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One sweet career move

Kara Brook’s honey-based business is booming

Kara Brook took a leap of faith, selling a successful technology firm to focus more on her true passion: art.

In less than three years, Brook has taken her passion and turned it into a profitable business — Waxing Kara — which produces hand-crafted products from Eastern Shore honey. Visit her website or retail store, moving this month to Metro Center at Owings Mills, and you can buy anything from honey soap to lip balm and candles. There are also honey lollipops that sell for about $8 each and have proved incredibly popular among customers.

Brook has sold 30,000 lollipops in the past two years.

Brook, of Pikesville, said her business is going to grow even more. In late August she received an order for three different products that the women’s clothing, accessories and home décor store Anthropologie will begin selling in their retail locations. They have interest in offering four additional Waxing Kara products.

“They are picking up our sweet lips trio and honey lip balm, which is now certified organic,” she said. “They will hit the stores in October and be nationwide in every store across the U.S.”

Up until now Brook, who makes all of her products by hand, has been making 25 units at a time. With the new Anthropologie order, she’ll have to increase production to the tens of thousands.

“I’m going to recruit new people,” she said. “This could definitely put us on the map.”

Other Waxing Kara customers and retailers include Terrain, Lauren Liess Interiors, Capital Teas,  The Boxwood Collection, Edmart and Luxe Hair + Skin + Style.

Brook now splits her time between a Pikesville residence and a 102-acre farm on Kent Island, complete with 30 acres of wild flowers, fruit trees and berry bushes — a thriving habitat for bees. In fact, she now has 700 Italian bees in 14 hives that produced 500 pounds of honey in 2013.

Early “bee-ginnings”

Brook ran her own successful Web marketing firm for 20 years.

She closed her company in 2008 and began learning the art of encaustic painting, a process that requires the use of beeswax, damar resin and pigment. After over-boiling one too many pots of wax, she decided to start producing it on her own. Soon after, she took a beekeeping class, worked with a mentor and purchased her first two hives.

This passion evolved into her full-fledged involvement in honey harvesting and she began to understand and respect the significance of bees — despite “a fear of bees,” Brook said.

“At the end of my first season, I gave away jars of honey to friends and family, but they kept coming back for more, and eventually, I realized the potential,” Brook said. “Honey makes people very happy. Their fondness for these products and my bee farming principles is contagious, and it’s probably the strongest affirmation that I made the right decision.”

Brook began operating her one-woman shop at home. Then, around Mother’s Day two years ago, her products were featured in Cooking Light magazine.

She sold 1,100 of her lollipops that month — a record.

She soon moved into commercial space and later opened a retail showroom — the facility called “Honey House.” Brook recently moved to Metro Centre in Owings Mills and reopened in the new space earlier this month.

Advice

While Brook is thrilled with her success, she said it hasn’t been an easy road.

“If you’re going to start a business, whatever you think it’s going to cost, it’s going to three times more — at least,” she said.

She also had to learn the business side of Waxing Kara, saying there was more expense and more challenges than she expected.

“Proceed with caution,” she advices. “Before making a major change ask lots questions and get the full 360-degree view.

Honey is so romantic, and I love what I do, but it is really hard work,” Brook said.

This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Path To Excellence: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Path to Excellence magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Path to Excellence.