On the up · 10 July 2018

How these businesses are making a buzz for Don’t Step on a Bee Day

Scott Davies, Hilltop Honey founder, funded by the Development Bank of Wales.

To raise awareness for national Don’t Step on a Bee Day, Business Advice has compiled three UK businesses that protect the world’s biggest pollinators on a daily basis.

Unfortunately in some countries, during the last decade bee population has halved. With Britain’s bees being responsible for pollinating approximately one third of the food we consume, it is vital to keep them alive.

Thankfully, these founders are all doing their share of caring for the stripy creatures.

Jim the Bee

Jim Binning, founder of Jim the Bee.

Jim Binning runs Jim the Bee, which makes and sells online Top Bar beehives, a style, which has its roots in Africa.

Different from the traditional Winnie the Pooh style of beehive, these are easy to make, require the owner to have a lot less equipment.

Binning also holds workshops for people wanting to build their own hives.

Where did the concept come from?

I had been interested in the idea of keeping bees for quite some time, and after plenty of research I found a course that taught me how to make these hives.

I first bought the bees in Kent and brought them back to my home in Dorset. This meant that I slept in my camper van and with a bee colony, which was an interesting experience!

It started as a hobby in 2012, but after one of my hives was featured in BBC 2’s Gardeners’ World in 2015, demand surged, and I was able to realise this dream of retiring from work and making hives as a business.

My break came when a woman who had ordered a hive contacted me a year later to say she was a TV producer and Monty Don wanted one of my top bar hives for the BBC’s Gardeners’ World TV programme.

I realised this would give the business a massive boost as, at the time, it was just something I was doing in my spare time. I quickly made a better website and bought some advertising to make the most out of my hive’s short spell in the limelight and, thanks to the mention on Gardeners’ World, the orders took off.

Regarding my accounts, Pandle cloud accounting software has been a huge help. I particularly like its simplicity, which is important to someone like me who doesn’t like admin an who doesn’t want to spend hours learning about bookkeeping or complicated software.

Bees for Business

After 13 years working all over the world in the corporate sector, Jez Rose felt a heavy draw to get back to his countryside roots.

So he founded Bees for Business, which provides honeybee hives for and care for bees on behalf of some of the most iconic brands in Britain, providing them with their exclusive own-brand honey from their own adopted hive.

Bees for Business have committed to helping to reverse the decline of the honeybee by installing 250 beehives over 5 years. Their partnerships already include The Ned, Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, and a collaboration with award-winning garden designer Adam Frost.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?

Keeping up with demand was something I hadn’t anticipated. Obviously, if you adopt a hive you don’t want to wait weeks on end to see or hear about your bees.

In the early days when we didn’t have the hives or the livestock to fulfil the orders, yet required the orders in order to grow, there were a lot of logistical challenges.

As we grew, we realised quickly that we required a huge investment (£15,000) worth of equipment in order to handle the processing of the honey.

Nature doesn’t stand still, so you are constantly dancing with it, trying to get your steps right, remain as many steps ahead as you can possibly be and invariably spend a lot of time catching up with it!

Hilltop Honey

Scott Davies’ fascination with bees started when his parents bought him his first hive as a gift.

He was so proud of his first harvest from the hive,  that he jarred up all his hard work from that summer and shared it with friends and family.

Much to his surprise, it turned out that the local shops were keen too. After realising there was a gap in the market for quality honey and that he could make a positive impact, he founded Hilltop Honey.

Any hurdles you’ve faced? 

Once I decided to pursue setting up Hilltop Honey as a business, I quickly realised I needed help. I was initially concerned about setting up a business as I wasn’t the most academic in school.

I approached Business Wales hoping to receive some advice on the key skills I’d need to get the venture up and running. They’ve been incredibly helpful and offered so much. They’ve advised on courses I should attend and really helped me to think outside the box when it comes to business development.

The results that I got speak for themselves, here at Hilltop Honey we now produce 70,000 jars a month – that’s almost enough to fill the Principality Stadium!

Having started Hilltop Honey in my parent’s house, we now currently operate out of our 14,000 sq ft. Hilltop Honey HQ. When we first moved in it felt almost impossible that we would fill all the space. Now over 12 months later and we are already looking into plans for our next expansion.

 How can I help?

If you see a bee struggling in the heat, feed it a few drops of sugar water to give it some energy, and try to protect it from wandering human feet.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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