Growing Your Bee Business to Sideliner Status

We wrote this for our friends looking to take their backyard hobby to the next level. The beekeeping industry has been growing and interest in the activity continues to amaze me. While beekeeping is a perfectly fun hobby, it can also be a great source for extra income as well.

First step… what’s your focus? Beekeeping businesses are not all the same and it’s best to choose the parts of beekeeping that you’re most passionate about especially as you get started.

Here a list of commercial beekeeping avenues you can take and although we’re sure it’s not a comprehensive list, it’s a great start for deciding what you’re passionate about:

  • Honey Production – Creating varietal honey or Real, Raw seasonal honey
  • Baked Goods – Products sweetened by honey have become popular with people focusing on getting away from processed sugars. Plus, it makes great sweets!
  • Cosmetics & Apitherapy – Making soaps, lotions, lip balms, and therapeutics from the products of the hive.
  • Bee Removals – This is great for beekeepers with a background in construction.
  • Bee themed handmade products – we’ve seen beekeepers with a talent for painting, sewing, pottery, and the likes turn their natural talents into a niche marketing opportunity.
  • Bee Production and Sales – bee breeders focus on optimizing the best qualities in their bees to create great bees in their area.
  • Pollination Services – Pollination requires a will to travel, heavy machinery, and lots of heavy lifting.
  • Beekeeping Supplies – Great for those who love sales, talking with people, and helping out beginner and commercial beekeepers.
  • Bee Education – teaching classes to beginners, schools, and even experienced beekeepers is great for the natural educator.

Once you’ve found your focal point (or points) you’ve really just begun. Becoming a sideliner can mean different things to different people, but essentially you’re starting a business.

You’ll want to decide how much time you’re going to devote to this adventure – will it be 20% of your time or 80%? This may depend on your ultimate goal for the business and yourself. If you’re just looking to generate a bit of extra cash, you may devote 10-20% of your time. If you’re looking to live off your business you will have to invest quite a bit more time and energy into your company to get to that ultimate goal.

Here’s an outline for how to create your new business:

  1. Write a business plan. The best businesses have a plan. This plan will help you stay focused on your needs and your goals. It’s okay for the plan to change, but not without thought and purpose – keep your eye on the prize but pivot when necessary.
  2. Seek training and find mentors. You can never get enough knowledge and help. Be committed to constantly learning new things and moving yourself and your business forward.
  3. Find a location. If you don’t have a place to run your business, now is the time to find one. While many of the above mentioned businesses can be run from your own home, you may find that you need more space, a store front, or other location for your business.
  4. Come up with a financial plan. You can choose to bootstrap or finance the start of your new business. Choose what is doable and comfortable for you.
  5. Legal stuff. Make sure your business is properly registered and licensed / permitted. Know the rules of the industry and follow them. If you have employees, you’ll need to make sure you know your duties as an employer as well as your employees rights.
  6. Marketing. You’ll have to seek out business. This can be done through networking, advertising, and good old fashioned hustle. The search for business never really stops but you can choose how big you’d like to get.
    1. Networking – arguably the best way to grow. Word of mouth is very powerful.
    2. Social media
    3. Website
    4. Print marketing – local magazines and papers, industry journals
    5. Signs and store frontage
    6. Radio / TV
  7. Keep tracking your progress and setting new goals – you’ll do great!

Building a business in the bee industry is just like building a business in any industry, it requires sacrifice, focus, and a lot of time. The nice thing about being a “sideliner” is that you can choose to do this at any pace or intensity that you’d like.

Best of luck in your new adventure!


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