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2023 - A Year in Review

18 December 2023

At the beginning of this year we set out to raise our profile regionally, to develop new contract manufacturing partnerships and to develop retail partnerships for our BeeVital Propolis products.

As we begin to wind things down and look forward to the Christmas break, I thought I'd take a moment to document some of the highlights. It's certainly been an extremely busy time for our whole team!

Events & Trips

  • Royal London Hospital of Integrated Medicine
    I began the year by visiting London, connecting with our friends at one of London's leading herbal medicine suppliers and delivering some informal training to pharmacists at the Royal London Hospital of Integrated Medicine, who are now stocking our BeeVital products.
  • British Beekeeping Festival
    Tom and I attended the British Beekeeping Festival in March, raising awareness of BeeVital amongst beekeepers, chatting about propolis and delivering one of the lectures which was very well received.
  • Threes Company Launch
    Back in February James and I hosted a Threes Company launch event in York, attended by business people, academics and interested individuals who were able to work through our Threes Company Toolkit, gaining an understanding of what it means to operate in this way. The event was supported by BioVale (now Bio Yorkshire).
  • British Beekeeping Show
    James and Shankar attended the Beekeeping Show, speaking about propolis and connecting with beekeepers and other industry experts.
  • Yorkshire Post Round Tables
    In the spring I was invited to be part of 2 round table discussions, hosted by the Yorkshire Post, exploring the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing companies across North Yorkshire.
  • Enterprise Works in Thessaloniki
    In the summer James took a trip to Greece with a group from York University to explore business opportunities and partnerships.
  • Made in Whitby Summer Festival
    We were part of the very first Made in Whitby Festival, organised by a group of friendly local businesses including ourselves and held at Whitby Brewery - it was a fantastic success.
  • Power of Plants Festival
    Tom, James, Shankar and I attended the National Institute's Power of Plants Festival, in Gloucestershire. James and Shankar delivered talks about propolis and we connected with practitioners and others connected with the world of herbal medicine.
  • York University Enterprise Works Business Awards
    We were shortlisted for Star Enterprise Team in this brand new awards programme, and were invited to attend the celebration dinner at the Merchant Adventurers Hall in York. Unfortunately we didn't win!
  • Natural Medicine Talks
    Dr Bhagyashree held a series of talks at The Dispensary through the summer, discussing the use of Western, Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine.
  • Egton Show
    In Agusut we attended our local agricultural show, spreading the word about natural medicine and connecting with local people.
  • Factory Open Day
    We held our very first factory open day in September, inviting people to have a look behind the scenes, to learn more about our work and what modern herbal medicines look like. It was really well attended, with over 100 guests visiting throughout the day.
  • BioYorkshire Day
    I was invited to speak at the BioYorkshire day at York University, sharing some of the opportunities and problems we're facing as a manufacturer working in the bioeconomy.
  • Herbal Medicine Conference
    As usual we were part of the National Institute's Herbal Medicine Conference, which took place online in October.
  • International Propolis Conference
    James and Shankar visited Istanbul, to be part of the Propolis Conference, organised by the IPRG and supported by Balpamak. The Nature's Laboratory team delivered 5 talks at the conference, having a major impact on the programme and raising our international profile.
  • Made in Whitby Christmas Festival
    Our team supported the Made in Whitby Christmas Festival, which was amazingly well attended by lots of local people and visitors to the town - a fantastically festive event enjoyed by all.


Things We Built

  • Water Dispensing Unit
    I developed a 'digital tap' which dispenses water accurately and safely for our production team, increasinf efficiency, accuracy and product quality.
  • Alcohol Pump
    We also got a step closer to finishing our alcohol dispensing pump which should be operational from the New Year, this required bespoke some software and hardware development.
  • MSDS Software
    Creating all the documentation for our products has historically been a lengthy task. We've made it a lot easier by developing bespoke solutions which enable us to produce documentation quickly and efficiently.
  • Production Software
    We've also moved closer to completing our digital traceability system by building software to manage our production processes.
  • BeeVital and Herbal Apothecary Websites
    This year we've also built two brand new websites for BeeVital and Herbal Apothecary. These are built with Shopify and our internal software system helps us manage stock levels efficiently.

IMG 20231030 151348386

Investment in Equipment

  • Capsule Filling Machine
    In the summer we purchased a semi-automatic capsule filling machine. This has enabled us to rapidly increase the number of capsules we can produce each week.
  • Larger Production Vessels
    We've also obtained some larger liquid production vessels, further increasing productivity.

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Products We Developed for our Own Brands

  • BeeVital
    We've re-purposed our Proplis Cream into a Tattoo Balm, and have also developed a Propolis Serum and a Propolis Shampoo which will both launch early in 2024.
  • Whitby Tea Company
    Many of the products we produce can't be sold to non-practitioners. But our herbal tea blends solve this problem and are proving popular already!
  • Nature's Laboratory Capsules & Creams
    We developed a range of retail-packaged capsules and creams, perfect for health stores, clinics, pharmacies and practitioners who need small packs to dispense to their patients and customers.
  • Ayurvedic Range
    We grew our range of Ayurvedic herbs, in dried, tincture and capsule form.

Various aromatic colorful spices and herbs. Ingredients for cook

Products We Developed for Customers

We've removed the specific details in order to protect our customer's interests.

  • Various liquid extracts containing herbs and mushrooms for different brands
  • An injury prevention product for sports people
  • A range of herbal supplements for pets
  • A herbal extract for a drinks brand
  • BeeVital range for Bahrain and GCC market

And a lot more besides!

Staff Changes

  • Sophie and Dorrie
    In the summer both Sophie and Dorrie left, handing over responsibility for the Sweet Cecily's department to Tom and myself. We are grateful for the work over the years and wish them well in the future careers.
  • Dr Bhagyashree
    Bhagya joined the team full time in the spring, beginning her KTP placement in conjunction with Bradford University. She has been a wonderful asset to the team, and we very much enjoy working with her.
  • Samra Ihsan
    Samra and her family moved to Whitby in April, for Samra to begin her PhD project with UEL, based at Nature's Laboratory. Samra has also helped with some production tasks and we look forward to working with her as she develops her PhD thesis.
  • Ashley Jones
    Ash joined us in the autumn, bolstering our manufacturing team and increasing our capacity.

Research Projects

  • Global Propolis Survey
    This long-term project continues, led by Shankar and Bhagyashree.
  • Samra's PhD
    Samra is exploring extraction methods using in herbal medicine manufacture.
  • Bhagyashree's KTP
    Bhagya is looking at using propolis in new ways to treat everyday illnesses.
  • Future Leader Fellowship
    Our team completed a Future Leader Fellowship funding application worth £1.1m - we'll have to wait until April to find out if it's successful.

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Community Activity

  • The Dispensary
    We have continued to support the work of The Dispensary by covering the staff costs of the shop. Zoe is doing a wonderful job there.
  • Made in Whitby
    We've played an active role in developing the Made in Whitby Group, alongside our friends at Whitby Sea Salt, Whitby Brewery and Fortune's Smokehouse.
  • Careers Workshops
    I've worked with students at Eskdale School, helping them prepare for the world of work.
  • BeeArc
    We supported the launch of the BeeArc project by designing various banners and signs, booklets and a website.
  • UTC Students
    We've also welcomed engineering students from UTC Scarborough, giving them an insight into engineering in practice within a small manufacturing company.
  • Sponsorship
    We've supported the National Institute's conferences financially - we love partnering with the Institute team. We have also provided free product samples to various practitioner groups, provided discounts to graduate practitioners and faciliated free or heavily discounted treatment through our Herbal Access scheme.
  • Enterprise Cube
    In December I was invited to be a guest judge in the Enterprise Cube Strive Start-Up competition for the latest group of participants from across the region.

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  • Best Business Transformation
    We won the category at the Scarborough News Business Excellence Awards, and came highly commended in the same category at the Yorkshire Post Business Excellence Awards, narrowly missing out to EVRi.
  • Lifetime Dedication Award
    James was awarded a Lifetime Dedication Award at this year's International Propolis Conference

Awards 3 rp scaled

Did We Achieve Our Aims?

In short, yes. And then some.

We've continued working with our practitioner customers, existing contract customers and through that work have continued to develop our identity as a leading manufacturer of herbal medicines.

Alongside that we've taken on a number of new wholesale customers for our BeeVital range, which is now available from a variety of online stores as well as physical shops around the country.

The number of invitations to speak at industry events demonstrates just how far we've come as a company. We've become far more visible within our industry and are an active contributor to regional, national and international events.

But none of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our team, who have all worked so hard. My heartfelt thanks to everyone for their work, their flexibility and their determination to be part of the development of our company.

We all deseve a well-earned break now - Friday can't come soon enough!

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas,