Meet Asli Tanugur, CEO and Founder of BEE & YOU, a multi-awarded company, an innovative provider of natural BEE products. A woman who established a company based on her search to find a cure for her son's illness. A social entrepreneur that help rural women in Turkey to produce royal jelly in their locations, mom and wife.
Who is Asli? define yourself
I am a Food Engineer, and I graduated from the Food Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University in 1996. Later, I worked as an R&D and quality director at one of the leading honey manufacturing companies for 13 years. In the meantime, I completed a master's degree in the area of bee products at the Food Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University. I directed and coordinated many national and international projects. Some of those projects were granted achievement awards by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, and Eurowards Turkey. I have managed the efforts for establishing many quality and food safety management systems such as ISO 9001, ISO 22000, BRC, and ISO-17025 towards accreditation in the company that I worked. My entire work and research experience have been all about the bees and their valuable products since graduation. Then I established the SBS Scientific BioSolutions Company offering products in the same sector in Istanbul, Turkey.
"The most satisfying part of my job is to furnish a natural solution for people and mothers seeking options either for themselves or for their kids to heal"
Tell us more about your family and childhood?
My mother and my late father are both medical doctors. They were my enthusiastic supporters throughout my life, including my entrepreneurship tale. I always remember looking for answers as a curious child who loved to learn and dig the literature more to do research. Frankly, I wanted to be a scientist to help nature and people.
You studied Quality management systems and HACCP as a graduation thesis at the Department of Food Engineering of Istanbul Technical University. The same university awarded you a Master of Science degree with a research thesis on the determination of origin in honey. Why did you study bees? How did your interest in bees arise?
As a food engineer, I wanted to work in a sector that would contribute to the health and nutrition of people. So I decided to work at a job in the area of bee products. When I began learning more about beekeeping and their valuable products, I understood that I made the right choice. Once you become close to the world of bees, you admire how they live as each action is a purposeful activity. As much as I learned about their fascinating harmony in a hive to survive, I've become more interested in beekeeping.
Consequently, I devoted myself to doing research and adding value to bee products. In my research thesis, I aimed to evaluate the best methods to detect the origin of honey. It is very crucial to understand the authenticity of honey as it is one of the ten most adulterated products in all over the world. My research was the first study in identifying the authenticity of Turkish mono and poly-flora honey.
"I would recommend anyone interested in establishing a successful company must believe in herself or himself, have appropriate knowledge, work hard, and sometimes take the risk, I am sure that there is no reason for someone not to be successful under those conditions"
You have worked as an R&D, and Quality Director at Altıparmak Food Co., your research interest focused on bee product characterization with a particular emphasis on analytical methodology. You directed many R&D projects supported by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and Under secretariat of the Prime Ministry for Foreign Trade and also other national and international organizations. Your projects were also awarded by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, and Euro awards Turkey, etc. How did you jump from that point to become a co-founder of BEE&YOU?
When I was working as an R&D and Quality Director, I struggled with a significant problem. I had a 5-year-old son who occasionally developed a fever. For that, doctors prescribed antibiotics each time this happened, causing him to develop allergies for antibiotics. I desperately knocked on the door of many doctors to find a solution to this problem. After a long search, a physician told me that the only cure was to improve his immune system. So I started looking for natural ways of strengthening his immune system. Then I came across propolis and royal jelly in numerous literature I browsed. At that moment, I thought it was the most promising chance for my son's health. While I was so happy with the idea that my son would recover, I had no time to waste for getting pure propolis.
Honey is the most well known and the most consumed bee product in all over the world, and I have been in the honey business for many years. So, I instantly contacted some beekeepers I already knew, and I asked them to produce propolis for me. In those days, the beekeepers did not have any opportunity to sell it as a product as there was no demand for propolis from the market. Unfortunately, they used to throw it away. Indeed, it was difficult for them to process it as propolis is not edible in its raw form, and it has to go through extraction for human consumption. Then I developed an extraction process in my lab and started giving it to my son. In addition to the propolis extract alone, I also gave it in a mixture with honey and royal jelly every day. The result was amazing! Eventually, my son was not sick, even for months. It was like a dream came true, filling me with the joy of life again. Based on this experience, I challenged to produce propolis as a natural immune enhancer for all the children and mothers who might have similar difficulties.
Later, I've convinced my husband Mr. Taylan Samanci, who is an Agricultural Engineer. We also talked to my academic advisor, Prof. Dr. Dilek Boyacioglu, to establish a company and to be my business partner. My company is the first one in Turkey, producing propolis and also other bee products through a "Contracted Beekeeping Business Model" in 2013. I preferred to establish it in the Technology Development Area of Istanbul Technical University to access the privileges of Turkey's technological advancements for Start-Up businesses. In the beginning, I built up the first plant for the extraction of propolis in Turkey. Subsequently, the first award was granted for innovating that extraction process developed explicitly for propolis by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. The nutrient content of the product was extraordinary! Flavonoids and antioxidant content of propolis extract I obtained are at least three times higher than any other competitor's brand in the market. BEE & YOU Propolis has almost 80 times higher antioxidant content than a pomegranate juice. Afterward, as my entrepreneurship story spread around my friends and family, thousands of parents became familiar with my products.
This is the brief story of how I founded my company. I introduced these unique products into the world markets under the brand names of BEE&YOU and BEE'O. It is truly an invaluable joy for me to serve those who suffer health problems and want to improve their immunity in natural ways.
"Network and communication are critical while growing your business. Needless to say, the team is also vital"
What's the recipe for the success of your company?
First of all, we produce that valuable product accurately and deliver it to the consumers in its most natural form while keeping all its nutritive power. Secondly, propolis is now a value-added product of beehives in Anatolia as it was discarded before we created a market in Turkey. Our customers feel the enormous potential of propolis improving their health as we understand through their thankful messages showing their appreciation.
We care about being honest and sincere to our customers. Through the years, we've been building our brand from scratch, we always believed in the power of truthfulness and reliability, and we targeted to keep the natural power of those products. We communicate with our customers all the time. We follow through their questions and commit to answering quickly and clearly as we value their opinions very much.
Since the backbone of our company relies on science, we provide our customers with scientific research findings in beehive products. That is how we could have managed to become a family with our customers based on trust, honesty, and scientific facts. I believe this is the foundation of our success.
You have been granted fourteen international and fourteen national awards since the foundation of your company, what does BEE&YOU make unique in the market?
Propolis is a 100% natural beehive product that honeybees collect from resin parts of trees and plants. Honeybees store propolis inside the hive to protect their colony from bacterial and viral infections. They also put propolis at the bottom of each cell before they store honey and royal jelly to preserve these products as well. In short, propolis is the natural protector of the beehive.
On the other hand, raw propolis is not suitable for human consumption, and it is subjected to an extraction process. This process must be carried out by experts in appropriate conditions. Otherwise, the biological activity of propolis may be lost. We extract propolis by preserving those components at a maximum amount by a method that we developed at Istanbul Technical University. Propolis extracted according to our process, has at least three times higher biological activity than that of similar products available in the market. Our company has been granted 28 national and international awards so far.
"Being an entrepreneur creates some financial and moral dilemmas, but they never scared me, and I never gave up even when I was in difficulty. I believe that knowledge is essential when growing your business"
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
Refresh yourself continually, take necessary steps towards my goal and believe in scientific facts.
Do you have a particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
I never give up once I set up my goals! I honestly believe what makes the difference is the power of knowledge. That's my philosophy of success.
What do you love most about your job? & what is the most challenging part?
First of all, I love my job, and I am so pleased to contribute to the sustainability of beekeeping in Turkey. The bees and their medicinal products representing this unique society have an extraordinary meaning for me because they helped my son to recover from an immune disorder. As he is a healthy teenager now, their curing power made me admire bees and their fascinating products even more. The most satisfying part of my job is to furnish a natural solution for people and mothers seeking options either for themselves or for their kids to heal. It is a pleasure for me to receive thousands of appreciation messages from patients, mothers, and people with enhanced health conditions. I love touching the lives of people who look for natural remedies to improve their well-being status.
At the beginning of this story, I admit that I have had some difficulties as an entrepreneur. People around me have told me that I have only technical knowledge. However, trading and managing a business are different games, and I could struggle with marketing our products.
But I did not hesitate to step in. I had already set my goals; I had full confidence in myself. I just focused on my goal worked non-stop, expanded my team day by day, and managed to come to those days with the contribution of my team.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
First of all, I would recommend anyone interested in establishing and governing a successful company must believe in herself or himself, have appropriate knowledge, work hard, and sometimes take the risk. That's what I recommend to people who are on the way of becoming an entrepreneur. I am sure that there is no reason for someone not to be successful under those conditions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think the first and foremost important message is establishing the network. Network and communication are critical while growing your business. Needless to say, the team is also vital. There are currently 95 employees on our staff. Now, we are Turkey's largest producer of propolis with our 3,000-square-meter facility and with our expert team. While growing your business, it is crucial to decide on the target audience for products. Then you should use the right tools, at the right place and at the right time to reach the audience. The attractive messages should be delivered to the consumers. We produce a product connected to the health and well-being of people, so they can observe and feel the change and impact in their daily lives. As we receive lots of positive feedback from our customers, we are confident that they welcome our products.
"When you work hard day and night, the support you receive from the family becomes even more critical. Taylan Samancı, my husband, is also my business partner. He's always been my biggest helper. The support of my family is the main reason for success"
How are you as a wife, as a mom?
My children are the most precious thing in the world to me. Looking at what I did, I literally established a company based on my search to find a cure for my son's illness. My husband is an Agricultural Engineer and a beekeeping specialist. We work together, and we have always been great supporters of each other.
What are your plans for the second semester of 2019?
In the second semester of 2019, we will concentrate on R&D studies. We will continue to develop natural, innovative, and value-added bee products. Besides, we aim to increase our exports. Meanwhile, our social responsibility projects will continue.
One of them is so exciting for me as we aim rural women to produce royal jelly in their locations. Hence, we will help them to contribute to the economy and eventually provide more royal jelly, a fascinating bee product, in Anatolia. We aim to expand this project by covering more regions of Turkey.
What piece of advice can you give to young girls who want to work in the food industry or want to be a scientist like you?
Honestly speaking, at the beginning of this journey, I was not motivated but somewhat discouraged. Many people said that trade is a different and challenging game, and my qualifications might not be enough to succeed. Then, some criticized my decision of leaving a corporate life on a fixed salary. But I continued to advance in line with my dream. Inevitably, being an entrepreneur creates some financial and moral dilemmas, but they never scared me, and I never gave up even when I was in difficulty. I believe that knowledge is essential when growing your business. I overcome most of the problems with the help of my network and by utilizing my expertise in the beekeeping area and working hard.
And in my private life, my family supported me very much. When you work hard day and night, the support you receive from the family becomes even more critical. For a female entrepreneur, it is vital to have the support of her husband. My husband, Taylan Samancı, is also my business partner. He's always been my biggest helper. The support of my family is the main reason for success.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Asli and what´s not?
I am a hard-working, strong, determined, and fighter person. I do my job with great love. Looking back on what I've experienced so far, I acknowledge that it is very challenging for a mother. But I am glad to provide the miracle of Anatolian propolis to people and help them.
Who is the woman you admire the most, and why?
I admire Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful women in the world. She is a journalist, talk show host, and actress. Looking at her early career, I understand that she never gives up, although she was told to be unfit for television news at the beginning. However, she moved on and became the best-paid female in the entertainment industry. She demonstrated to the world that achievement is possible with love, determination, and hard work. And, she is a dreamer. After decades of her famous show, she quit and started her own broadcasting network as a final episode of her life. She is doing what she does best, and she runs after her dreams.
Name: Asli Tanugur Samanci
Company: BEE & YOU
Designation: CEO and Founder
Instagram: @beeandyounatural, @ aslieliftanugursamanci