In recent years, urban beekeeping has gained significant popularity as people become increasingly aware of the crucial role bees play in our ecosystem.
Not only do they provide us with honey, but they are also essential pollinators for many plants and crops. Recognizing this opportunity, I embarked on a journey to establish my very own urban beekeeping business. Today, I would like to share my story of how I turned my passion for bees into a successful venture and provide insights for aspiring beekeepers looking to follow a similar path.
Cultivating a Passion for Bees:
My fascination with bees started in my childhood. I was captivated by their intricate social structures, their industrious nature, and the critical ecological services they provide. As I grew older, my concern for the decline of bee populations motivated me to take action and contribute to their preservation.
Research and Education:
To transform my passion into a viable business, I understood the importance of acquiring knowledge and expertise in beekeeping. I delved into extensive research, studying bee biology, hive management, and sustainable practices. Attending workshops and training programs offered by local beekeeping associations further honed my skills and provided valuable networking opportunities.
I began my beekeeping journey with a few hives in my backyard. This allowed me to gain hands-on experience and develop a deeper understanding of the nuances involved in maintaining healthy colonies. I focused on organic practices, ensuring that my bees thrived in a pesticide-free environment.
Navigating Urban Regulations:
Establishing an urban beekeeping business comes with unique challenges, including navigating local regulations and zoning laws. I reached out to local authorities and worked closely with them to understand the legal requirements and obtain the necessary permits. Building a positive relationship with my community was crucial in gaining support for my endeavor.
Partnering with Local Businesses:
To create a sustainable and profitable business model, I forged partnerships with local businesses. Restaurants, cafes, and farmers’ markets became my primary customers, as they appreciated the benefits of having access to fresh, locally produced honey. Collaborating with these establishments not only helped me establish a reliable customer base but also fostered a sense of community around my beekeeping initiative.
Educating and Raising Awareness:
Beyond the business aspect, I realized the importance of raising awareness about bees and their environmental significance. I conducted workshops, organized school visits, and gave presentations at community events, educating people about the role of bees in pollination and the importance of bee-friendly practices. This outreach not only helped me promote my business but also contributed to a greater understanding and appreciation for bees in my community.
Scaling Up and Diversifying:
As my business gained traction, I expanded my operations by partnering with other urban beekeepers and establishing multiple apiaries throughout the city. This allowed me to increase honey production, offer pollination services to local farms, and diversify my product range to include beeswax candles, beeswax wraps, and skincare products made with honey and beeswax.
Building an urban beekeeping business has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey for me. By combining my passion for bees with dedication, education, and community engagement, I was able to create a sustainable business that not only supports my livelihood but also contributes to the conservation of these remarkable creatures. For those considering a similar path, remember that success comes with patience, persistence, and a commitment to both your bees and your community. Together, we can create thriving urban environments that coexist harmoniously with nature.
I was, of course, saddened by the loss of life and no troubles I had can compare to that. But business was certainly very poor. The farmers market customers generally consist of three groups for Andrew’s Honey: tourists, restaurants, and commuters. All three of those demographics evaporated one week in March 2020 and didn’t reappear for years, so it was economically a challenging time.
I also had to remove many of my rooftop beehives from buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn where I was no longer granted access. Moving a mass of 200 pounds of wood, wax, and live bees from a rooftop, sometimes down ladders and several flights of stairs, presents a sizable challenge. But I embraced the change.
I don’t have quite enough hubris to believe that I am changing my industry, but I relish being a part of the changes for the better that do occur within it. That said, beekeeping has changed so little in the past 170 years or so that change is usually fleeting and we relapse back to the old ways. I still use some of my great-grandfather’s equipment. I can think of no industry that has changed as little in the last near two centuries as beekeeping.
What advice would you give someone who wants your job?
Take up beekeeping as a hobby, but not as a profession. It is an incredibly difficult way to make a living. One must diversify, as there is no one stream that will produce sizable income. And aside from environmental concerns and increasing challenges of keeping honeybees alive, the exponential growth of urban beekeeping is unsustainable. Many believe the more bees the better. Not so. There are 258 types of bees in New York City. Honeybees are merely one type. There is only so much forage to go around. There is a tipping point and we are close to it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.