Vendor Spotlight: Sustainable Food Wraps with Meli Wraps

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Store Vendor Spotlight with Meli Wraps Beeswax Wraps
This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on May 30, 2022.


Hello, friend!
 How was your holiday weekend?? Anything exciting? I’d love to hear about it so I can celebrate with you! Just comment below and tell me all about it.

I’m so excited for another round of our Vendor Spotlight series today. It’s been so fun sitting down with the people behind the products we have here at A Drop in the Ocean and getting to know them as humans, as business owners, and as EcoWarriors.

This month, I sat down with Melia Foster, the co-founder and owner of Meli Wraps, the sustainable and reusable beeswax wraps we sell in the shop.

I had never met Melia before, and hearing her journey in her own words was inspiring. Plus, she shared with me what sets Meli Wraps apart from other beeswax wraps brands, and I definitely learned a thing or two (and gasped when she turned a glass of water upside down and it didn’t leak at all). 

I also loved hearing how much Melia’s love for the ocean and conservation are infused into Meli Wraps. It’s not just about the wraps - it’s about inspiring everyone to use less plastic and care for our planet in our everyday actions, and this message is so beautifully woven into this whole interview.

Melia is such a kind soul and I can’t wait for you to get to know her, too 💙

AT A GLANCE:
01:40 // Who is Meli Wraps and how did it get started?
08:03 // How did Meli Wraps get its name?
09:13 // What goes into beeswax wraps and where do you get your ingredients and materials?
12:11 // How do you use beeswax wraps?
17:23 // What sets Meli Wraps apart from other wax wraps and wax wraps makers?
20:00 // Question to our EcoWarriors about the products we sell!
20:25 // What is your favorite part of what you do?
24:26 // A little history of beeswax wraps
25:20 // What’s something you’re proud of?
26:57 // Melia’s message to our EcoWarriors

Want to listen to this interview instead? Here’s an audio-only version!

Got a question for future vendor interviews? Drop ‘em here!

MENTIONED IN THE VIDEO:

Follow Meli Wraps on Instagram
Follow Meli Wraps on TikTok
Check out the Meli Wraps online shop

TRANSCRIPT:

MELIA FOSTER: Our goal when we started this company was to inspire more and more people to choose sustainable products and to preserve our ocean, keep plastic out of the ocean, and so I feel like every time we make a sale, it's not about the dollar sign. It's more about, hey, this person is excited about not using plastic wrap and they're going to tell somebody else, and they're going to tell somebody else, and it's like this ripple in the ocean, just keeps on going, so that's what keeps us inspired.

KRYSTINA JARVIS: Hello! How are you today, Melia?

MELIA: Yes, you got it. I'm doing great, yeah. Thank you. How are you doing?

KRYSTINA: I'm doing good. I'm very excited for this today.

MELIA: Same here. Yeah, I was really looking forward to it. Just waking up in Hawaii here.

KRYSTINA: Is it gorgeous there today? 

MELIA: You know, the sun woke me up, it was beautiful, and then it started dumping, it was pouring rain and now it's beautiful again, so we call it rainbow weather.

KRYSTINA: Yes. Yes. Is that typically what it's like around this time of year?

MELIA: Yes. Yeah. Springtime, we get a ton of showers and the farmers love it. All of our crops are growing and lots of beautiful flowers here.

KRYSTINA: Oh, that sounds beautiful. Yeah. So I'm in Tacoma, Washington. Today is actually pretty sunny and I'm pretty excited. I think I'm going to try to get outside a little bit today.

MELIA: Nice.

KRYSTINA: Yeah. So let's just jump right in. So you are the founder of Meli Wraps. You make reusable beeswax wraps that we sell in our shop, A Drop in the Ocean. Can you just introduce yourself and your business, and we'll go from there?

MELIA: Sure, absolutely. So I actually started Meli Wraps back in 2016 with one of my best friends from high school. We were in the Earth Club together, we bought homes across the street from each other here in Hawaii, and we were on a mom's getaway in Australia and we saw something very similar to what we're selling now covering a bowl of fruit, it looked like a piece of wax cloth. And I looked at that and I was like, "Wow, that is so incredible. Why don't we have these in Hawaii? Why don't we have them in America?" I'd never seen them before.

And so we got home and we're like, "Let's try to make some of those. Those are amazing." And living across the street from each other, we're just were running across the street with pots and pans and bought some beeswax and we're just having so much fun, like, "Check this out. What do you think about this?" And after a few months, we perfected our recipe and came up with this amazing beeswax wrap and we started giving them to friends and family. Our kitchens were covered in wax. Our family's like, "What is going on?" But yes, we started in the kitchen and have since moved into a nice warehouse space and have a nice team. But yeah, it's been such a fun journey and I feel like growing up in Hawaii, you're very familiar with, you're looking at nature all the time. I'm sure it's very similar in Washington. You have just beauty surrounding you, and so we were inspired by such an amazing sustainable product to keep our island looking amazing with less plastic in it, and we were like, "This is brilliant."

Anyway, we both had corporate jobs and we ended up quitting our corporate jobs after a couple of years, and now, I actually took over the company during the pandemic. Long story short, it was just some changes happened but here we are, we're still offering our wonderful product and I'm happy to share more about how it works for those that don't understand what a beeswax wrap is, but yeah.

KRYSTINA: Oh, that's such a great story, and congratulations! So you're only six years in and you have moved into a production space and you have a team. That is fantastic. Congratulations.

MELIA: Thank you so much. Yeah. We wore all of the hats forever and it's tricky. To find that balance is always tricky for any entrepreneur, so I feel like that was a challenge in itself, but so much fun. The journey is always the best part.

KRYSTINA: Yeah, absolutely. That's kind of where I'm at now. So A Drop in the Ocean is about three years old now and I'm still basically wearing all the hats. I have a very part-time virtual assistant right now but definitely starting to feel that strain of there's too much happening for basically one person. I'm about to have to start hiring people, which I'm terrified of but also very excited about.

MELIA: Yes. Yes, it can be a little scary to let go of all that control when you've been in it from the beginning, but it's necessary at one point, I think, to grow.

KRYSTINA: Absolutely. 

So how did you shift from just making these in your kitchen for friends and family to actually starting a business and selling to other retailers?

MELIA: So we went from doing farmer's markets in Hawaii, which are just filled with tourists. Hawaii is based on tourism and locals as well, we have all these amazing locally made products, so we started selling at the farmer's markets and from there, we're like, "Gosh, we should check out some local stores and I'm sure these would do well in the stores." So we built a little workshop in my backyard, so we moved out of the kitchen into the backyard. A very small space, like a 10 by 10, and sometimes, we'd be working all day at our corporate jobs and then come home at night and make wax wraps, and in between, making dinner for kids, and anyway, it was fun.

From there, my business partner, Nicole, she actually moved to Oregon so she thought, "Gosh, this is a perfect opportunity for us to expand to the mainland," we call it, and we started selling to different gift shops and health food stores around Oregon and the West Coast, so we were in all of Hawaii and the west coast. And then I think the biggest turning point was going to Expo West where we connected with some sales reps and they were able to help us get all the way to the East Coast, so we've been expanding more and more and more. Hopefully, this year, we'll be in Japan, which is really exciting.

KRYSTINA: Ooh, that's very exciting. Congratulations.

MELIA: Thank you. Our goal when we started this company was to inspire more and more people to choose sustainable products and to preserve our ocean, keep plastic out of the ocean, and so I feel like every time we make a sale, it's not about the dollar sign. It's more about, hey, this person is excited about not using plastic wrap and they're going to tell somebody else, and they're going to tell somebody else, and it's like this ripple in the ocean, just keeps on going. So that's what keeps us inspired.

KRYSTINA: Absolutely. I love that. I have very similar goals with my business. That's why we're named A Drop in the Ocean, because it's recognizing that one thing isn't going to change the world but it has the power to have those ripples, both in our own lives and in our communities.

MELIA: Absolutely. I love it.

KRYSTINA: Yeah.

So you mentioned before we started the recording how your company got its name. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MELIA: Yes, definitely. So growing up in Hawaii, I was born and raised here on Kauai, and meli means honeybee in Hawaiian, and so we thought it was just very appropriate that we name the company Meli Wraps, because they are based on and there's beeswax involved. And we source local beeswax from the big island in Hawaii and we support local beekeepers, and we just try to keep everything as local as possible. We are not made in China, we are made in the USA on a tiny island in Hawaii and we do not skimp on quality. So yeah, that's how we got our name. It's not part of my name, which is Melia, but a lot of people think that that's how we got our name.

KRYSTINA: Well, that's honestly what I thought when I saw your name. I was like, oh, that's such a cute name, to take your name and then move it into your business name, so I think that's a really great coincidence there.

MELIA: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people named Melissa are called Meli a lot, and so they're so excited when they find our product. They're like, "Meli Wraps. This is meant for me." It's very fun.

KRYSTINA: Yeah. Oh, that's great. 

So you mentioned that all of your beeswax is sourced in Hawaii. I know that there's more involved in beeswax wraps than just beeswax, so what other ingredients and materials do you use and where do you find those?

MELIA: Absolutely. So we only use GOTS certified organic cotton, which we do produce. We obviously don't print it in Hawaii, we don't have those capabilities here, but we hire a local artist, Lauren Taylor Davis, and she does all of our amazing prints. I'll just show you some of those right here. So we have... Oh, can't really see them. Here. There we are.

KRYSTINA: Yes.

MELIA: There's little papayas, there's shells, there's sharks. We're really inspired by what we see around here in Hawaii, everything's very tropical. So we use organic cotton, Hawaiian beeswax, natural tree resin, organic coconut oil and organic jojoba oil, so all very high quality supplies and ingredients. And we basically just melt those together and infuse the organic cotton and then we go ahead and cut everything up and send it off to you.

KRYSTINA: Yeah. So the designs that we have are the sharks, we have one with big tropical leaves, and then we have one that's a coral design. And that was really what drove me to your shop when I was looking at adding beeswax wraps to A Drop In The Ocean. There's so many different options out there and I was really drawn to Meli Wraps because, A, you make your products in the states and you source your products locally, but also just the designs are so cute.

And I really love bright and bold colors and I try to reflect that in the products that we sell, and so having your beautiful designs and then knowing that you also have somebody local that you know personally that's making those designs is really great as well.

MELIA: Oh, thank you so much. I feel like after being in business for seven years or six years, that's what keeps me excited. I'm like, "What am I going to make next?" And then if people are really interested in those new prints, it's like, okay, we're in going the right direction.

But yeah, that's the fun part, to stay inspired. We love the ocean prints, and the idea behind that was to remind people that, hey, we need to take care of our ocean, it's super important. Growing up in Hawaii, we would find so many shells on the beach. Now, we find microplastic so we tend to pick those up instead of shells, so it's just a great reminder to be aware and use less plastic.

KRYSTINA: Yes, absolutely. 

Can you walk us through how to use beeswax wraps, then? Now that we know what they are and how you make them, how do you use them?

MELIA: Absolutely. So there's some really fun ways to use them. Each pack that we offer comes with a small, a medium and a large, and the small wraps are perfect for half an avocado, half a lemon. You could actually put one over a glass with liquid in it, and if you turn it upside down, it won't leak, so they are waterproof. 

Another fun way to use our small wrap, which is a seven by seven, is to fold into a little envelope. And this is one of my favorite uses because not all brands that make beeswax wraps can do this. I think we just have a really good recipe. We put the right amount of wax in there, we have Hawaiian beeswax, which is really high quality. But this is a little envelope and I have some carrot sticks in there, but basically, you could just seal it up and put it in a lunch box or take it with you in your purse.

Our medium sized wrap is perfect for a sandwich, a bagel, a block of cheese, a large bowl, like this is a salad bowl here. And then the large wrap is a 10 by 16, which perfectly covers a 9 by 13 pan, so a lot of people love that. But I'd say my favorite use is to cover half avocados and half a lemon, that kind of thing. Everybody loves them for cheese too. They do a great job.

KRYSTINA: I definitely have a block of cheese in my fridge wrapped in one of your wraps.

MELIA: Awesome. Thank you.

KRYSTINA: They're so easy to wrap too because since they're square, you can just fold it up like a little present and then it just looks so cute in your fridge too.

MELIA: Yes, exactly. Every time we're at farmer's markets or any sort of expo, the children are always drawn in. They're like, "What is that little present?" and they just want to open it up. So I think moms love our products to make lunch boxes with, and the kids just love them too, and they get it. It's so funny, the next generation I feel like just understands what these are all about. They're like, "Oh, if you use this, you don't have to throw it away."

KRYSTINA: Yes, exactly. And I do like that your wraps can be folded into a little pouch so then you can cover things, you can wrap things. You can basically replace Saran wrap and Ziploc bags just with one product and I think that's a really great way to further reduce what we're bringing into our homes because if we have one product that serves multiple purposes, then we don't need to keep buying all these different things.

MELIA: Exactly. It's so true. I think I read a statistic last year, it was like the average family goes through 24 rolls of plastic wrap and 1,000 Ziploc bags a year, and I was like, oh, that's a lot of plastic going into the landfill.

KRYSTINA: Oh my goodness.

MELIA: Maybe not in certain states, but overall, it's crazy.

KRYSTINA: Oh, that's so much.

MELIA: Yeah, it's a lot. So I feel like I'm in the right business. I just feel good about doing this. I'm sure you feel the same way.

KRYSTINA: Yes.

MELIA: Yeah, I saw your products online and I'm like, "Wow, these are great,” and I'm going to go shopping after this interview.

KRYSTINA: Well, thank you. I am very proud of the products that we sell and that's part of why I'm so excited about this series that we're doing, is because I have vetted every product in the shop and I'm really proud of the products that we have, and so getting to do this series where we actually get to meet the people making these products because they're not mass produced, they're not made on the other side of the world, they're all made as close to home as possible by real people that really started these businesses out of a passion for what they do and a passion for doing better for the planet. 

And so that's why I'm really excited about these series, is really getting to know the faces behind the products. Because some of the businesses are super local and so I know personally the people, but this is the first time you and I have connected personally and so I'm learning a lot about your business and we get to share that information with the rest of my community, so I'm really excited about that.

MELIA: I love it. I really love it. I've had people contact me by email and they're like, "I know you're this really big company," and I'm like, "Actually, there's a handful of us," and we’re just really productive. But yeah, we keep it that way. We like the close knit community and we support local jobs here. During the pandemic, in Hawaii, everything's based on tourism so when we were in lockdown, nobody had a job and it was kind of crazy. And so here, it was wonderful to offer something, new jobs to those that didn't have to count on tourism so that felt good.

KRYSTINA: Yeah, absolutely. 

So I think that we've kind of touched on this in a few different ways but what would you say really sets Meli Wraps apart from other beeswax wraps and other wax wrap makers?

MELIA: Absolutely. So I feel like what sets us apart first and foremost is our bright, beautiful prints. We every few months or so will create a couple of new prints that really stand out, and people always come to us and they're like, "Gosh, I've seen these somewhere before but never with these amazing prints." I'm like, "Oh, thank you," and we really take pride in that. 

But even moreso, I would say the longevity, so our wraps last about 150 washes or one to two years. Most wraps on the market will last about six months to a year on average. And I always joke with people that are repeat customers, because they're like, "Mine are still going strong. We're almost at three years," and I'm like, "I'm making these way too good! I'm making them too good. They're not buying more!” But anyway, I think the quality of our product is really what sets us apart.

And we're also one of the first companies to go ahead and make a roll, so this is a 42 inch by 13 and a half inch roll that you can cut to size. So just innovation, creating new products, but definitely the quality of our product working really well. 

There's some really big companies that decided to go the beeswax route, large companies that decided to go ahead and create beeswax wraps in the last couple of years and I have customers coming up to me and they're like, "I don't know, I bought this one from this one shop I'm not going to name and I just don't know what's going on. Do I need to massage it? What am I doing wrong?" And I'm like, "I've bought that too to check it out. It's too thick, it crumbles, they use the wrong wax. They were trying to skimp on quality and pay less money." So you know how that goes, that you pay for what you get.

KRYSTINA: Exactly. Yes. I have definitely noticed that yours seem to hold up really well and they work really well. The first time I used them, I was really impressed with how easily they molded to different things, and I think even just you demonstrating that glass of water that you just turned upside down, that's a huge testament to the quality of your product.

MELIA: Oh thank you. Yes, we do take pride in that. We're not going to skimp.

KRYSTINA: Yes. And for anybody that's watching this video once it gets posted, if you are interested in A Drop In The Ocean stocking those rolls, let me know. Because when I was first looking at your products, I was super intrigued by those but I was like, all right, I'm either going to do the roles or the sets. And so I went with the sets, but if people are interested in the roles, let me know and then we can add those as well.

MELIA: Perfect.

KRYSTINA: So what is your favorite part of what you do? It sounds like you're really passionate about what you do and you really love this business that you've built and that you're continuing to build, but out of all the things that you do, what is your favorite part of it?

MELIA: Oh gosh. There are so many things that I love about it. Of course, number one is just inspiring other people to stop using the... Inspiring them with a new product that they've never seen before and having them have that aha moment right in front of me. Especially when we go to the expos and fares around the US, and they're like, "Wow, this is amazing. Good job." And I'm like, "Thank you." It's just that connection or people having that aha moment of like, "I'm never going to use plastic wrap again." So I think the inspiration part is number one for me, definitely, but this business has also allowed me to spend more time with my children. I have two boys. When I worked a nine to five, it was a little bit different. I was just stuck in the office wearing high heels. I have not worn heels since I worked in an office, which is wonderful.

KRYSTINA: I love wearing heels and I actually wear heels every time I record a TikTok video. You can't see them but it gives me that extra boost of confidence, but it's also just so nice to not have to wear heels if I don't want to.

MELIA: Exactly. Yes, I feel the same way. Maybe I have worn them on a couple of dates. We'll see. Yeah. And also, let's see. Gosh. What else has this business done for me? 

I feel like just supporting my community has been huge as far as supporting local beekeepers and creating local jobs, and then also just offering a really quality product from a tiny little island and just inspiring other people if they have an idea to go for it, because it's all a learning experience but it can be really rewarding to start your own company that you really believe in and it's just very inspiring. I'm inspiring myself sometimes, it's wonderful.

KRYSTINA: I love that so much and I just want to reiterate what you just said about, it can be scary but it can be so rewarding to do that thing. So for me, A Drop in the Ocean was out of... Let me start that story over again. 

I was seeing a lot of videos about other zero waste shops opening in Europe and they were all on social media and people were like, "Like this video if you want to see something like this in your hometown." And I was like, that's great, but unless somebody actually steps up and does the thing, liking a video on Facebook isn't going to actually make that happen. And then I had this moment where I was like, "Oh wait, I could be that person. I could step up and make this happen."

I don't have a business background. I had no idea what I was doing. I still feel most days like I don't know what I'm doing, but it's so rewarding, and getting to build something new and something that makes an impact and it creates a difference for your community and for the planet. And so I just want to reiterate what you are saying about how it can be scary, but sometimes, you've just got to go for it.

MELIA: Absolutely. And I'm so happy you started that shop. We finally have, I think there's two or three on this island of the refill stores, but it's great. I'm like, this is brilliant. Why do we think about this like years ago?

KRYSTINA: Right?

MELIA: Yeah.

KRYSTINA: Yeah, yeah. And really, it's just going back to the way things used to be.

MELIA: Right.

KRYSTINA: We just got away from it for 50 years, and so I think we're just having a coming back to a simpler time in a lot of ways.

MELIA: It's really funny that you say that because I did a lot of research on beeswax wraps when we were creating our company and I read about how the Egyptians used to take wax cloth and use it to preserve food. And I'm like, they knew, and so this has been around since way before plastic and so what we're doing is just bringing it back. It's not like it was invented in the last 10 years. It wasn't. It was something very ancient and we're just bringing it back because we're sick of plastic.

KRYSTINA: Yep. Yep. I also just very recently saw that and I actually have it on a list of things that I want to do more research on because I think that's fascinating, that we've gone from ancient Egypt, now to 2022, just full circle.

MELIA: Right, right. We're coming back. Bring it back.

KRYSTINA: Yes, we are making progress.

MELIA: Absolutely.

KRYSTINA: So what is something that you are really proud of? And that could be with your business, in your personal life. Just you as a person, what is something that you're really proud of?

MELIA: Oh gosh. I would have to say raising my two boys to be very eco-conscious and just very aware. When I do laundry, I'll find pieces of plastic and trash in their shorts because they're both surfers. They'll pick up trash and little pieces of plastic off the beach when they're surfing, and I'm like, how many other kids are doing this? Or they'll see their friends throwing something in the trash can that should be recycled and they're like, "Hey man, put that in the recycle bin." So that makes me really happy, that they are my pride and joy. Besides my business, my children are number one, and so to see them passing on this knowledge and awareness to others is really important to me, so I feel like that's my biggest accomplishment.

KRYSTINA: That is absolutely something to be proud of, so on behalf of the planet, thank you for raising conscious children. That is really wonderful. 

So last question. Is there just anything else that we didn't cover or anything else that you want to share with our community?

MELIA: We love to partner or give back to ocean conservation groups like the Surfrider Foundation or, gosh, there's been a few others, Sustainable Coastlines, and I just want to put that out there. If you're having some sort of eco-friendly event or something like that, we would love to donate a little bit of product for a giveaway or something like that. We love to make connections and inspire people to realize that there's really great products out there that are easy swap, and yeah, just reach out to us.

KRYSTINA: So I guess the last one wasn't technically the last question. I guess last question would be where can people find you?

MELIA: Well, we do have a website. It's meliwraps.com, and you can contact us in the bottom, there's a little contact form. If you ever want to just email us, that's totally fine.

KRYSTINA: What about your social media? Where can people find you on social?

MELIA: Yes. So on Instagram, we're @meliwraps, and same with Facebook. We are on TikTok, we're getting into TikTok finally, trying to embrace that. I'm learning, but yeah, we're @meliwraps on TikTok as well.

KRYSTINA: Excellent. And I'll make sure to add all of those links into the body of this email and video and blog post and everything. Well, thank you so much, Melia. This has been so fun chatting with you. I really appreciate your time and I know that our EcoWarrior community appreciates it as well.

MELIA: Oh, thank you. It's been a pleasure and I just appreciate all that you do, and this is just a wonderful way to inspire others and let them know about all of your amazing products, which I'm going to go check out right now online, and lots of others, so thank you.

KRYSTINA: Yeah, thank you. Well, have a great rest of your day and thank you so much.

MELIA: All right. You too. Take care.


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