Meet the 98th Certified Living Wage Employer: Avital’s Apiaries

Avital’s Apiaries was founded in 2010 and began as a traditional beekeeper’s business: selling honey, candles made from the wax, lip balms and lotion bars. After seeing the popularity among the lotion bars and lip balms (as well as the candles and honey) Avital’s Apiaries expanded and began selling honey-infused soaps, beeswax balms, lotions and more with the wonderful things bees make. The Tompkins County Worker’s Center (TCWC) is thrilled to announce that Lesli Sagan, owner of Avital’s Apiaries, has earned certification as a Living Wage Employer.

By becoming certified, Lesli unknowingly became a role model that all aspiring entrepreneurs should learn from. When owners of small businesses are first starting, employees’ rights are not always the first concern but with Avital’s Apiaries, it was of high importance to make sure everyone felt as though they were working together towards common goals.

Lesli not only makes soaps, lotions and more, but also spends some of her time educating people about honey bees and the importance of them by providing free talks to schools, scout groups, garden clubs, etc., as well as seeking a friendly, flexible work culture which she believes helps people balance work and life. Lesli believes Living Wage could be a huge part of that: if there is financial stress making people less content, an employer potentially will go continuously go through the cycle of expensive hiring and training.

Lesli cared enough about her workers and her values to begin having Living Wage start with her FIRST EMPLOYEE, as well as endorse the TCWC’s Countywide Living Wage Campaign! She states:

  • “Starting out at a Living Wage was important to me. I give a lot of credit to organizations and politicians that have brought up the issue. Without that information, and the chance to reflect, I would probably have paid above minimum wage, but less than the Living Wage standard for trainees. As it is, I look at this as an opportunity to live my values, and show that a business can be built from the ground up on an ethical platform.”

Lesli ended with explaining that she hopes anyone who works for her enjoys the work and would love to have long term employees whose roles grow as her company does, which can’t happen if people are not paid enough to be comfortable.

The Living Wage in Tompkins County is presently $14.34 per hour, as determined by the Alternatives Federal Credit Union Biennial Living Wage Study. If you are a business or organization who pays at least a Living Wage, you can apply to the Tompkins County Worker’s Center for Certification to recognize your commitment to fair pay for workers. If you have any questions about how your business (or employer) can get certified, contact TCWC at (607) 269-0409 or

Megan Wheeler Hogan