Amber: Hey I’m Amber Ambrose and this is The BusinessMakers Show. Today my guest is Nicole Buergers of Bee2Bee Honey Collective and we’re going to find out what that means. Also she just really likes bees. There’s going to be a lot of buzz around this episode, don’t you think Nicole?
Nicole: Oh yeah, it’s going to be sweet.
Amber: There’s so many puns, so let’s get started. First of all just give me a snapshot of what Bee2Bee Honey Collective is as a business.
Nicole: Bee2Bee Honey Collective is two parts, the first part is beekeeping services and mentorships. So I have beehives all over Houston, my goal is to educate people about the hobby of beekeeping with hands on lessons on their residence, in their backyards, on their rooftops. So I go out to their house kind of like a pool guy.
Amber: The bee lady.
Nicole: I’m the bee lady and I bee keep with them. So I’m creating many small beekeepers and the second part of the business is honey distribution, retail, ecommerce.
Amber: So selling the product that you’re helping to keep or cultivate I guess is probably the word behind that. So for the first part, the service part, how does that work? Is it an hourly fee or is it sort of a packaged deal? I’m just really curious about the economics of it.
Nicole: So the first part is the actual bees in the beehive; I can sell the bees and the beehive or the client can procure them themselves. It doesn’t matter to me, but I have them if they want them or I can at least hold their hand in the process. And then there’s a monthly fee and that monthly fee covers any monitoring, management, maintenance, pest control, nutrition, any issues reporting, so it’s kind of like this all inclusive price and it’s a monthly fee until their first harvest or until they feel pretty confident that they can take it from there.
Amber: Harvest meaning honey and honeycomb, is that correct?
Amber: Okay. I know it’s different for each hive, how long does it take you to get from going to the house to set up the hive to – although by the way, juts timeout, you can buy bees?
Nicole: You can. You can get bees several different ways; you can get them in nature if you see like a wild swarm.
Amber: Hey Nature, I need some bees.
Nicole: I mean they’re everywhere.
Nicole: Oh yeah, there are bees everywhere.
Amber: For instance – I’m so fascinated by this – if you’re just like hey, there’s a bunch of bees hanging out, I want to put them in a hive; what does that look like?
Nicole: Call a professional, first step.
Amber: Okay, good to know. Call Nicole.
Nicole: Yeah or someone like me and we can come and collect them. It’s actually a pretty simple process normally unless they’re inside of a home or a structure because I don’t do that. You can get a swarm in nature or you can get one from an apiary that sells bees for this purpose; commercially, residential. There are people, especially here in Texas, that sell bees.
Amber: So would you say that bees are a big buzz-ness?
Nicole: Yeah, sometimes it’s too big of a buzz-ness. It’s actually a giant business; pollination, beekeeping, bees, honey, it’s a giant industry. It’s integral to our agricultural system so it’s huge.
Amber: That’s fascinating and we’re learning all about it here today. Sorry, to go back to that, we were talking about getting a hive started and the process that you go through with a hobbyist.
Nicole: The timeline – so usually you get bees in about April or May and your first harvest if you’re really lucky, the weather’s good, the bees are good you may get a harvest right away in like July or August, but most times it takes about 6 to 18 months.
Amber: Okay, so it just varies on the location, the bees.
Nicole: So many variables.
Amber: That’s interesting. And so fast forward to the second part which is the actual harvest products, you have several different ways that you sell honey.
Nicole: I do.
Amber: Tell me about all of those.
Nicole: I have a website, it’s called Bee2BeeHoney.com and it’s a platform for other beekeepers and beekeepers in the collective to sell their honey. So I am trying to have honey from every neighborhood in Houston and people are looking for local honey, they can get it on a hyper local level. So of you live in Garden Oaks you can have Garden Oaks honey, if you live in the Heights you can have Heights honey, if you live in Katy, Katy honey; something like that.
Amber: And how do you get the hives into each of these neighborhoods?
Nicole: Marketing, a lot of marketing. So my background, I was a Bee2Bee internet marketer and I also have a linguistics degree so I’m a big word nerd and yeah, I do a lot of online marketing and a lot of press and publicity; just trying to get my name out there. And there are a lot of people who are really wanting to take this up as a hobby.
Amber: That’s great. So they just contact you and say hey, I’ve got space in my backyard; is that how it works? And then you just go out there and service it?
Nicole: not everyone’s a great fit so I do an onsite consultation and I go to their house. I talk to them, see if there are any issues with maybe pets or dogs or landscapers, flooding; there are all these hurdles they have to kind of jump. And if they’re a good fit and they’re raring to go I sign them up. And the fee is dependent on where they’re located.
Amber: I see. So it’s not just them letting you borrow their land to make your own honey for the collective.
Amber: They have to be the responsible party.
Amber: Okay, and you just help service this and they sign up for that.
Nicole: They do. I do have corporate clients that I’m just the beekeeper, I’m not giving anyone lessons or anything like that.
Amber: And the harvest goes directly to them to use for whatever they want.
Nicole: I do get a percentage but yes.
Amber: And as far as the collective goes, all these different hives like you were saying, that goes into the product that you sell eventually.
Nicole: Right. The client does get a percentage that we negotiate and they can do with that however they wish.
Amber: They can sell it individually.
Nicole: They can sell it through the website, they can give it as gifts; whatever they want to do. A lot of people are like making mead, they’re doing cool things with it and then I get my percentage. So I get the percentage of that harvest and I sell that through the website in retail, wholesale, all of that.
Amber: Are there any misconceptions about honey? I know there’s a lot of – I talk to people in the food world a lot and local honey is not always necessarily local honey but there’s just so many practices in the overall industry that are maybe stuff that you wouldn’t know.
Nicole: A lot of the honey on the grocery store shelves – not actually honey at all.
Amber: So what is it?
Nicole: It’s just kind of like syrup. They have filtered all of the pollen out; they have heated it so much that there are no beneficial properties of the honey. Honey without pollen is not honey.
Amber: So it’s just flavoring.
Nicole: It’s basically like a sugary syrup that was honey at one point. Sometimes it’s cut with corn syrup, sometimes it’s cut with other liquids. Sometimes it’s not from where they say it is; it’s real dicey.
Amber: So what does that mean for you?
Nicole: What it means for me is that people should know their beekeeper. If you know your beekeeper and you know the source of your honey – it should have an address on your honey, it should have either a website or a phone number where they can like talk to the person, find out how they made that honey, what type of beekeeping practices that they have; it’s really important.
Amber: If people want to get a hive in their backyard or they’re front yard or roof or wherever, because…
Nicole: Balcony, porches…
Amber: So she told me about you for the interview that you only need a space about the size of this table.
Amber: And of course you have to jump through the hurdles.
Amber: But how can they get in touch with you?
Nicole: They can get in touch with me through my website; it’s probably the easiest way. I have a contact for them, phone number, email address; I’m on social media.
Amber: Obviously. Great, and then also if you want to buy actual honey you can buy it on the website as well.
Nicole: You can and I also do have it in some stores around town, there’s a link on the website to all the places where you can find it.
Amber: Okay, great. Thank you so much for joining us Nicole, I know that it’s in the middle of honey season and you should be out beekeeping right now so thank you for your time.
Nicole: Loved it, thank you for having me.
Amber: Appreciate it. And thank all of you for sticking with us through this punny episode of BusinessMakers with Nicole Buergers of Bee2Bee Honey Collective. Once again stay sweet my friends, I’m Amber Ambrose and this is The BusinessMakers.
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