The State of Play - Part 1
So as part of this Blog section, I wanted to write a few poorly punctuated ramblings about our foray into small business ownership. I figure it may be some help to someone else who is going through a similar experience, and if not you can just have a laugh along with us as we fumble our way through this exciting new experience.
We are now about 3 months into our new venture, and excitement is still running high. There have been some amazing highs like getting our website up and running, ordering, assembling, painting and preparing our hives, buying our first bees, and most recently, splitting our hives to create a whole lot of new hives. Of course there have been a few lows, like re-building the website 3 times, endless rain and mud, and sometimes wondering if we would be better off keeping our day jobs but mostly there have been a lot of highs. The feedback, and support we have been getting is amazing. We have a growing list of retailers who are interested in stocking our products, and we haven’t even put our honey out for retail yet. We are realising the power of social media, as our honey finds it’s way into peoples Instagram feeds and before we know it we are getting messages asking when they can stock our product in their shops. It is a real relief to find that people are enjoying our honey and they like the branding.
Before we did anything, we thought it would be a good idea to nail down what we think the core values of our company are. Really we narrowed it down to 4 words; sustainable, local, natural, family.
Sustainable. There are so many things that concern us about what we are doing to our environment - climate change, plastic in our oceans, deforestation and pollution. We knew that if we were going to add another product to the market, we wanted it to be as sustainable as our business can support. We have made a few choices that are having an impact on our bottom line while our business is still small; we choose to pack our honey in glass not plastic, we choose to use wooden frames and wax foundation in our hives instead of plastic, it costs us 3 times as much, and takes infinitely more man hours to assemble, wire and lay foundation on them but it means that our bees are happier and when they break or get old, we aren’t adding yet more plastic to landfills. It’s a constant toss up between providing an affordable product, being efficient with our time, and making our business and products sustainable but we know that the customers who buy our honey are going to be people who recognise the value in what we are doing. I’m not by any means saying that we are perfect, or that our packaging is quite as sustainable as it could be but we are working on it!
Local. Rather than shipping our honey off to China or Germany in barrels, we are dedicated to making it available in NZ so that people can buy truly local honey from the area that they live in. We sometimes get concerned about our penchant for exporting our premium products overseas because it means that we are eating the leftovers and relying so heavily on overseas markets to buy our products. There have also been some super interesting studies on the benefits for allergy sufferers from eating honey from their local area where bees have bees involved in the local pollens and nectars.
Natural. Honey is a nearly perfect food (you can read more about that here). Why would you want to mess with it by heating the heck out of it and killing all of the good bits that are the reason we buy it in the first place?! We want to provide a product that is raw and as near to how it is in the hive as we can.
Family. We want to work together. We want it to be our jobs to work together. We want to get paid to work together. We want this business to eventually support our family so that we can do just that. That’s the big goal. It’s a pretty long way off yet but we need something to work towards!
We are really happy with how things are going for our little business. We are enjoying our monthly spot at the Thames Market, and we have quite a few more markets on the calendar for this summer. Our honey stocks are going down though and honey is a bit of a tricky product; we can’t just make more when we run out. We get one harvest a year and that is our stock for the whole year. I can see it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to sort out how to stock retail businesses in a way that means we don’t go too hard too fast and end up running out of honey to supply them with in October. But before that we are crossing our fingers for a bit of sunshine so that our queens can get out and mate and lay lots of eggs so that we can have some more bees to make us some honey to sell in the first place. And in the mean time we need a place to pack and store our honey before we take it off the hives this summer.
So now comes the next challenge: a bigger and better venue. When we first started out, and I’m sure this is normal, we only really focused on the immediate challenges; where do we get labels? How many hives do we need to build? How many bees can we afford to buy? But we are now looking forward and seeing the bigger challenges that are looming. Where are we going to process all the honey that we need to get off the hives this summer? Where are we going to store it? How can we make our logistics, sales and packaging process easier? You get the drift.
So we have a couple of very exciting plans in the pipelines, look out for an update on that next time.
Until then, thanks for your support. If you have bought honey from us, come to chat to us at a market, posted a photo to our Facebook page, liked, shared or even read something we have posted on social media, we really, really want to thank you. Without your support this would all still be a bunch of ideas.