I feel like I need to preempt this blog entry with a disclaimer. This is not meant to be a pity party for us. We don’t need help or handouts. We are ok. We really are. But I said I would be honest about our journey into small business ownership and I guess the truth is that when you start your own small business it gets a bit ugly at times. But it’s not that bad. It really isn’t.
So basically since my last update, there have been some massive highs, offset by a few lows, but we are working through it! The first high was that our sales pre-Christmas went so well that we sold out of Rewarewa and Coastal Blend honey. It was awesome that our honey was so popular and we have had such great feedback from our customers that it made us really feel affirmed that we have a great product. What we realised is though, that, surprise, surprise, when you don’t have any product, you have no income. And the problem with honey is that you can’t just make more when you run out. It’s a waiting game until honey harvest season. So when our honey ran out in December, it was a month until the honey was ready, and then after that it has to be extracted from the hives, put into barrels and then packed into glass jars ready for sale. So there’s quite a bit to get through before we have an actual product to sell. Then just for extra fun, we decided to set up a beekeeping business in the worst honey harvest season in 40 years in our area. A wet mating season and unseasonably cold weather meant that we got about half of the honey we had predicted we would get (and budgeted on). On top of that, Rory was beginning to have so much work with the hives that doing that as well as his house painting job was becoming unsustainable. We also realised that with building starting on our section in Raglan for our honey shed, we really needed to look at heading over to the west coast. So when a full-time job came up in Hamilton, I jumped in and we shifted out of our rental house and moved in with Rory’s parents. This has meant a massive change in roles for us. I’m now out of the house at work for 11 hours a day and Rory is looking after the kids full-time as well as keeping the hives afloat. That means that any spare moments in the evenings are now spent on study, organising tradies for the build, writing emails and filling out applications for the bank. Life is busy.
And while we are on the subject of the bank; here comes a rant. If you work for BNZ you might want to stop reading about now. I have found over the past few weeks that our bank is happy to set up so many hoops, make us jump through them all, request more and more paperwork; (most of which I had already sent them earlier but they lost) to turn around at the end and say “sure we would like to support your business. But not with a business loan because your business isn’t making enough money yet. Instead we would like to offer you a personal loan at an interest rate of nearly 18%”. EIGHTEEN PERCENT! And the worst part is that we are at their mercy; we are so short on time to talk to other banks but we need money to pay for our honey to be packed so that we have a product to sell to generate an income. It’s a chicken egg situation. But in this case the chicken is taking serious advantage of the egg with exorbitant interest rates. I have been super disappointed with how little support our bank was willing to give us; especially considering how much we have already invested in the business and how we continue to fund the day-to-day running of it on our own. They seem to only want to know you once you are making huge profits, not when you are trying to lay the foundations. If anyone works for a bank and wants to chuck us a bit of low-interest money, make use of the comments section below!
In the meantime, we have decided to try to avoid using the bank as much as possible. We have revised our ‘needs’ list to only the essentials to get our honey ready for sale, and we have decided to sacrifice 5 of our hives and sell them to help boost the funds as well. It’s frustrating having our honey sitting in limbo while we get the money together to pack it but we know it will happen.
This process is a massive learning curve. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating, it’s scary, but it’s ours. And we will make it work. We are neck deep now and just managing to stay afloat but I’m sure the majority of small businesses have been in this place. We are determined, we are resourceful and we are willing to make sacrifices. We will keep on swimming and hopefully in a couple of years time we will be sitting pretty with a business that turns a profit, remembering how we had to move into our shed because we can’t afford to pay rent.
There have also been heaps of positives; from this time last year when we first bought our hives, we have increased our hive numbers by around 150% (at the expense of honey production) and we have been lucky enough to be supported with awesome landowners wanting to host our hives and are gaining new sites. We have had our first proper harvest, and the honey is beautiful. Our shed is nearly complete and ready for us to fit it out with what we need to make our own honey packing facility. Our social media audience is growing and our list of potential stockist keeps growing too. We have had invitations to more markets and we have plans to establish more regular market appearances this year. And our kids get to spend more time with their dad.
Wish us luck everyone. And get your wallets at the ready; our new honey supplies will be in soon. Come hell or high interest rates!