You have a sweet idea to start a honey business and are ready to get started. You can already picture the rows of honey bottles lining up on your counter, ready to go to market. Like with any business startup, it is imperative you put forth the necessary work before selling even one jar of honey to ensure your success.
So, what does it take to start a honey business?
While the process of producing and bottling your own honey may be relatively simple compared to other business ideas, it can be well worth your time to find non-competing beekeepers nearby, willing to let you shadow them through a day’s work. Seeing firsthand what it takes to maintain a beehive and harvest your own honey will help you to decide whether or not to pursue the business venture. Skilled professionals are often open to the idea of mentoring entrepreneurs, provided your new business won’t take away their loyal customers.
The first steps of a successful honey business lie in the creation of your business plan. Such a plan develops the overall business model on paper, helping you think through all of the facets of business before you start investing your time, energy, and money. A business plan will also be your guideline as your business grows, giving you a reference point to take your business to the next level.
A business plan template can be found online or in a guidebook. Not all business plans are created equal but most have the same categories and concepts regardless of the business being started. Once you obtain an outline, you’ll create your own plan based on the honey business.
Highlights of a business plan include:
- Detailed description of products
- Marketing/promotional ideas and goals
- Overview of the competition and honey market
- Ownership outline
Completing the business plan yourself is important, as it will force you to work through all of the aspects of your proposed business to ensure you are up for and prepared to do the work required for success. Finalizing the plan before startup may be required if you plan to seek bank financing or investor help. Lenders will want to see your ideas outlined in a professional, well thought out manner. Even if you don’t pursue loans or other financial help from investors or lenders, it is still important to follow through with completing the plan, if only to serve as your own guideline for business.
Before purchasing a single bee, ensure the local ordinances permit backyard beekeeping. You will also need to check at local, state, and federal levels for any required licensing for harvesting, bottling, and selling honey. Not all locations allow harvested honey to be bottled in a home kitchen. Contact agencies at all levels to ensure you have the correct licenses and permits before starting your hive. If you plan on selling your honey products as organic, there may be additional requirements to meet in order to qualify as an organic honey producer. If you will sell your honey online and plan to have sales outside of the country, ensure you are able to meet all requirements for taxes and other legal purposes.
To procure the honey, most honey producers start and maintain their own bee colonies. If you are not familiar with the raising and care of bees to produce quality honey, it will be well worth your time to learn as much as you can before investing more time or money into your business venture.
Luckily, it is becoming easier to buy beekeeping kits, which contain everything you need to get your first colonies started. You’ll need to ensure you have the space in your own backyard and permission from your local zoning committee to raise the bees close to home. If this is not an option, consider partnering with a local farmer, who will provide an area for the bees to live in exchange for rent or a percentage of your profits. As bees are vital to pollination for crops, farmers may readily look for such partnerships.
A variety of honey flavors can be produced by a hive, depending on what kind of plants and flowers are nearby. Wildflower, clover, and buckwheat are some examples of the types of honey being sold. Depending on the flowers used to create the honey, the color will also vary. Honey can also be sold raw or pasteurized, a heat process used to remove bacteria.
Once the bees have produced their honey, make sure you understand the finer points of safely harvesting the liquid so as not to damage the hive. During the initial stages of your business startup, it is advisable to seek the advice of a professional beekeeper if you have never harvested honey before. This will help protect your honey product and keep you from being injured during the process.
You may need to purchase professional equipment, such as a bee smoker and brush, honey extractor, and related tools to successfully extract large quantities of honey. Doing everything by hand the old-fashioned way may not allow you to bottle enough honey for sale. Be sure to account for these expenses in your initial business plan.
Honey bottles are available in a variety of sizes. The iconic honey bear bottle is easily recognizable and often used for smaller quantities of honey. Decide early what sizes of honey you plan to sell so you can have the honey bottles ready for use after harvest. For those new to the beekeeping business, it may be wise to start selling smaller sizes before committing to 20 pound jars of honey. You’ll need to understand how much your bees will produce before you can commit to selling larger quantities.
While honey certainly can be appealing all on its own, a creative packaging idea can help consumers choose your product over someone else’s honey. As there are many varieties of honey being produced, a clear glass honey bottle or jar is a good option for selling honey because it allows the honey to speak for itself. The glass shows the natural colors and clarity of the honey, which is often what consumers are most interested in. Buying honey bottles in bulk, as well as labels and other packaging supplies, can help you cut down on initial overhead costs.
Honey bottles should be labeled with everything required by the USDA and other regulating agencies. Examples of what must be included on a honey jar label include:
- Type of Honey (wildflower honey, clover honey)
- Net Weight
- Ingredients (if anything but honey is contained in the bottle)
- Business Name and Contact Information
Your location’s government may also require additional information. The National Honey Board may be a good resource when starting out, as they provide detailed information on the honey industry.
In addition to the required information on honey bottles, spend time designing a professional brand. A logo, tagline, and other promotional ideas should be designed prior to bottling your first batch of honey. A professional-looking label can sway consumer interest in your direction. Budget for and hire an experienced designer to create your graphics to ensure high quality. If you plan to stay in the honey business, developing a brand people will recognize will help encourage brand loyalty. Consider where your honey products will be sold and package accordingly.
Most entrepreneurs begin selling in their own hometown with plans to branch out gradually at a regional and state levels. Of course, if you plan to sell your honey over the Internet, you can potentially begin selling your products internationally right away. Marketing your honey at a local level may involve selling your products at local farmer’s markets, fairs, and community events. Word of mouth by friends and family can help get your business off the ground initially but it will require a marketing plan for both your short-term and long-term goals.
Honey producers just starting out may contact non-competing small business owners, such as those in retail, to set up a consignment situation. Honey bottles can be displayed in the store and money is only made when a sale occurs. Think out of the box when it comes to marketing your honey in different ways.
Take advantage of the growing interest in the back-to-basics lifestyle and natural remedies for health issues. Honey ranks high on the list of ingredients for versatile and natural health remedies. It can be used for everything from relieving coughs to making a moisturizing facial. Brush up on the many benefits of honey and use it to your marketing advantage. People who do not enjoy eating honey may find it a worthwhile purchase for other uses.
As the business grows, go back to your original business plan and revise any information to be updated. With a continually updated plan, you’ll always to have a guideline for growing your business to the next level. You may even be able to profit in other ways by mentoring other prospective honey sellers in the future and selling your formula for success. There is also a large market for beeswax products. Beeswax can be sold on its own or made into many things, including beeswax candles, lotions, lip balms, lubricants, and more. These products, plus deliciously fresh honey, can transform a hobby into a money-making business venture.