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Her Love of Art Became an Incredible Mission-Driven Business

Our Retailer of the Month for November was founded by one of the most determined and savvy businesswomen I know. Plus, she's a fellow beekeeper! Learn all about Kara's inspiring journey and passion in this month's profile.

Kara Brook
The Fire of a Young Girl’s Dream

When Kara Brook was a young girl, she dreamed of becoming an artist when she grew up. Then, just as she was starting 11th grade, a family tragedy nearly ended that dream before it even began.

“My father passed away when I was 16 years old,” says Kara, recalling that time in her young life. “A law was in place at the time that impacted my family’s ability to collect his [life insurance] death benefit. We were at poverty level. If I was not enrolled in college within days, our family would have lost our home.”

So even though the school year had already started, this brilliant high school junior convinced the dean of a local community college to allow her to take the entrance exam. Kara passed, not only saving the family home but also gaining herself a job in the school’s math lab tutoring college-level mathematics.

But Kara had her sights set on a bigger goal: attending Maryland Institute College of Art, a private art college ranked at the time as one of the top two art schools in the nation. Given her family’s financial situation, Kara knew that she would need to find some way to pay for such a prestigious school.

“I did my first serious hustle in personal fundraising—applying for every scholarship known to mankind,” Kara explains. “I was on a deliberate mission not to incur debt for my education.”

Maryland Institute College of Arts

Maryland Institute College of Arts

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Kara continued to pay for her education by pursuing design work while studying visual communications (aka, graphic design) at one of the best art colleges in the country.

“I began pedaling my design & advertising services to local Baltimore retailers as I put myself through school,” Kara shares. “I studied local businesses and selected the most chic and fashion-forward clothing and jewelry stores. Then, I cold-called them, visiting with my tattered portfolio in hand.”

Her teachers allowed her to gain class credit for that client work. Plus, she had the chance to directly apply what she was learning in class. And by seeking out those opportunities to learn and grow, Kara found even greater opportunities presenting themselves.

“My senior thesis was to create all support materials for a fundraiser to build a private high school which raised about a million dollars,” Kara recalls. “This single project put me on the map locally to handle more sophisticated projects and clients at the ripe old age of 20.”

Fresh out of school, Kara started a design business, eventually growing it into one of the first web design & marketing firms in the early days of the Internet. Over 25 years, the business grew into a 40-person firm at one point, developing innovative designs at a point when most people were still trying to figure out the potential of the online user experience.

Kara proudly states, “We built a ground up easy-to-use Java based content management system—like WordPress—long before WordPress existed. It was great.”

An Old Love Leads to a New Passion

Kara eventually retired from the design world, returning to her first love, art. She began painting, and soon discovered an ancient technique known as encaustic. The medium combines heated beeswax, tree resin and pigment, which is applied to canvas or wood.

Kara wanted a sustainable source of beeswax for her art, so she read everything she could and started to keep her own bees.

Waxing Kara

Photograph courtesy of Waxing Kara

“As I got into it, I realized how important bees are to our ecosystem and food supply,” Kara confesses. “I started a blog, called ‘Waxing Kara Bee Inspired Buzz’ and wrote about my beekeeping experiences and lessons in encaustic.”

The blog soon expanded to an online store, Waxing Kara, offering raw honey produced on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. Then Kara opened up a retail store located in Owings Mills, Waxing Kara Honey House.

Waxing Kara

Photograph courtesy of Waxing Kara

Both online and brick-and-mortar stores are guided by a simple mission, “to craft beautiful and functional handmade goods in a sustainable way.”

“We promote a socially conscious message that is focused on the importance of bees,” says Kara. “And we draw inspiration from nature’s bounty and the understanding that putting healthful things into and onto your body makes you feel healthy and beautiful.”

Waxing Kara

Photograph courtesy of Waxing Kara

Luxurious scrubs & masks. Luscious lip balms. Delicious honey lollipops. Exquisite candles. And of course...incredible raw honey.

Using almonds, sunflowers, pumpkin, coffee, citrus, walnuts, coconut, and berries, everything Waxing Kara makes in her commercial-grade production facility contains only those ingredients that would not exist without bees.

It’s not too surprising that this expert in online User Experience has created a fantastic customer experience in her shop. The Honey House evokes the feeling of a high-end spa and carefully curated boutique at the same time.

Waxing Kara

Photograph courtesy of Waxing Kara

Featuring a line of Bee Inspired® gifts, the Honey House even offers a “Gift Bar” where customers can select products to create custom gifts. They have also recently added a line of organic teas that can be paired with a varietal honey.

One of Kara’s favorite parts of entrepreneurship is the connection she feels with the people her business serves. “I love aligning with our customers,” she admits. “Most people who understand our cause and what we are doing are very supportive and encouraging.”

When I ask for her advice to girls with Big Dreams, Kara shares words of wisdom that must have fueled her own dreams as a young girl.

“You can achieve anything you want if you’re willing to work hard.”

You can find Waxing Kara Honey House at 10209 Grand Central Avenue, Suite 118 in Owings Mills, Maryland. When you go, you might see Kara there…and you'll definitely find some Handcrafted HoneyBee products there!

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