By Maryam Henein, HoneyColony
My dream is to publish a memoir. A degree in investigative journalism led me on a non-linear path to directing and producing an internationally-acclaimed documentary instead. Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page, (www.vanishingbees.com) focuses on the reasons why our prime pollinators are disappearing all over the world.
When the bees flew into my life in 2007, I was looking for purpose. I needed a change from working in Reality TV and for shallow productions devoid of substance. I was still recovering from the aftermath of my injuries after being hit by an SUV and dragged 50 feet. I’d broken several bones and had recently removed a titanium rod from my left femur. I could have died but I didn’t.
Post-accident, I wanted to participate in projects that made a difference. I worked for filmmakers R.J. Cutler, Morgan Spurlock, and Robert Greenwald. And then I met a fledgling filmmaker George Langworthy. We became fast friends and decided to collaborate on a documentary film. We learned that bees, which pollinate one in every three bites of the food we eat, were dying worldwide. And soon after we were traveling the world in pursuit of the project.
Three years into making this film it dawned on me that perhaps honeybees were not going to be a passing phase. I was taking a bath and wondering, was I going to be a Crazy Bee Lady? These virgin sisters of toil represented so many things I admired: collective wisdom, working for the greater good, the sacred feminine, and the need to nurture rather than destroy.
Thanks to my accident, I ruefully learned about Big Pharma and that Western Medicine does not employ a holistic approach when it comes to healing. Now the bees were alerting me to our unsustainable and tainted food supply. I was moved to spread the message.
A year after the film’s release, I was talking to my partner about his idea for a new kind of online technology that rewards relevant social influence. I had recently earned a certificate in social media and began telling him about the similarities when it came to the bees and how they pollinate.
Honeybees use a waggle dance (a little jig) in the shape of figure eight (infinity) to alert each other about the best source of nectar and pollen. With our propriety algorithm, HoneyColony adopts this model to alert users where the best source of information and products are in regards to health and well-being. We offer health through community curated wisdom. Social influence and activity of our members is rewarded with BeeBucks (our honey-coated version of currency), maximizing the virality of our customer referrals, evaluations, and reviews. We do this to inspire and incentivize participants to share and communicate with one another, keeping the voice of HoneyColony true to its members.
One single bee cannot survive without her hive for more than 24 hours. But together they form what is called a super-organism, operating with hive mind.
The Bees Took Us to HoneyColony
My aim with HoneyColony is to unite the growing number of people adopting healthy lifestyles, seeking to cut through the hype and claims about natural products and remedies. With help from leading health experts and top-notch journalists in the field, community wisdom would determine what worked and what didn’t. But I knew nothing about startups. Then again, I knew nothing about directing a documentary film. Conviction and vision are what are important. And stamina.
I spent the first year contacting superfoods and supplement companies I believed in, and whose products had personally helped me heal. Next, I reached out to nutritional experts of all different modalities: a master herbalist, an Ayurveda doctor, a raw food chef and author, a life coach, a healthy weight loss specialist.
Meanwhile, my partner Jan assembled a team of programmers and started creating his algorithm to reward virality amongst friends, followers, and fans. It was exciting; we were building something from scratch. We found our first angel investor.
I supplemented my lean income by giving talks about bees and my film Vanishing of the Bees around the world. That summer, we launched an Indiegogo campaign and produced a sweet 75 second animation, illustrating our concept.
Basically a startup is in a permanent state of Beta. To stay ahead you have to embrace flexibility without compromising quality. And you have to be a quick learner. Right now, I am not only the editor-in-chief and CEO, I order the products, pack them and deal with customers. There are many days where I wish I could clone myself. We’ve now launched a second Indiegogo campaign while we apply for accelerator programs and meet with potential investors.
Bees are magical. In moments of despair, one single bee will every so often fly into my office or find me on the street and do a little dance around me. They whisper things. They show me the importance of having true faith. And organic real food.