The nose knows. That might be a good tagline for Joyce Dales and her Cold Bee Gone product. Joyce is the owner of Buzzagogo, a Nottingham-based company, and Cold Bee Gone is her first product—a natural, honey-based topical cold and allergy remedy that is sweeping the state and, potentially, the country. It’s now sold in 150 stores, and counting.
And, it’s all due to bees, honey, and a cotton swab in your nose.
Joyce created a cold and allergy remedy using a proprietary honey blend that includes a “super honey” called manuka. The product is applied directly into the nose with a cotton swab and acts as both prevention and treatment of symptoms.
It all started with the arrival of her baby daughter, lots of research on Joyce’s part, and some serious experiments in her kitchen.
Joyce’s infant daughter had a serious heart defect that ultimately required surgery. The surgery left the 8-month-old very fragile and so, like any mom, Joyce was determined to keep her well, and she preferred to do it through natural means. Joyce had been studying apitherapy as a hobby - the use of bee products as medicines. She’d also been studying the science of the mucosa in the nasal passages.
“Ninety-five percent of the germs we catch come through the nose, and if there isn’t a healthy biome in there, you’re just inviting them to invade the rest of your body,” Joyce said. Cold Bee Gone helps the nasal passages remain moist, which helps them trap the bad stuff. “It’s elegantly simple.”
So, after whipping up some batches of Cold Bee Gone in her kitchen, then sharing some with friends and family, she started getting positive feedback that encouraged her to try to sell her formula at area farmers markets.
Not so fast.
It turns out that homeopathic remedies, as with all medicines, are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration. And, getting FDA clearance for such a product is a long, complicated and costly process.
That’s when Joyce sought out Hollis McGuire, regional director of the NH SBDC’s Nashua office. “I had met her years ago, when my husband was running a small company, and I had stayed connected with her,” Joyce explains. “She’s a great resource. She knows everything and she became my go-to person. I appreciated her expertise and her calm demeanor through it all.”
Hollis set her on the right path toward FDA approval, Joyce says. “And every time we solved one problem, there was another. I ended up learning a whole lot about the FDA very quickly.”
Hollis was very encouraging, but also said it would likely be about $60,000 to take the product out of Joyce’s kitchen and into the consumer market with an FDA stamp of approval.
“Hollis would tell me what the next hurdle was and I’d be just about ready to quit,” Joyce said. “She’d do the math with me, all the while telling me to have faith in my product; I had the sales and the good feedback. She’d just talk me back into the game.”
Cold Bee Gone had to be certified as a homeopathic remedy, and that first required Joyce to find a FDA compliance attorney. Then she had to get the packaging approved, with plenty of FDA regulations dictating its design. She needed to find a factory that could produce her formula in large quantities. Then, if she was to get into stores, she would need a distributor, and most distributors prefer to deliver hugely popular products to the nations “big box” stores.
“We found a wonderful, natural products distributor —Associated Buyers out of Barrington, NH—and they took a chance on us and got us into 50 new stores,” Joyce said. “They bought the product from us outright and I just work on maintaining that and other relationships.”
Soon she hopes Cold Bee Gone will be in Albertsons grocery stores across the country.
Though the product ultimately got to market in 2014, FDA regulations changed early on and Joyce had to throw out 10,000 packages and start again, with a Massachusetts-based packaging company called Boutwell-Owens. “So many factories don’t serve the little guys, so we were fortunate to find them,” Joyce says.
“There’s no handbook on how to work with the FDA and all their requirements,” she said. “Each step we took was a major leap of faith and an investment in the future, and it was really hard because I was still being a mom.”
She made cold calls to stores. She’d get great feedback on the product and worked to keep the shelves stocked.
Joyce says Hollis did so much to “nurse us through all the financials. That’s been painful for me,” she admits. “I just try to keep up and we have broken even, at this point.”
Buzzagogo needed a bank loan to scale up to large-scale production of Cold Bee Gone, and Joyce credits Hollis with getting her through that process. “She was getting me organized to apply for the loan. We had to present the company and my story to the bank, and that was all new to me. She helped me get the presentation correct, and the loan officer we had was just amazing.”
“We’re now in a position to fulfill really large orders in the fall. We’re ready to go,” Joyce said.
Joyce has also done a pitch in front of the Impact NH Fund, an angel investor group, and she’s waiting to hear her results.* If the money comes through, it will go toward several new products Joyce has in development.
“Hollis was so good all along, reminding me that I was investing in myself and I needed to have faith in myself,” Joyce said. “For women and for moms, I think that’s just hard to do some times. Our jobs are to invest in everyone else first, right?
“But, if it weren’t for the NH SBDC and for Hollis in particular, this company would not exist,” Joyce said. “That’s God’s honest truth.”
* Since this story was written, Buzzagogo received investment funding from the Impact NH Fund. Congratulations!