We recently started working with a new local supplier and we’re thrilled to introduce the Hive Mind Apiary to you! Foster’s Refillery now carries their waste free, delightful smelling soap, made from upcycled kitchen oils and fats. Check out our conversation with Christopher Nelson, the founder and owner of HMA below.
FR: Let’s start with your ingredients and gathering process. What can you tell us about the soap side of your business?
HMA: Soap making came about as a side project from my beekeeping business. In order to keep the lights on, I work as a cook locally. I’ve worked in kitchens most of my life and something I’ve become numb to, but would absolutely horrify most people, is the amount of needless food waste in restaurants.
I exclusively use upcycled animal and vegetable fats from local kitchens that would otherwise end up in local landfills. Some people turn their nose up at the fact that some of the base for my soaps is animal fat. The truth is many vegetarian soaps are often sourced from factory farming and unethical practices. My soap is a truly ethical choice! Nothing is killed, cut down, or displaced!
I utilize “waste” in the same way our ancestors would have! Our earliest ancestors could never dream of the concept of “food waste” because every single component of a kill or harvest was utilized. This zero waste mindset was my goal for HMA soaps.
Fats trimmed directly from the bone of a recent kill, or the grease gathered from a cooking pit were collected and often made into primitive candles. Perhaps by chance our ancestors observed that the fat drippings of cooking pits mixed with the lye in the ashes would create a soapy lather when it rained. Ever since then humans have been utilizing “food waste” as a key ingredient in soap making.
FR: What parts of the business do you love doing the most?
HMA: I truly enjoy working with the bees! It may seem like an obvious answer, but working with thousands of bees all humming around you is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. And most people will never experience anything like it!
Outside of beekeeping, I also make soap that’s offered on Foster’s. I love the process because it more or less forces you to focus on the process. Soap making a very zen task in that way. I enjoy shutting everything else out for a bit in order to spend an hour or two with a specific task. Owning a small business makes it hard to focus on a single task when you know that you’re spinning multiple plates at all times. In that way, I take a lot of joy in soapmaking!
FR: How did The Hive Mind Apiary start?
HMA: The Hive Mind Apiary technically started with a single hive in the spring of 2015. Although, the true beginning started with my love of history oddly enough. I enjoy the odd, underappreciated, and often under reported aspects of history. While there are interesting stories to unearth the world over, ancient Egypt has always occupied a special place in my heart. The ancient Egyptians held honey bee hives in very high regard and believed them to be the physical embodiment of the sun god Ra (or Re). Honey itself was referred to as the tears of Ra/Re. In fact that’s the title of the book that sent me down this path, “The Tears of Re” by Gene Kritsky.
The earliest known evidence of beekeeping, as we would recognize it today, comes from the hieroglyphics of Egypt.
FR: What are some cool successes you and the Hive Mind have experienced over the years?
HMA: Honestly I would say just becoming a part of the local artisan community is among my most cherished successes. Salt Lake has such a wonderful community and we all network together to further our individual businesses. A specific success that I personally love was being able to do a podcast with IAmSaltLake, which for me as a total podcast nerd was incredible! You can listen to episode #349 if you’d like a deeper dive.
FR: What is the future of Hive Mind?
HMA: I’d love to grow The Hive Mind, but stay tethered to the local scene. I do hope to maybe expand into more markets both seasonal and brick and mortar. Of course I’d like to expand the apiary and be able to provide local honey to more people but I’m happy with being a local name! SLC is my home and I’m happy to continue to serve all of it’s wonderfully weird customers.