Honey is undoubtedly having its moment in the sun. Prized for its hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and even potentially antihistaminic properties, the ingredient is as versatile as it is effective. But back before tiny glass vials of honey-infused hair oil became an inextricable part of every it-girl beauty routine, Gisou brand founder Negin Mirsalehi spent long summer afternoons learning the art and science of beekeeping. As a sixth-generation beekeeper and the daughter of one resourceful hairdresser, Mirsalehi appreciated the beautifying power of thick, golden honey years before it made its way into the mainstream — which is how she managed to launch an entire best-selling line around it, earning her a spot on countless top-entrepreneur and most-influential lists.
To hear Mirsalehi tell it, the story of Gisou sounds as much a birthright as anything else, the inherited skills and stewardship over the bees suffused right into her DNA. But Gisou’s success is also thanks to Mirsalehi's deeply instinctual understanding of social media. Right now, the founder’s Instagram following count is just north of 7 million — exponentially more than many Oscar-winning celebrities. Gisou’s products couldn’t happen without her traditional knowledge, but its meteoric rise couldn’t happen without Mirsalehi's masterful command of social media’s thoroughly modern politics.
Her Beekeeping Background
The 5,000-year-old craft of beekeeping was taught to Mirsalehi by her father, who in turn learned it from his own. “Beekeeping is something that’s pretty much in our blood,” she tells TZR, describing the long, happy days spent in their bee garden, set up by her father when the family moved from Iran to Almere, The Netherlands, a bustling exurb popular about 20 miles east of Amsterdam. When her family settled there in the ‘80s, establishing the bee colony was a top priority for her father. Mirsalehi recalls popping up to help him with the bees in between games of backgammon and Sunday picnics. “Seeing how happy working with and caring for the bees made him sparked my own interest and curiosity in becoming a beekeeper myself,” she says.
Even now, Mirsalehi is an active beekeeper, a major role in her life, and frequently showcases glimpses of her work on social media. It’s both fascinating and exciting to see an otherwise very glamorous social media star scooping a dozen bees into her bare palm, calmly examining their thick, hexagonal combs through her medieval-looking mesh helmet — or sometimes, just some stylish sunglasses.
How She Founded Gisou
As she grew up, Mirsalehi was far from the only family member inspired by the bee colony out back. Her mother, a hairdresser-in-training at the time, discovered honey’s naturally moisturizing, therapeutic properties (she’d often apply it to cuts and scrapes), and immediately realized its hair care potential. Mirsalehi says she would experiment with the honey in different DIY hair recipes, refining her formulas through trial and error, and eventually, perfecting the honey-powered hair oil that would someday become the Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil, first launched in 2013.
None of it, though, might be possible without Mirsalehi’s early eye for cultivating an online community. As a fashion and beauty influencer, she grew a large, very engaged following of primarily young women captivated by her global travels, whimsical outfits, and always-bouncy curls. “I started off sharing my beauty and fashion tips with my larger community, but over time I began to hear from them more and more that they were interested in learning about my hair routine specifically,” she explains. “I slowly started to share more about the world of beekeeping and received an amazing response.” With a dedicated audience and fan base built into her fledgling brand, the success was immediate — and mapped out what would become a smart strategy for other would-be entrepreneurs. “Because it was a product that our community had requested and waited for, there was instant brand loyalty and cult following and to this day, it is still one of the bestsellers in our collection.”
These days, Gisou’s line features a full suite of honey-powered products: rich hair masks, revitalizing scalp treatments, leave-ins, shampoos, hot tools, and primers. Most recently, the brand expanded its well-received skin care collection, which includes face oil, lip oil, and the just-launched all-over Beauty Balm — all of which star honey as the centerpiece ingredient.
Mirsalehi’s mogul mentality is all about the next innovation, but as a beekeeper, she’s just as concerned about sustainability and environmental impact. She tells TZR that she considers it a genuine responsibility to raise awareness and resources for just how important bees are to the ecosystem, and to grow beekeeping as a practice. The Gisou Bees Project is Mirsalehi’s initiative to popularize urban beekeeping, which helps mitigate declining bee populations in general. “Over the years, we’ve seen that the bees are having a hard time and hives are getting smaller and winter is getting harder for them to survive,” she explains. “Past generations created lives around beekeeping and now it’s our generation’s responsibility to help create an ecosystem that ensures their survival.”
Mirsalehi is currently hard at work on educating the next generation to be considerate, conscious citizens, starting right at home. She and her partner of 16 years just welcomed their first child, a baby boy, on July 11. It’s too soon to say for sure, of course, but it looks like the seventh generation of family beekeepers is here. She shares that some exciting things from the brand are coming up, but gives a teasing “stay tuned” on details.
For now, Mirsalehi deserves to simply bask in all she’s created. Gisou was created to educate on the importance of the bees, inspire future beekeepers, and share the beauty benefits of honey with the world, she says, and delivering trusted products and information to her audience will always be chief. “We’ve listened to our community — our Gisou family constantly inspires us to go bigger and be bolder!” Spoken like a true queen bee.
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