Just before Christmas, a customer at a market walked up to me boldly and proclaimed “so what are you spending all your money on then? You beekeepers are rolling in it”. I just smiled and replied “gold bricks to pave the driveway to our mansion”. If only he knew….
Things have been fairly quiet on the Hunt and Gather front as of late. We went mad with markets leading up to Christmas, with 2-3 and sometimes even 4 a week to capture the spending frenzy leading up to the big day. It was the first time that we had done any Christmas markets and it was great to get a feel for how the markets go at that time of year. Looking out from our stall at a wall of people barely able to move and grabbing just about whatever they could get and buying it was quite something. We did do better than we had expected (not a bad thing for sure!) but looking back we probably over-committed a bit as we almost ran out of honey just after Christmas and had to cancel all of our markets for January and early February until we could harvest, test and pack our honey and get it ready for sale. Although it was great to see our product flying out the door it did mean some complications as we had nearly 2 months without any market income which is a pretty big hit in the pocket. On the upside though we have had an absolutely awesome month and a half off markets and caught up on some much needed family time. It has also given us a good chance to sit back, evaluate and appreciate our progress and make some plans for the year ahead.
In January Rory harvested all of our honey which is hugely exciting as we got to see the rewards of his year of hard work come to fruition. Although it hasn’t been a great year for honey production; (we got off to a late start with a very wet spring and then lots of nectar dried up as we hit a drought in the middle of honey production time), our average production over the hives was on par with last year so at least we didn’t go backwards. Of course now we have more hives so we should have honey to see us right for this year’s markets but it does mean we won’t be able to take on any more stockists which is a shame but there’s always next year! We have also learnt a lot of lessons on the beekeeping front as well as the retail front which is the fortunate part of have a business that grows relatively slowly; we can make mistakes which is a great way to learn, without it having a massive impact on sales or productivity because the business is still relatively small.
One of the big lessons that we have learnt lately is around income diversification. It has been really hard to forecast our income from honey sales because we don’t know how much we are going to have for the season until it’s all out of the hives. This can make budgeting quite tricky. We have been juggling different full-time/part-time jobs, markets and looking after the kids for the last year but it feels like we’re on track to finding the right balance. We both have part-time work now and we can work around the kids. I am trying to do more of the paperwork during the day to leave some evenings free. Rory has picked up some part-time work that he can work around his beekeeping so with our powers combined hopefully things will be a little easier on the pocket this year.
Income diversification for the business has also been an interesting development as we got the chance before Christmas to play around with a bit of merchandise in the form of beeswax wraps and H&G branded mugs. Both of which were hugely popular and the mugs sold out in two days. It was a good experiment and I would say definitely watch this space because we will be bringing them back. It’s just a wee bit tricky to find space for them in the budget as the essentials have to come out first.
Looking ahead, we are planning to sit down and have a business review with our accountant; one of those things that most small business owners all say they should do more often! We are also planning to try out a food show this year and investigate where to move outside of the farmers markets.
Thanks for tuning in, we are looking forward to the year ahead and hopefully there will be exciting things on the horizon this year!