Up to about three years ago, Yanique White had a traditional nine-to-five job.
She was working in a lab making good use of her studies in chemistry, but she was not happy.
“I felt unfulfilled with a regular nine to five.. I was not very passionate about it. My heart longed for the excitement of entrepreneurial life,” she tells JIS News.
Miss White and life partner Aaron Taylor decided to take the plunge into beekeeping and are now reaping sweet success through their ‘Bee Sweet Honey JA’ holistic company.
The business, located in St. Elizabeth, manufactures raw honey and a range of honey products, while at the same time protecting the environment and helping to increase and sustain the local bee population.
Speaking to JIS News about the genesis of the company, Miss White, who describes herself as having an “entrepreneurial spirit” says she was looking for a viable alternative to the predictable routine of her job.
She says she had long had an interest in beekeeping, having been exposed to the craft by her neighbour as a child.
“So, I decided three years ago to learn more about beekeeping,” she tells JIS News.
Miss White sought training through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Apiculture Unit located at the Bodles Research Centre in Old Harbour, St. Catherine.
The training spanned four months and involved a mixture of theory and field work, equipping her with the necessary skills to enter the beekeeping sector.
Acutely aware of and concerned about the dwindling global bee population and the impact of this on food production, Miss White says that a key objective was to contribute to the growth of the local bee population.
“I saw it as my opportunity to dedicate my time to a science and an art that provides people with a source of nutritious food and also a way for me to play my part in keeping the web of life intact, so to speak,” she says.
Mr. Taylor, for his part, tells JIS News that he has always been interested in manufacturing and saw his partner’s dream of a “sweeter life” in beekeeping as a way of achieving his long-held career goal.
It was then that ‘Bee Sweet Honey JA’ was born. From an initial investment in four hives, the company now boasts 90 hives, with a staff of six persons producing raw honey; honey blends, which is pure honey infused with red raspberry, hibiscus, chamomile, lemon, ginger, among others; and clean-burning candles.
“We were cautious. We honed our craft and we continue to learn as we grow. We started out small as a means to learn and understand how to manage our own bee population and apiary to prepare for a time when we would expand, and now we are proud owners of commercial apiaries,” Mr. Taylor tells JIS News.
He notes that a lot of time was dedicated to identifying ideal locations or “sweet spots” for the apiaries and working with farmers from neighbouring communities to get them to use natural pesticides on crops, rather that chemicals that have a negative impact on plants and bees.
Ms. White says that farmers would often share stories about improved harvests once they reduced the use of harmful chemical pesticides.
“Our work as apiculturists stretches further than our bees and their honey. We always have to share with our colleagues and persons within and outside of our radius to ensure the health and continuity of our bees and their crops. We do not want to risk losing our bees and ultimately our business,” she says.
Meanwhile, while a number of small businesses are buckling from the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Bee Sweet Honey JA team is using the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate.
As such, the company has added new honey blends, which offer health benefits. These include turmeric, ginger and garlic honey blends, which are ideal natural sweeteners for teas.
“The pandemic has actually inspired three of our newest honey blend products, which benefit us as entrepreneurs as well as our customers. Additionally, with the increased knowledge of the health benefits of honey and honey-based products, we have found that our client base has grown and our sales have gradually increased,” Mr. Taylor shares.
In looking towards the future, the young couple has ambitions of expanding Bee Sweet Honey JA to the wider Caribbean and beyond.
“We want to push Jamaican-made products regionally and internationally,” says Mr. Taylor.
“Our aim is to employ more people locally and across international borders. We want to be considered as positive players in the Jamaican economy, making significant contributions to the country’s GDP,” he continues.
Bee Sweet Honey JA products are widely available locally and the company has begun working on an e-commerce website. Persons can also contact the company by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the couple’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and those looking to start a honey/beekeeping business, is to “do it afraid”.
“Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but start. You can smooth the rough edges as you go along. Be genuinely interested in the field because it will test you and if you’re not motivated by your passion, the journey will be more difficult than it has to be,” says Mr. Taylor.
“Always, seek knowledge and keep yourself informed in the particular area you are passionate about. We’re in the information age so there is no excuse to be willingly ignorant. Do your research and identify opportunities for training and funding and go hone your skills. You will be surprised at the amount of opportunities that exist,” Ms. White adds.