It’s pitch-black outside, but inside the steamy windows of Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul, Liesa Helfen and Mike Sedlacek are still buzzing. They are not even slowed by the irony in which Kopplin’s is temporarily out of Ames Honey, which Kopplin’s uses in its café miels (Ames is where both Helfen and Sedlacek got their start). Still, they’ve got the proverbial bee in their bonnets, shooting out mystifying, wonderful facts as they sip coffee.
“The bees excrete royal jelly through their head,” she stops to breathlessly re-enact this, charades-style. “And propolis serves as the hive’s immune system, which creates an antifungal cocoon.” Like bees take to pollen, Helfen is a natural scholar—right now it’s a book about “North American honey plants, from 1926”—storing facts in her memory bank for later.
The animated Helfen and Sedlacek are best buds and two-thirds of Worker B, an all-natural skin-care line featuring beeswax and honey, which debuted at the State Fair honey counter in 2010. (Helfen’s brother, Michael, handles budgets and technology. “He’s an engineer,” Liesa says by way of explanation.) The line of creams, lotions, putties, and balms, plus a dietary supplement, grew from Helfen and Sedlacek’s love of beekeeping.
Worker B keeps two beehives and personally knows every beekeeper they purchase ingredients from. “We make everything by hand, and nothing we do is cheap,” Sedlacek says.
The ingredients (which are few) are organic and domestically and sustainably sourced, save for the organic almond oil, which comes from the Mediterranean. Helfen and Sedlacek are particular about how bees are kept, as there are problematic and unsustainable practices around the globe. For example, honey in China has been found to contain antibiotics, and in other places, bees are sprayed with pesticides and are forced to pollinate, rather than allowing them to pollinate as they would naturally. “They shrink wrap the hives, drive them around the country in trucks, and then overcook the honey, which removes all the nutritional benefit,” Helfen says.
“It works,” Sedlacek says of the line, which he used on his radiation burns during his cancer treatment. “We had to learn a lot of stuff, but we can now tell you that it’s thoughtful and there’s no filler.” With that, they take their final sip of coffee, and put on their coats. It’s time for the busy bees to return to the hive.
In 16 months, Worker B has developed 10 products, ranging from light facial moisturizers to intense putty for cracked hands and feet. They also took home Best in Show from the New York International Gift Fair and an AIGA award for their letterpress packaging.
Find it: Worker B products are available at multiple locations, including The Bibelot Shops, Bachman’s, and worker-b.com.
3 Fun Uses for Worker B and Honey
1. Liesa takes her Huskies skijoring, and uses Worker B to protect their noses and paws.
2. Honey and blood make hydrogen peroxide when combined—a great natural antiseptic.
3. Beeswax is an anti-inflammatory and increases blood circulation, making the lotion bar great for massage.