Marwa El-Ansary
CEO & Founder

Marwa El-Ansary
CEO & Founder

1. Tell us about our Journey?

Bee’e Wraps was launched in Dec. 2019 by ECO-Warrior-Egypt (Marwa El-Ansary) and two partners. In the summer of 2018 I was travelling in South Africa with my daughter and came across this product in an eco-friendly / artisanal shop on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Skeptical about it at first, I bought a pack, it was marketed as an eco-friendly alternative to cling film. Little did I know at the time how amazing this product was, and how much of my life would be dedicated to getting it out here. I came back from travels, and I started using it every day to wrap my daughter’s school lunches. It was colorful, washable, and reusable.

From that day onwards, I have not once purchased single -use plastic wrap / clingfilm. I continued using it everywhere, I constantly demonstrated it to friends and fell in love with how easy it was to use, and its benefits not only to health and environment, but also to my budget. As you buy it once, and it lasts for up to 12 months depending on your use.  After almost a year of using it I needed to buy more, and even though it existed abroad, nobody had heard about in Egypt or the Middle East. So, I figured out how to make it myself, initially utilizing bits and pieces of leftover fabric that I had lying around the house. Then, I started making them for my family and friends. By summer 2019, I started asking myself why such a great and versatile product was not available here, so I decided to go bring it to the Egyptian market for consumers, and to help cut down the plastic waste coming out of their kitchen. The principle from the very start was to have an Eco-friendly alternative to plastic, that is reasonable in price, available here and made in Egypt, using Egyptian materials and Labor.

I took the idea to my dear friend at the time, who is the CEO & Founder of Drumstick, a well-established ecofriendly home solutions business, that have run numerous anti-plastic campaigns in the past.  Over coffee we both decided to start manufacturing this product and pilot it in the Egyptian market. We were joined in the effort by another friend who also owns a well-established garment and retail business, and it was launched for the very first time in Egypt in Christmas of 2019, in community bazaars in and around Cairo. I was concerned that consumers wouldn’t understand what it was, but to my surprise it took off and we were completely sold out by the end of that year. Our Brand got to be known and the demand was amazing, it motivated us to go further. So, we did.

We went back to double our production in Jan 2020 and opened a retail branch in bio-shops across Cairo, alongside Bazars. In March 20202 and when COVID hit, like so many small businesses at the time, we were left with a lot of stock and nowhere to sell it. I just told myself, that’s the end, we should stop now, and we almost did. But one morning as I was complaining to a friend over coffee about it, she causally suggested that we sell our stock online, and to at least explore that option before giving up. We established Face Book and Instagram pages and collaborated with another start-up at the time called ‘I Make This’ which is an online platform selling products from 100+ women makers, nationwide. We made one post in early April 2020 on this platform and our sales very unexpectedly hit the roof and the rest is history as they say at Bee’e.

Bee’e wraps now caters for online and Bazar customers (B2C), retails in Bio-shops across Cairo, has since worked on B2B commissioned by companies to do their own customized wraps and contributes to the employment of (5) women in our factory in Al Fukhareen area of Cairo in (Darb17/18) in the premises of Drumstick, run by my friend and sister Shereen Abdel al Rasool. We are now looking at expanding to the regional markets across the Middle East before scaling up into international European and US markets.  We are proudly the first eco-friendly zero-waste product that is 100% Egyptian and have the comparative advantage of making this product here in Egypt much more cheaply than anywhere else around the globe.

2. What are your leading Products? And who are they targeted to?

We only produce Bees Wax Wraps, which is 100% Egyptian cotton fabric, dipped in food grade Beeswax and oil. They are used to wrap food instead of any other single use time foil and plastic. The magic ingredient here is the Beeswax, which we found out has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which mean it seals the food in a way that also preserves it.  As the food is wrapped in a breathable seal which allows just the right amount of oxygen into keep it fresh and slows down the process of decay.

I didn’t know this at the time I started, but apparently Ancient Egyptians used to harvest Beeswax for its medicinal purposes and used to dip and seal pieces of cloth to wrap and preserve their leafy green vegetables, fruits, and bread from going bad. And now this product is being made again, by Egyptian women for the market here and hopefully abroad. Our targets are Housewives, Mothers, Bakers, Organic Framers, Travelers and basically anyone who wants to wrap their food inside the house or take it with them outside the house. We also target businesses, takeaways and restaurants who want to stop using plastic in wrapping their food.  The Eco-friendly community is also our target, as we believe if you collaborate with others in the sector, change will happen and we could all multiply our impact on the environment and ensure that Plastic is a thing of the past – I know we have long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction.

3. What are your challenges in growing your business and how will you overcome these?

Like many others tackling the plastic problem, Bee’e Wraps would like to contribute to a much-needed plastic-free world, but it’s not that simple.  It goes without saying that one of the main advantages of plastic is how cheap it is to produce. So, a product like ours would never compete in terms of price and their business models. On the consumer level it makes sense, but with businesses, the main go-to packaging is still unfortunately plastic. The economy of scale is at odds with all eco-friendly products. So, people who decide to use our product have already made that choice of eco-friendly or zero waste living, but the majority of people still see eco-friendly products as an expensive and lifestyle choice for people who can afford it. This in my view is the challenge with eco-friendly alternatives of any kind. What we try to do to tackle this problem is through social media content spreading awareness and engaging audiences about the advantages and urgency of living sustainability. Our messages at Bee’e are always revolving around one main core message: Stop Using Plastic, and that’s one of the main principles of our business. Yes, we care about making money and establishing our business, but what we care about the most is eradicating at the very least, widespread single use plastics.

Other challenges we have, is that the nature of the product makes it very difficult to produce at a massive scale. This product remains handmade and artisanal in nature, which means we cannot produce a huge amount in our factory. Furthermore, you cannot mechanize the process (believe me, we have tried!), which keeps our scale still limited to small communities and specific circles of people.  One of our objectives is to have wide-spread impact as much as possible, and to really address the huge plastic problem that we have in Egypt. Over the next few years, we will be looking at ways of doubling our team and our factory in order to expand. We are currently doing it slowly with no external resources or support, which has been an uphill struggle. We are only now starting to look at scaling up and seeking investors or incubation funds to facilitate this expansion. Once we are successful in scaling up, our impact will double.

4. How will you measure success of your business?

One pack of Bee’e Wraps can contribute to cutting almost 90% of plastic wrapping coming out of your kitchen and /or household, for at least a year (12months of use). So, for us tracking our impact, and measuring our success relies on how many packs we sold at any given year. For example, in 2021 we sold over 1200 5pcs packs, which effectively means that 1200 households cut 90% of their plastic wrapping coming out their homes, that’s 1.5million pieces of plastic averted from the environment per year. That’s trying to look at our quantifiable success.

In terms of non-quantifiable impact, we have also contributed to the income of over (5) female headed households in and around Drumstick’s factory in Darb18/17. They are the women we work with, and they have been with us for the past two years. They have perfected the production of our Bee’e Wraps to an art, we owe quite a bit to them. Our business with thanks to them, is a truly women-led business. They have become our family and as we are to them. And at the core our business is run like a family business. That’s why we have added recently on the side of our box ‘Made by Egyptian Women Who Rock’ – and we really mean it. Our Business has a huge ‘social’ aspect to it, and we hope to be set up as a social enterprise one day. As there a major women empowerment and social responsibility angle to it, but also it brings back the magic of local community collaboration, which I think we could do so much more of.

5. What is your business vision for the next 5 years?

I hope that we would have scaled up in Egypt and leveraged enough resources to expand to the Middle East region. That would be a huge plus for us and for the potential impact of our product to eliminate single use plastics, even more, from kitchens and households across the region.

6. What is the one thing you want people to remember about your brand?

Eco-Friendly does not have to be expensive or boring, that’s a Myth!

Each month we feature someone who is doing outstanding work to build a sustainable future in our region. Whether you are an entrepreneur creating new products or an activist promoting sustainability, or an individual who has gone through a life transforming journey, we will want to interview you, share your story more widely, with the hope of inspiring others. We will want to  make you one of our Yalla Stars. If you have any great suggestions for a Yalla Star let us know .

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