I’ve been meaning to write a business update for a while now, but I didn’t expect to look back on the last one and find it’s been almost exactly 2 years since I’ve written one. Clearly, I have a lot to catch up on. It’s been a big couple of years!
From where we left off last time, our next hurdle was a crowd funding campaign. We decided that we needed to give this business a good run for it’s money (of which it had none) and the bank wouldn’t touch us so we launched a Pledgeme campaign on a whim and frantically tried to drum up support for it. It was a nerve wracking month long process, with hundreds of emails and a bunch of quirky challenge videos on social media but we were absolutely rapt that at the end of it we exceeded our $12,500 goal and raised over $16,000. We used the money to buy packing materials and pack up honey in bigger quantities than we ever had before, which meant we could finally start to sell more, and take on some retail stores. We spent our second winter in the shed and juggled 5 part-time jobs and 2 kids between us. 2018 was full of big highs for us, and a bit of grit.
We rounded out the year nicely when, after encouragement from our good friends, we decided to enter the Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards and have a crack at the ‘Emerging Business’ award. This intense process scrutinised our business; our goals, finances, ethics, processes and integrity. The process came at a great time though as it made us take a step back and examine our business as the judges did and it was very helpful to acknowledge the successes we had had but also notice the holes that we could see. I thought we wouldn’t stand a chance because financially we were really lacking. Our business was still costing us so much more than it was making and we had eaten up all of our savings and overdrafts.
It came as an enormous surprise when I received the call that we had won our category and the judges wanted to fly us to Wellington for the awards ceremony at Parliament. I remember hanging up the phone and bursting into tears. I think it was at this moment that I realised that it’s the ethics and the story of our business that’s important, not just the finance. The judges applauded our resilience and our approach to sustainability. They recognised that we still had a long way to go as a business but they could see we had fought hard to get to where we were.
So we flew to Wellington, and in a borrowed dress I got up on a stage in parliament to accept my award. I managed to (almost) hold it together through my acceptance speech, (which you can watch on our Facebook page somewhere if you want to), but it was after the ceremony that our biggest opportunity came.
A chance meeting with a producer from Country Calendar during dinner set in motion a year and a half long process which culminated in 5 days of filming last December, and a feature on the show in April this year. From the outset it has always been one of our dreams to feature on this show as we are loyal fans of it ourselves. Although it was super nerve wracking to watch ourselves on TV, the boost it has brought for our business came just at the right time; one week into Covid-19 alert level 4, 5 days after our son was born and just at the point where we would have probably gone under if it wasn’t for it. It’s hard to explain the feeling of watching ourselves on TV, at a time when it felt like the whole world was going crazy, and then watching in awe as hundreds of orders started to fill up our inbox. Again, a chance encounter that came at just the right time because I can tell you with confidence that we would have been a victim of Covid-19 and we would be back to part-time beekeepers without that TV show.
From the end of 2018 we managed to pull back our other part-time jobs to the point where we were both pretty much full-time with Hunt and Gather Bee Co.; apart from some seasonal work for Rory. This was a huge stretch for the business financially, but it has given us the opportunity to put more time into the business and concentrate on trying to grow it. We have expanded our wholesale side; with around 35 stockists now and we have tried out a range of food shows and events to grow our profile. We did have very big plans for a new event this year, but like so many other things it became a victim of Covid-19 restrictions and we will look forward to it next year now instead.
Our beeswax wraps became so popular that we made some investment in developing them and we are lucky enough to have found an awesome team member to make them with us. This is helping us keep up with the demand, and has allowed us to add them to our wholesale line too.
On the beekeeping front; we had a really great season this last year and Rory has been working steadily to increase our hive numbers so that we now have a really good supply of honey. We no longer have to worry about running out, which is a great feeling after the trials of our first year or two. We have also decided to now slow the rate at which we have been increasing our hive numbers. The high cost of building all the new wooden hiveware has been playing havoc with the budget, so to try to make the cost of growth more sustainable, and because we now have a steady supply, the easiest thing seems to be to slow the growth. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any Kamahi honey last year because the weather didn’t play the game in Spring, so we have had to put that product on hold for now.
As we roll into our 5th year of owning this small business we are striving for more balance in our lives. The last few years we have been working most days with little time off and you can only do that for so long. This year we’re focused on working weekdays and trying to make sure we take time off away from the tools to spend with our growing family, hunting, fishing, gathering and all the other things we enjoy doing to keep us fresh and inspired.
Coming up, you can expect to see some more exciting collaborations, a new product, and the second season of our beekeeping experiences. And who knows what else? We never know where the next chance encounter and new direction will come from. For now we are enjoying the ride, enjoying the juggle and learning a lot of lessons. I’ll try not to leave it 2 years before the next update and we will keep you informed on how we progress.
As always you can follow our progress on social media; through Facebook and Instagram, and if you have anything that you want to know about in my next update, leave a comment below. Thanks for joining us on this crazy adventure and thanks for your support to help us live it.