July Newsletter: Our story during a time of uncertain
Our Team: Due to our business model all our “worker bees” fell into the vulnerable population category. For the safety of our team we asked everyone to stay home. Like other small businesses, we found ourselves scrambling to create a business model for the “new normal. We promoted online sales, added curbside pickup and delivery services for our customers. Our work bees took advantage of their time at home to innovate, while Alma and Glenn found themselves wearing many hats to keep the business afloat. Becky, created bee magnets. Kate worked on her crocheting skills to make potholders. Jess and friends took to designing and making face masks that were not only comfortable, but with a thicker cotton interior lining to act like a filter for better protection. Moreover, Jess’s face covers straps were made to go around the head, instead of the ears. Some people with special needs are very sensitive to having their ears touched. Face covers with straps that go around the ears is a deal breaker for those with ear sensitivity.
We waited two weeks after everything started opening in May before letting some of our special worker bees back to the shop. Business was done through a service window on our front porch. We worked with our young adults on getting back in “work mode” and social distancing skills for an additional 2-3 weeks before opening our doors to customers with face masks, under limited capacity for proper social distancing.
Our Bees: Right around Mid-March is when the queen bees we raise start to hatch. We split our hives and add the new queens to mini hives to sell called nucs. We raise extra queens for hobby beekeepers that need a new queens for the 2020 season. We also do our monthly inspections to see which hives have honey for harvesting. During inspection we check which hives need additional boxes because they are still honey making mode. If we do not keep adding boxes for the bees to fill and if they run out of room; they will eat as much honey as they can and then abandon the hive boxes in search for a bigger home.
When Covid hit in Mid-March, Alma and Glenn’s focus went from the bees to taking on all the tasks that our team at home would do; plus the new responsibilities needed to keep the business afloat. She knew that bees would be fine as they had PLENTY of honey. The queens hatched the very week Covid hit, before she could get to them, so our queen program was over for the 2020 season. If one queen hatches before the others, the hatched queen will destroy and kill all unhatched queens and fight to the death with queens that have hatched. There can only be ONE queen. Our goal is getting the queen cells in mini hives before they hatch…but that unfortunately couldn’t happen.
By putting in multiple 18-hour days, Alma and Glenn were able to do a harvest and split some of our hives for nucs. It was not until our “workerbees” came back was it we could see what was really going on with our bees. We had many beehives that ate their honey and take off because we were not able to get additional bee boxes on them due to little manpower, time, and money.
The money from our farmers markets are what pays for our woodware every spring. Alma stated, “Even if we had the money, we still would have not made it to the bees in time. Suppliers were closed or backed up. I am only one person. There is no way I could have built, painted, load everything to get to the bees…plus manage the store, make deliveries, and do the product production needed to keep up with demand. I need to find peace that I did the best I could… given the situation at hand.” The light at the end of the tunnel, is that we found some boxes we discontinued hidden in the back our garage. We were able re-purpose these boxes into screen bottom boards, saving us a few thousand dollars! Check out the pic of Trevor, he has really taken lead in this project. Trevor works independently, diligently, and is hyper focus on doing what is needed to get the bees back on track!
We are Blessed: We have learned so much during this time through our struggle and gifts from others. Many of our artisans/farmer friends had an abundance, so we traded our goods or just gave it away to each other. We are big in the belief “teach a man to fish.” We received an abundance of organic elderberries, organic pecans, organic figs and dates! We learned of the benefits of Elderberry and combine it with benefits of raw honey and bee propolis. We were able to make Elderberry Kits for our customers. We learned of the health benefits of organic dates and figs and blended them with our creamed honey to make a yummy honey spread! We even learned what a “scoby” was and how make small batch Kombucha with fresh fruit and honey for gut health! All our new products are now available online or at our store!
Despite all the challenges we’ve had… we are blessed. Prior to Covid, we were on track to exceeding our yearly goals and becoming a completely debt free business. Yes, due to Covid we lost allot of foreseeable income and increased our debt some; but we did not need to take a loan. We were able to keep ALL of our team members, we are all healthy, safe, and have plenty of toilet paper! Moreover, we were able to pay ALL of our bills on-time because of our loyal customers and through our company’s savings that was originally allocated to wipe out the debt. It may have been by the hair of our chinny chin chin, but by God’s grace we are doing it! Yes, we lost allot of hives, but we have just enough hives to get us back to where we need to be by season. For now, we continue to consider the path we have had to walk a success story. We are grateful, we are united, we are blessed!
We would like to send a special thank you to our customers for your continued support and sharing info about us with your friends on social media. We send a virtual hug to those that blessed us with generous gifts and cards of encouragement! We are grateful and genuinely appreciate all of you!
-Sarasota Honey Company Family