STORY+PHOTOS: Kathy Ingold
An experienced nurse with a flair for the creative found happiness and success in an unexpected place. Eustis resident, Diane Russell, never dreamed she would one day give up her beloved job as a nurse in exchange for the unknown path of beeswax and artisan honey. It’s a decision she made just under two years ago that has forever changed her life and she couldn’t be happier!
After marrying beekeeper Bill she desired to contribute her portion to his work with bees. Although she had no prior experience running a business, Diane began selling honey and making a variety of candles at a farmer’s market while still working as a nurse. When it became obvious she could no longer continue both jobs, she traded her stethoscope for an apron (beeswax can be sticky!) and turned her dining room into a workshop.
Along the way, she discovered burning beeswax candles was beneficial to her asthma. Honey and beeswax have been known to aid in a variety of health issues. Diane’s 100-percent beeswax candles, with natural cotton wicks, emit negative ions (cleans air and decreases odor and allergens in the air). They are nontoxic, hypoallergenic, and burn a long time.
Diane didn’t stop with candles. She was given a starter recipe for soap and has since altered the recipe to make it her own with the help of her son, who just so happens to be a chemist.
Each bar of soap contains honey, beeswax, and goat’s milk, which makes a combination unlike any other. She now raises Nigerian dwarf goats and twice a day is in the barn milking the cutest brown and white goats you’ve ever seen.
She and Bill raise the bees, milk the goats, extract the honey, and clean the wax.
“It’s as home grown as you can get it” says Diane. “I use as many organic and natural products as I can.” Her soap has gained a following and is practically flying off the shelves. Colored and scented soaps are also available, which contain clay for color and essential oils for fragrance. Currently, the most popular scent is frankincense and myrrh.
Let’s not forget the honey! Diane bottles pure raw honey with the following flavors: orange blossom, clover, all-season wildflower, and palmetto in a variety of sizes and containers. Even though she does not advertise, she says “People are chasing me down.” KayDee Kay Gourmet Foods in Mount Dora and Olive Pantry in Lake Mary approached her, and both stores now offer her honey in their shops.
What seems like a whirlwind of success has not come without dedication and sacrifices. Diane started from scratch and had to teach herself how to create labels, design a logo, calculate production costs, create business cards, and every other tedious task associated with becoming a licensed business owner. She’s up at daybreak every day joyfully preparing for the tasks ahead and dedicates five days a week to bottling honey and making soaps and candles.
“My business is taking over my house.” She says she works harder now than she ever did as a nurse and loves every minute of it, confirming the adage “if you work at something you’re passionate about, it’s not work.” Diane is exploring plans to build a workshop next to her home with a self-service honey stand so she can have her dining room back!
Humbled that her business has blossomed, Diane encourages every woman who dreams of starting a business to choose something they love. “There are many opportunities now, because consumers want handmade natural artisan craft items. If you have the desire to work on a craft that you love, maybe you can make a business out of it.”
Diane can be found at the Eustis Farmer’s Market every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. during the winter months and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. this summer. She’s also occasionally at craft or garden exhibits. At the market, she gladly teaches how to make products with honey and wax such as salves, deodorant, lip balm, and other household remedies.