Bees are the unsung heroes of the planet, vital for humanity’s food security and biodiversity. Over 75% of the crops we rely on pollinating insects yet in the UK a third of wild bees and hoverflies are in decline.
Raising the importance of bees to our lives and also the positive mental health impacts of beekeeping has been the inspiration behind Wings and Radicles – a social enterprise set up in August 2020 by young social entrepreneur Rachel Sampara.
Coming from a working-class background, Rachel hopes to use Wings and Radicles not only to provide education but also to promote inclusion and break-down the disproportionately weighted demographics that currently dominate the craft. Revenue from running bee-keeping workshops with members of the public will help support programmes for minority groups and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Beekeeping and mental health
Rachel stumbled into the world of beekeeping by chance after signing up for a beekeeping course run by Blackburne House, a Liverpool based social enterprise which runs a series of programme supporting women from across the local area. When signing up for the course she was experiencing mental health issues but on joining the first training session the “rest of the world melted away” as she focused on the tasks at hand. She eventually became a teacher on the course witnessing the transformative impact it had on people include vulnerable groups such as a YMCA group of people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions.
This inspired her to set up her own social enterprise – Wings and Radicles.
“I wanted to be able to advocate for mental health and support people through something I know how to do which is beekeeping”
After initially being based in Liverpool, Rachel moved to Northamptonshire where the business is now based. The social enterprise is very much in its early days, with work being hindered massively by the COVID pandemic, but Rachel has ambitious plans to grow the businesses’ reach and impact to break down the barriers to accessing beekeeping and allow for more diversity within the craft
She has already started to deliver workshops to the general public and is beginning to form connections with local charities and support organisations to work with them to highlight the mental health benefits of beekeeping to the people they support.
Wings and Radicles also have an online shop selling products made from beeswax all handmade by Rachel herself using wax mostly from the bees in her own hive. This includes food wraps, lip balm and wax melts. All money from these sales goes back into the social enterprise.
Combining environmental and social impact
Core to Wings and Radicles ethos has been to combine the social with the environmental. As well as mental health benefits the business plays a role in educating people about the importance of bees and the effect the climate emergency and other human induced actions are having on them, such as widespread pesticide use.
In Rachel’s own words “the time for change was yesterday” and she feels that businesses have a duty to take the climate emergency seriously and “use their platform to make other aware of the importance of the climate crisis”
Setting up Wings and Radicles has not been easy and COVID has made it extremely difficult to make connections and build a network of support. Despite this, Rachel believes that there is a good network of social enterprises in the East Midlands who do help each other.
As a very new start-up Rachel feels that one of the main challenges is “trying not to feel guilty about not being the best all the time” highlighting the challenges of connecting the social and climate aspects of her work and maintaining the day to day running of the business.
“as long as everyone is trying and making an effort I think that’s the most important thing.”
Wings and Radicles are symbolic of the desire of many social enterprises to tackle both social and environmental challenges, showing how even smaller businesses can look to create positive impact for both people and planet.
Based on an interview with Rachel Sampara