.
Q: You joined Bee’s Wrap as CEO on June 1st, after five years as CEO for Vermont Smoke & Cure. What attracted you most to this opportunity at this point in your career journey?
A: I’m an avid user of Bee’s Wrap, and it’s a gem of a product. I believe that it’s a brand that can be a household name in the U.S. and internationally. It’s so on trend with where the market is going. While I’m an environmentalist who moved my family to Vermont to live on a regenerative agriculture farm, I have also lived and worked in a lot of places. I understand that in mainstream America, not everyone is in the same place when it comes to thinking about environmental impact. I believe that everyone wants to do their part, and it’s just overwhelming for most people. Bee’s Wrap, for me, is one of those brands that makes it so easy to do your little part. It’s the type of brand that will be so impactful as more and more people become aware of the overwhelming plastic crisis that we are facing, and we hope that it can be a gateway to making other changes that benefit communities and the planet. As states are banning single use plastics, consumers are growing more aware that waste that is not a recyclable is a major problem. Bee’s Wrap is an example of a product that becomes part of the solution and contributes to the greater good, and that’s where I want to put my life’s energy.
Q: From climate change to social and economic justice, the past year and half was a societal reckoning and awakening in many ways. From your perspective, are there trends or shifts that Bee’s Wrap is seeing in your business and with your customers?
A: This last year has had a profound impact on so many people. We’ve seen people reconsidering how and where they want to live and how they want to spend their time and how they want to eat. CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriptions went way up during the pandemic, and if you’re being more mindful about the food you’re purchasing or planting a garden for the first time, then Bee’s Wrap is right in your line of sight. We saw people wanting to spend more time outside with their families or go on a hike, enjoying the simpler, closer-to-home pleasures of life, and we are a complement to those things. That mirrors what we’ve seen at home on our farm, that the closer that we’ve gotten to the land and the animals, the more fulfilled we feel.
From a brand perspective, we were impacted negatively by the pandemic because we mainly sell through independent retail stores. So, when we shut down “small business America,” we shut down brands like ours. In places like Amazon.com, where many businesses were able to pick up lost in-store volume through ecommerce, many brands like ours were literally turned off on Amazon because we weren’t considered an essential product. So, we were hit in multiple ways. We’re grateful now that we can get back into the independent retail stores as they open back up. People’s confidence is growing and they are getting back out there too, so we’re moving ahead.
Q: There’s a strong nonprofit component to your business philosophy. Tell us about your membership in 1% for the Planet and some of the other nonprofits that Bee’s Wrap supports.
A: We started working with 1% for Planet in 2019, when we launched a new wrap in an oceans-theme print. It’s educational: You can tell a story to a child as you’re wrapping their lunch sandwich and explain how plastics are impacting ecosystems. We knew that we wanted to build a giving component into that product, and 1% for the Planet was a really natural partner. Over the years, we’ve supported the work of the Rozalia Project on ocean conservancy and beach cleanups to water stewardship and The Bee Cause, a platform for educating children about the important connection between bees and healthy food systems. They go and install beehives at elementary schools so children can see the innerworkings of the beehive and how utterly magical it is. We’re committed to donating at least 1% of sales of our Honeycomb Roll of Bee’s Wrap to these organizations.
A: Those 2400 retail stores are small independent retailers; think of them as the place you would go to buy a gift for someone. And Bee’s Wrap makes a great gift. If you love someone who is sustainability-minded, this is your perfect, go-to gift. When we look to the future, we need to be for sale everywhere that food storage solutions are for sale. Whether that is department stores that sell reusable food storage or grocery stores that sell disposable food storage, we need to be sitting right there at that point of consideration and be in front of consumers when they are making that choice. They want to keep their food fresh and Bee’s Wrap keeps your food fresh longer, so we want to be at every one of those locations. We also want to be in the bigger chains and national grocers, mass merchants, clubs — wherever food storage decisions are being made, we want to be there.
Q: From Proctor and Gamble to Keurig and Vermont Smoke & Cure, you have deep experience in the food and consumer goods industry. When you look in the rear view, what has prepared you most for your success or influenced how you look at success?
A: I started my career as a mechanical engineer when I left Cornell University, and I always approach everything with an engineer’s design mindset. What I learned at Proctor and Gamble and Keurig and other companies that I worked for was that you have to design your product with the needs of customer in mind. You need to understand your customers’ kitchens and the occasions where they are using your product and how to make that the best occasion ever. What exactly do they need and what exactly do they want to do with it? Then, you also need to design with your retailer partners in mind. If you don’t have distribution where someone shops, then it’s hard to make people aware of your product. It is important to be in the stores where they can bump into you, see you and learn about you. You are designing for the retailers too, so it’s important to be thinking about their shelves and how your packaging and merchandising works in those environments. The product needs to be approachable, readable, and make sense in the store environment. I’ve also learned that brands are like people: What they say and what they do really matters and determines how much you can trust them. Right now, especially, consumers are really paying attention and they are listening and looking for the brands that they want to be part of their lives — the ones that say something and do something that reflects their values.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who feel overwhelmed when they think about sustainability and the environment and where to begin?
A: At Bee’s Wrap, we talk about this idea of the “imperfect environmentalist.” There are a lot of folks that feel paralyzed and overwhelmed about the magnitude of the problems we are facing as a society. I read something recently that said that during the pandemic, there was so much more information for people to worry about that it actually resulted in less concern about environmental topics. Collectively, we were too distracted by all of the other information coming at us. It’s like, how much can you take on a daily basis? Are you not recycling at the same level or are you using more take-out and creating more take-out waste? When people are feeling overwhelmed, they can’t always get to the big, structural changes. They need to start with little things, because small things can make a big difference. For example, just start using Bee’s Wrap for three things in your kitchen – like wrapping your sandwich to go to work or a bowl of leftovers or a loaf of fresh bread. If people just pick three places to stop creating more waste, it matters and it’s a start. And it becomes part of bigger lifestyle changes. Think how easy it was to start another new habit, like reusable grocery bags; now, we just keep them in our car all the time and they’re part of our shopping routine. Integrate one new sustainable life hack into your life every month. And know that it’s important forgive yourself for being an “imperfect environmentalist.” Celebrate the little victories, and don’t get paralyzed.
Q: What are you reflecting on as you look to the future?
A: I remember seeing one of these B movies that paints the picture of the future of humanity as a dreadful plight, and it started out saying something like, “Back in the 21st century, the best minds were focusing on erectile dysfunction and hair loss.” That is so true! We have so much human capability focusing on the wrong stuff. So, when I think about the future, I want to put my life’s energy into solving major problems. Plastic pollution is one of them. If I can take all of the skills that I have amassed since the beginning of my career, and I can funnel those into a solution that is approachable and easy for people to do, I will have made a difference solving a major problem.
Q: Do you have a mantra or quote that you live by or that inspires you?
A: I have a vision board that sits in front of my desk at home that I update regularly, and I really do believe in the law of attraction. I had to write a mission statement as part of a leadership course I took 15 years ago and I wrote: “Seek truth. See possibility. Lead change.” Tied to that, I have a saying on my wall that says, “Follow the signs.” So when God, the Universe or whatever taps you to do something or calls upon you to do something, I think you need to go all in and make a difference. I think both of those mantras brought me to Bee’s Wrap.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Bee’s Wrap is such a versatile product. The more I’ve used it, the more clever solutions that I discover. First, I was using it on a half a lemon or on my giant Cabot block of cheese. Now, if I’m making a piecrust, I use the Bee’s Wrap as I roll out my dough. If I’m bringing a casserole to a potluck, I put Bee’s Wrap over that. It keeps revealing itself to me. I love that creativity.
Like Bee’s Wrap, Bluestone Life is a Certified B Corp and a member of 1% for the Planet. A life insurance policy from Bluestone Life benefits nonprofits within the 1% for the Planet network. We encourage the Practical Activist in all of us to work for a healthier planet. Learn more about Bee’s Wrap and their sustainable storage products.
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