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Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

Is it called a “job” when you do something that you absolutely, passionately, heart and soul LOVE every day?

Do you call it a job when you work with people you genuinely like and other people that you genuinely like call you up, pop in or send you emails wanting some of what you’ve created with your bare hands?

Surely there isn’t a job in the world where you get emails like this…

Thank you for the fastest delivery I ever experienced.

When I opened the boxes I felt as if I was opening up a box of the most delicious fine chocolates without the calories, just the pure delight of the fragrant beeswax, and as for the furniture polish, well my first thought  was that the furniture was going to receive a treatment I wish my own chemical sensitive skin was in desperate need of (especially in winter). 

Bit quirky, maybe, but there you go.  I thought you might be interested in my experience. Any chance of a good chemical free effective skin moisturiser in the future?

Oh and the Bee Lights gift are just awesome. Thank you so much.

A happy (if somewhat dry) customer. :)

N”

Or how about this one from one of another beautiful soul using our bee created light to send light where it is needed most

“Thank you, lovely Bees, for my amazing tea lights and Bee Lights. They make winter so pleasant.
I use your lovely gift, the jam jars -how adorable small are they, thank you! – to think of the ones – children, women and other victims – being killed in wars. Sending some light to war zones is the least I can do.
We hope you are well, Cate and team! 
Kindest regards, Y”
Sometimes we have to pull out all stops when light is needed fast, but we are rewarded tenfold with emails like this one last week
“Hello, 

I just wanted to say thank you so much for getting the candles to me so quickly.  They are absolutely beautiful and the personalised candle is already much loved.

When I opened the front door this morning it was there waiting for me. I was not expecting it to arrive until later today. Consequently my mum and I were able to take it this morning to the place where my Nan was being cremated at 8am and we lit it for her there. 
Nan’s candle and the tapers will then be taken to the wake tomorrow where I will light it again. All the guests will then be lighting their tapers off Nan’s candle. 

Again, thank you so much for the effort you put in to make sure I had the candles I wanted in time for the remembrance.

With much appreciation, 
E”

And then there are the customers that are wonderful storytellers in their emails and we’re transported to their side like this one a couple of days ago
“Hi Queen B,
Many thanks for my recent order of beautiful bee glassware and tea lights, what a beautiful gift to myself!!!   It is burning loveliness beside me as I make myself comfortable in my special chair and relax at the end of the day.
Just love your beeswax candles and all that Queen B and the little workers stand for, just pure goodness and great quality products.
Best wishes,
S”
It’s pretty hard not to be passionate about what you do when you get to play a role in supporting bees and beekeepers and sending out light every day AND you get emails like these in return.  When I saw it advertised in heaven I applied for the job immediately.  And people wonder why I love working so much?!
Thanks for allowing us all to do what we love.
Cate xx

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I absolutely love reading and I love learning.  Occasionally I come across something that makes me stop mid stride.  It could be something really mind bending or poignant.  Or writings so raw you sometimes feel like you’re reading their diary.  I subscribe to my fair share of food blogs (try the Life Changing Bread… you won’t look back!) and often I’m reading about people who are creating their dream life (her backstory, which seems to have been removed from the blog, is fabulous), following their dreams or writers who tell a great yarn.

This morning I was reading a blog I love.  Sophie from Local is Lovely interviewed Hannah from The Perthville Pantry.  Reading her 5 lessons/insights for people thinking about starting a branded meat or small agribusiness  how they want to live each day summed up EXACTLY what I would tell people (although I have struggled in the past to put it so succinctly).  Read and ponder.  It’s worth the few moments of your life.  It is also a manifesto for the Queen B story.

What are five lessons/resources/insights you’d share with young farmers like yourself, who are thinking about starting a branded meat or small agribusiness themselves?

  1. Determine your passion and build an enterprise around that.  It’s a joy to work if you love what you do.
  2. Think big and question mainstream wisdom.  Do your own research.
  3. Back yourself.  Forget about what you think others think of you.  You can stand tall if you stay true to your own values.
  4. Write down your dreams and aspirations.  You’ll be amazed at what comes to fruition.
  5. Continue to learn. Read, attend courses and network.
Perthville Pantry post from Local is Lovely blog

Hannah from Perthville Pantry

I emailed Sophie this morning to see if she would mind me sharing and, being the sweet soul she is she said go right ahead.  She also gave me permission to share the Gummy Pigs recipe (with raw honey)!

Gummy Pigs

3 tablespoons grassfed gelatine
1/3 cup lemon and lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons raw honey
1 to 2 slices of fresh beetroot for the pink piggy colour

Whisk lemon and lime juice, honey and gelatine in a sauce pan until there are no lumps.  Heat over low heat until melted.  Add the fresh beetroot and remove once the desired colour is obtained.  Pour mixture into silicone piggy moulds and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the moulds and enjoy.

Here are the gummy pigs

Gummy pig recipe from Perthville Pantry on Local is Lovely blog

Gummy Pigs – Perthville Pantry

I’m going to see if I can find me bee moulds and perhaps try pineapple? or turmeric!!

Happy reading (and cooking if you’re so inclined)!

Cate xx

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We are the recipients of a huge volume of really extra-ordinary mail here at Queen B.  Emails.  Letters/cards.  Facebook posts.  They’re the pep in our step.  The wind in our sails.  The hand holding us up.

Given the big difference it makes to us, I thought we’d pay it forward.  So, each week we’re going to pick a “Letter of the week”.  We’ll publish it and send the lovely writer a little extra Queen B bee-created light.  In some ways its trifling to pick 52 bits of feedback from the hundreds that we received, but I figure we’re better doing something that nothing at all.

Seriously, lovely letters are what make the world go around.  I don’t think that I am unique in small business in completely doing my head in (!!) over-thinking everything, and making sure that every decision I make it ethical and sustainable etc.  So it’s really lovely to be reminded to lift your head to the light and to remember what we’re doing here and the difference we’re making.

Today was a really special day which is perhaps why it finally struck me that I needed to do this!  We received several really lovely emails, but one in particular really touched me.  She wrote about an issue that has long concerned me and never written about because I was sick of negativity!  I share her email here:

Dear Cate and Sarah,

You truly spoil me.  You cannot imagine my surprise to find my beautiful candles waiting for me so soon after I ordered when I got back home this morning after a trip to the shop.  It wasn’t until I opened the box and got a glorious waft of honey that I knew who my parcel was from.

I expressed how much I loved your products yesterday but I had only sample the jam jar tea lights. As I unwrapped each item I grew more and more excited. And the lollipops! How novel! I cannot wait to try them!

I have to say it again. You’re products are AMAZING and you should be so proud.

Thank you again,
K”

Thank you K.  Your email really touched all of us.  I’m not sure that I am particularly deft at negotiating great marketing with running an ethical business.  But I do know that all 3 of us turn up at Queen B every day and give it everything that we have to give (and sometimes more).  And it’s lovely when that is appreciated.

Thank you to all of you who communicate with us – be it in comments, Facebook posts, emails, letters or on the phone.  May you be the recipient of a random gift of light (be it from us or from someone else) in return.

Cate xx

 

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A few months ago I was contacted by Kirsten McCulloch of Sustainable Suburbia fame to see if I would be willing to contribute to a book she was writing about reducing and eliminating the toxins we take in.  That was a complete no brainer.  I said yes!

Well, Kirsten’s dream has come true and Less Toxic Living: How to Reduce Your Everyday Exposure to Toxic Chemicals – An Introduction For Families goes on sale today.  In an extraordinary act of generosity, the eBook is completely free.  Printed copies are also for sale at US$12.99.  There is bonus content available for anyone who buys the book or downloads the free version prior to Tuesday, 3rd December 2013.  Please use the code QUEENB for the special bonuses.  Yes, free and bonuses.  Who’s your mamma?!

Less Toxic Living, Sustainable Suburbia, eliminate chemicals

Yep… co-author! Going to have tickets on myself soon!

As I planned this blog post, I asked Kirsten with two questions.  Following are her responses:

1. We all lead busy lives, if you had to prioritise 10 things that someone can do for maximum impact to reduce everyday exposure to toxic chemicals, what would they be?

1. Avoid the most pesticide laden food.

Get to know the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” and the Australian version released by the Friends of the Earth last year (though it’s not based on as much research as the US version, but useful as a guide). For the worst offenders, grow your own or buy organic.

2. Remember that your skin is your largest organ and think about what you are putting on it.

Anything you wear daily, or that you use over a large area (like body lotion or sunscreen) those are your first cosmetics to consider. There are lots of safer brands (check out www.safecosmeticsaustralia.com.au for some options), or if you really want to know what you are putting on your skin, you can make your own. If you want to try that, the book contains a few easy products to start you off.

3. Open the window

Unless you live in a really polluted area, open your doors and windows. For more Australians, the build-up of toxic chemicals in your house, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, is much higher than that outdoors. You can also grow houseplants to help reduce VOCS.

4. Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter.

Again, the typical build-up of toxic chemicals in the dust, including brominated fire retardants from your mattress, couch and carpet, is fairly scary.

5. Take off your shoes

Along those same lines, take of your outdoor shoes when you enter your home. You’ll be amazed how much less dust comes in.

6. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products.

Start with one: whichever cleaning product you use the most, switch it out for something non-toxic. An all-purpose spray cleaner is really easy to make, for instance. Almost everything in the house can be cleaned with baking soda, washing soda, vinegar and soap, and again there are some easy recipes in the book to start you off.

But again, if you don’t want to make your own, there are some commercial brands that are quite good. I would choose one product and find out what the typical nasties in that one are (I cover this for a selection of products in the book, but The Chemical Maze is great for this – it even has an app now, which I have on my phone), then check your chosen “safe” brand and make sure those ingredients aren’t in it.

7. Stop eating processed “foods”

Look, I am not a purist and I don’t pretend to do everything “right” even close to all the time. The occasional processed food isn’t going to kill you. But make it occasional, not part of your daily diet. If you eat a lot of processed food right now, then choose one meal a day to cut it out.

8. Choose plastics with the recycling symbols #4 & #5.

Avoid phthalates and BPA leaching into your food and skin by avoiding those plastics. There is more detail about this in the book. Some other plastics can be okay, but those are the safest.

9. Get rid of synthetic fragrances.

That means in cleaning products, air fresheners, candles and cosmetics. Fragrances are considered “proprietary knowledge” and therefore the individual chemical components don’t need to be listed. But there are thousands of chemicals that can be included, and when the US National Institute of
Occupational Health and Safety evaluated 2983 fragrance chemicals they found that 884 were toxic.

10. Switch out your candles!

Of course, if you use a lot of candles, you must stop using paraffin-based, scented or coloured candles now! Go with 100% pure beeswax for a healthier glow!

I’m not sure why candle come in 10th given every home has them and most people use them, but that’s beside the point (and I may be just a smidgen biased in thinking that this is a BIG issue and we need to be having the conversation loud and fast given the explosion in toxic, scented, paraffin and soy sludge candles that are being sold).

and, the next most obvious question:

2. What is your background and what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been on a journey to reduce the toxins in my life, and my family’s, for a while now. Part of how that started was when I was trying to get pregnant and had been told I might miscarry a few times. I figured whatever I could do to decrease that risk would be good, and I started to really focus on what I was putting in my body.

Then having kids of course you start to think about more than just what you are putting in your body. What are they being exposed to through their toys, the water, the air they’re breathing?

Added to that, a little over 12 months ago, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I suddenly had another motivation to take this journey a step further. She’s three week’s younger than me, and we’d both recently turned forty, and joked about how it’s all downhill from here. When my sister, and then step-father, were both diagnosed with bowel cancer a matter of months later, it was time to take action.

Did you know that 75% of the chemicals in everyday use in Australia have never been tested for human or environmental toxicity? Well, of course you do if you have read my book! And it’s just astounding to realise how many of the products on our supermarket shelves contain known and suspected carcinogens. They may be in small doses, but when they are all added together, and combined with other chemicals, how small is the dose then? And how do those chemicals interact in our bodies? The answer is, we just don’t know.

I was prompted to write this book partly by how overwhelming I found it when I started doing some solid research. I wanted to provide a way for people to start making changes without needing to feel overwhelmed. That’s why I called it Less Toxic Living, not non-toxic. There’s no such thing as non-toxic living in Australia today. But there are plenty of ways to reduce our exposure to nasty chemicals, and some of them are quite simple.

And at the same time, there’s a mass of information out there, in in-depth books, blogs and magazines. So I wanted to bring some of that together to give people some easy ways to change their lives, and some resources for where to go if they want to get more in-depth.”

 

I hope you  find the book interesting reading… certainly food for thought.

Cheers

Cate xx

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I’ve just had my third phone call for the month by a concerned customer who had been on another beeswax candle company website and was asking about whether there was chlorine in our beeswax.  She directed me to the site.  Apart from the fact that the information on the website is misleading and deceptive, the claims are fear-mongering and causes panic where there is no need for alarm.  There are enough genuine concerns for us to worry about in terms of chemicals in our lives without someone intentionally misleading people.

Amongst many other ridiculous, grandiose claims and lies, the (misleading and deceptive) website claims:

Chlorine in beeswax

Almost all candle manufacturers overlook or ignore this very crucial point when attempting to manufacture a clean fume candle.

If a candle manufacturer {beeswax or other} is not mentioning that their wax is free from chlorinated water for example, it is most probable that their wax is melted in and absorbing chlorine through chlorinated {town/city/potable} water.

“Chlorine must be avoided as the chlorine is absorbed by the wax and will be released as a toxic gas if burned in a candle” [ p69].
THE ABC AND XYZ OF BEE CULTURE, Morse & Flottum, 1990

A quick fact check reveals that the paragraph that he quotes from The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, Morse & Flottum, 1990 is taken completely out of context.  This particular part of the book (which is an invaluable beekeeping reference guide) is discussing options for chemically bleaching beeswax.  The relevant paragraph reads as follows:

“We cannot emphasize too strongly that there are several dangers and precautions to be taken when processing beeswax.  For example, bleaches using chlorine, which is an excellent bleaching agent, must be avoided as the chlorine is absorbed by the wax and will be released as a toxic gas if burned in a candle.” [emphasis added]

cleaning beeswax

The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, Morse & Flottum, 1990 (pg 69)

I couldn’t agree more.  They are talking about pouring raw chlorine into the wax to bleach it.

I can only speak for Queen B when I say that there is no chlorine (or any other chemical) used in our cleaning process.  Nor that of our beekeepers, all of whom we’ve audited prior to buying wax, and whom we’ve had relationships going on for a decade now.  In fact, I don’t know a single beekeeper who uses chlorine (or any chemicals) to clean their wax.  [The book, now in its 40th edition,  was first published in 1877.  It's age old wisdom has been standard practice in the industry for over 100 years.]  At Queen B we use the age-old process of purifying and cleaning our beeswax with water, time (to allow impurities to settle) and filters.  The filtration we use would certainly not be industry standard and is the result of a decade of trial (& error) and thorough testing.  We’ve ‘kissed a lot of frogs’ learning what we’ve learned.  We’ve also read all the literature and learned from our forefathers… both in beekeeping and in candlemaking.

I guess this is another reminder that unfortunately, even on the side of “good” there is the occasional evil person.  If you have bought in to any of the claims on this website, can I suggest that you ask to see the claimed organic certification for their wax.  Can I also suggest that you read our post about the pigments we use for our, world-renowned, rolled pillar range.  And, can I respectfully suggest, that if a company is a proven liar, who has no compunction in misleading and deceiving potential (and actual) customers and who actively seeks to cause fear where there is no cause for alarm, that you should not buy their products.  This is a company that claims on their home page to have been manufacturing pure beeswax candles since 1975 (although they claim on another page that they made their first tealight in 1993) and yet made all of their beeswax candles from a blend of beeswax and macadamia nut oil until Queen B launched pure beeswax tealight, votive and pillar candles… all the while ranting on their website about the fume dangers of burning an oil!  And those are statements of fact… and in context!

It is challenging enough to run a manufacturing business in Australia, hand-making natural products, without having to spend time countering bogus claims.  I am always grateful when misled consumers call because I can give them the facts… do the research… find the evidence.  What really horrifies me is all those customers who believe the claims and don’t call.  Who don’t know me and hence don’t know that the integrity of a Queen B candle is unimpeachable.  Who don’t have the opportunity to experience the beauty of a Queen B candle because they bought the lies.  Who are misled and deceived.  It is enough to make a grown bee cry..  And the greatest shame is that they are sullying an industry that has so much goodness in it.

… I’m off to light more (Queen B!) candles and a smudge stick just to remove their energy from our hive.

Yours in truth, facts and light,

Cate xx

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So we all know that I bang on constantly about not all waxes (paraffin, soy, palm and beeswax) being equal… well, that applies to beeswaxes too.

A few weeks ago a customer bought a ‘pure beeswax candle’ for me from Dusk.  It is sold at a discount to a the smallest Queen B hand-rolled honeycomb candle (theirs is about 20% narrower and would have less labour as it is not finished properly).  A part of me was thrilled that this purveyor of paraffin (petrochemical wax) candles now had a natural beeswax candle as part of their range, but I was a little disappointed to see that they were using what appeared to me to be very dirty beeswax, using the wrong wick and that the candles were messily made and unfinished.

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - pre lighting

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – pre lighting

 

Aesthetics first (because that is how you get a customer to notice your product in the first place): by not finishing the candle top and bottom it doesn’t actually sit straight and, in addition, most house proud people don’t want candles that look dirty.

And now on to the performance – which is really driven by the wax and the wick.  When bees make beeswax it is white, so any colour in beeswax is impurities.  A little of that is great… a little honey residue is what gives beeswax candles their natural honey aroma.  But a lot of impurities are a disaster waiting to happen in terms of a candle doing what a candle is supposed to do… ie provide light with a lovely, large flame.

It’s one thing to have a theory (and a decade of pounding your head against a brick wall to learn what you’ve learned :-0) and quite another to see that play out.  So we fired them up.  Notice the respective sizes of the flame upon being lit (and that the Dusk candle doesn’t sit straight).

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - just lit

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – just lit

 

After 30 minutes… wick used in the Dusk beeswax candle is beginning to drown… (the clean beeswax and cotton wick in the Queen B candle are performing well… happy queen).

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 30 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 30 minutes

 

An hour and a half in, the difference is even more noticeable.  If I were the Dusk customer I would now be thinking that beeswax candles are cr*p and don’t burn properly.  I’d be very disappointed.  I’d be thinking twice and thrice before forking out my hard earned money on beeswax candles again.

Queen B vs Dusk pure 100 pure bee wax candle - 90 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk pure beeswax candle – 90 minutes

 

2 hours in…

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 120 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 120 minutes

 

Two and a half hours…

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 150 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 150 minutes

 

Three hours… You really have to wonder how rigorous their testing procedures are… or do they just not care?

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle- 180 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle- 180 minutes

 

Three and a half hours…

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 210 minutes

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 210 minutes

 

Five hours burning now.  Dusk have a very disappointed customer and beeswax candles are now unfortunately tarred with the same brush…

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 5 hours

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 5 hours

 

And after seven and a half hours I’d seen everything that I needed to see.

Queen B vs Dusk 100 pure bee wax candle - 7.5 hours

Queen B vs Dusk beeswax candle – 7.5 hours

 

Anyone who knows me knows that anything that I say, I will say to someone’s face.  Brutally honest?  Yes.  Two faced?  No.  Three days ago, armed with my tests and photographs I called Dusk to try to speak to their product development people or the relevant buyer.  I was told by the Help Desk that they couldn’t give me those details for “privacy reasons” and to rather send an email.  I sent an email the same day – firstly alerting them to the problem (selling a product that didn’t perform, destroying their own brand and damaging the reputation of beeswax candles) and secondly offering to make their beeswax candles for them.  “Don’t just give me problems, give me solutions”!  I received a response telling me that my email had been sent on “to the appropriate persons who will be in touch should they wish to discuss further”.  The “appropriate persons” haven’t been in touch yet.

What’s not to discuss?

And that brings me to price.  Yes, there are beeswax candles on the market that are cheaper than Queen B candles, BUT I can say hand on heart (and having not increased our prices in over 6 years despite all of our costs increasing every year) that if they are cheaper they just aren’t the same quality.  Now, that is a BOLD statement.  It may even seem arrogant.  I genuinely don’t mean to be, I just know the cost of making pure beeswax candles.  Here’s what makes Queen B candles different:

1. we only buy 100% pure Australian beeswax (which is the most expensive beeswax in the world because it is free from the chemical residues that other beeswaxes have as we are free of the varroa mite)

2. we only buy beeswax from specific honey flows, from specific beekeepers and we have searched far and wide over the past decade to find those beekeepers who are producing the best beeswax available… and we pay well above the market rate so that they earn a premium for the premium product that they sell.

3. we then clean that wax (which beekeepers consider clean) properly ourselves over a period of 48 hours (using water and filtration)

4. we spend literally months on wick testing before we launch a candle on to the market.  With literally hundreds of pure cotton wicks at our fingertips there is a lot of testing to be done.  The difference between the wrong wick and the right wick is often only evident several hours into burning… or in certain weather conditions… or on a particular surface.  It’s not a craft, it’s a science.

5. we hand make every Queen B candle.  Sure you can churn them out of a machine faster (and cheaper) but you forgo quality and you forgo the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes a hand made product special.  Not sure how hippy you want to be about these things but I can be a bit out there and to me there is a certain magic in a candle that has been made by a person.  Sure it costs a little more.  Many a well intentioned person has advised me to look at mechanising our process or moving production off shore.  But to me it is untenable.  We have focused on being outrageously efficient and every single person who has ever worked at Queen B has understood very early on that if we aren’t all efficient we are out of business.

Designing and hand-making pure beeswax candles is a craft.  Ensuring they burn properly is a science.  At Queen B we try to do both with excellence, and THAT is the difference between a Queen B pure Australian beeswax candle and any other beeswax candle on the market.  Being a complete perfectionist has many, many drawbacks and one very obvious benefit.  The drawbacks are primarily mine to deal with, the single benefit is the greatest gift that I can give our customers and the bees that make the beautiful wax that goes into Queen B candles.

Thanks to you for your support.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter how good our wax is, how comprehensive our wick testing is or how much perfectionism we bring to the job, if no one is prepared to buy your wares you don’t have a business.  Thank you for letting me run this business.  I consider it a great privilege to do what I am passionate about every single day.

Cate xx

 

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It’s been an exciting week at the hive – a flurry of activity in the lead up to TEDxSydney  AND we’ve negotiated new international shipping rates which finally make shipping Queen B candles around the world affordable.

As I didn’t want to crash the site, my clever web guy loaded the rates in a week ago and we’ve been doing testing for the past week… and reweighing every product so we can ship them as cheaply as possible.  Interestingly, in the 5 days following the new rates being loaded we did as many international online sales as we did in the previous 12 months… just in case you were wondering whether we are genuinely impacted by shipping charges.  In order to get these rates I’ve had to commit to spending $5,000 on international shipping (which is a fraction of what we spend domestically).  So, it is a considered roll of the dice.  If you have friends or family living overseas who you think may be interested, please pass on to them that our shipping rates are now about 1/3 of what they were.

So, with no further ado, I declare Queen B open for business internationally… at far more appealing and competitive rates than we’ve ever been able to offer.  The rates embedded in the website are exactly what we get charged.  Best of all, in all those parcels already making their way across the world is a bulk box of our tealights to light up a wedding in Canada.  You’ve seriously got to love that.

Open for Business

 

___________________________________________________________________

Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax, a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holderspersonalised candlesvotive candlestealight candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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