In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with James Douglas, the owner and beekeeper of Huckle Bee Farms. Huckle Bee Farms sells raw and infused honey, is based in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and has been in business for seven years.
R: Why did you decide to start Huckle Bee Farms?
James: It started as a hobby and a backup plan. It grew into a full time profession. In this business, I am able to utilize my different skill sets from business, to the art of creating unique products. There is a form of peace when working with the chaos of bees.
R: How did you learn to work with bees?
J: My love and fascination of honeybees started at an early age, as I remember one Christmas, Santa brought me a microscope with slides of different bee parts. I spent hours staring at them, pretending I was a mad scientist.
Later in my youth, my neighboring farm raised bees and I was always ready to lend a helping hand. Many years have passed, but in 2012 we started Huckle Bee Farms.
R: What was your background before you worked with bees?
J: While starting Huckle Bee Farms and going full time into the business, I was the Chief Operating Office for the Boy Scouts of America.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
J: Our first prototype was orange infused honey. Habanero was born shortly thereafter. Through the years we have had many successes, but also failures in our R&D.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
J: Our honey is infused with organic fruits and vegetables made right here in our kitchen with love and skilled hands. It can take up to two weeks for each batch to finish.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
J: The best part of my day is when I get to share with others the benefits of honey and different ways to use it. It’s amazing to watch a honey hater fall in love with an infused flavor and see the smile on their face.
R: What’s an interesting fact about bees you’d like people to know?
1. Honeybees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
2. One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.
3. The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
J: We started with just one hive and grew to 162 hives as of today. Our investment was very minimal. All profit for the first couple of years went right back into the business so financing was never needed.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
J: Our first sale was at a farmers’ market where we sold out after one hour with three hours remaining. It was a fast learning curve on how to be prepared.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
J: Retail stores, markets and festivals, and our online store.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
J: Gift shops and specialty stores across the nation.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
J: Facebook and email marketing along with personal service. Facebook is key to our success as we share new offers, recipes and honeybee updates. Followup marketing with customers is also key to maintaining a relationship.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
J: Our most frustrating challenge is perfecting the recipes for our infused honey, and providing a constant flavor.
R: Why is it so hard to provide a consistent flavor with your infused honeys?
J: Different nectars from different plants and trees produce a different flavor of honey. Because of this, we must constantly update our recipes to provide a consistent taste of our Infused Flavors.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
J: Our best achievement is watching our business grow throughout the years.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
J: The advice I would offer is to put a person behind every sale. Build that relationship and make them feel special. Give them that Disney experience.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
J: Controlling our own schedule!