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For many, beekeeping starts as a hobby. It doesn’t take them long, however, to realize what a fascinating and fulfilling career it can be. Beekeeping isn’t just about collecting honey; it’s about getting to know your bees, their behaviors, and their response to the natural environment around them. How rewarding would it be to parlay your passion into a career?
Who is this business right for?
While beekeeping is an edifying career, it’s also a lot of work. If you’re passionate about being at one with nature, and thrive on continuously learning and growing, beekeeping can be a wonderful business to enter.
What happens during a typical day at a beekeeping business?
Since you can only collect honey from your hives during certain times of the year, your daily activities will vary from season to season. Beekeeping is a form of animal husbandry, so you will spend time providing feed when nectar and pollen supplies are low, preventing infections and parasitic mites, and minimizing the effects of Africanized bees.
When available, you’ll collect honey and honeycomb, turning them into products such as lotion and chapstick. Since this is a very unique profession, you’ll also want to spend a good deal of time marketing, and looking for new opportunities to make a name for yourself and your products.
What is the target market?
You’ll have two different types of customers - those that purchase honey, and those that purchase beeswax products. When first starting out, individual sales will be your bread and butter. As you make a name for yourself within the community, you’ll want to target larger customers. Restaurants and health food stores have the ability to purchase your products in bulk, making the sales process easier.
How does a beekeeping business make money?
Your beekeeping business will earn a profit through the sale of honey and other bee-related products. Depending on their location and demand, some beekeepers also rent out their bees for commercial crop pollination.
What is the growth potential for a beekeeping business?
Your business’ growth is heavily dependent on the size of land you have to work with. The more space you have, the more bees you’re able to tend to. More bees equals greater yield.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful beekeeping business?
Except for when you’re out selling your products, much of your time will be spent alone, so it’s important that you enjoy the solitude. Each colony has different behaviors and reacts differently to their surroundings, so beekeepers must be detail-oriented, with a love of constantly learning new things. Patience is critical in this profession. It also doesn’t hurt to have a calm personality - animals feed off our energy and bees are no different. Your reaction to a bee sting or when something else goes awry can directly affect the bee’s behavior.
What are the costs involved in opening a beekeeping business?
The greatest part of your investment will be the land you house your bees on. You’ll need to purchase or rent land large enough for your bees to forage. If you’re worried about having too much land, keep in mind that larger spaces can be grown into, while smaller pieces of land can stunt growth.
Once you’ve found land for your bees, there are a few additional items you’ll need:
- Bees with queen: $130
- Veil: $10-$30
- Hive tool: $10
- Bee smoker: $16
- Beekeeper’s suit: $15-$170
- Gloves: $10-$40
- Beekeeper’s Boots: $30
- Fully assembled hives: $270 each
- Bee brush: $6
- Escape board: $27
- Honey extractor: $100 to $260
- Electrically heated knife: $72
- Cheesecloth: $7 for 4 yards
- Wintering equipment, for those living in colder climates
Your initial investment should also include launching a website, developing marketing materials, and acquiring an insurance policy, recommended by your attorney or agent.
What are the steps to start a beekeeping business?
Once you're ready to start your beekeeping business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your beekeeping business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your beekeeping business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a beekeeping business?
The following are some insider tips from experienced beekeepers who have chosen to make a career out of their passion:
- When looking for land for your bees, try to avoid residential areas. Investing in a rural area will reduce complaints of bee stings from neighbors, and ensure a more controlled environment for feeding your bees.
- Prepare yourself for honey processing by establishing a processing facility prior to placing your first hives.
- When purchasing hives, try to get one that’s had bees in it for at least a year. This reduces stress on the bees, which could negatively impact your crop.
- Protect your bees from chemicals as much as possible.
- Don’t get greedy! Remember, these bees are feeding you. Leave enough honey and honeycomb for them to properly feed on. A healthy bee is a healthy producer.
- Make sure they have access to a variety of food sources.
- Find out if there’s a bee club in your community and attend meetings whenever possible.
- Check with your state and local government, as some states require you to register as a beekeeper.
- Before starting your own business, consider apprenticing for a year or two, to really get a feel for what the job entails.
How to promote & market a beekeeping business
One of the best ways to promote your business is through education. Many consumers are unaware of the benefits of consuming local honey, choosing to purchase it from the grocery store instead. Have a website built and publish regular blogs, educating consumers on common myths and misconceptions. Don’t forget to use any small business’ most inexpensive promotional tool - social media.
To further make a name for yourself, get out into the community. Attend local farmers markets and flea markets, and take part in local events. Visit natural stores and restaurants in your area - many of them will invest in your products for resale and for their own recipes.
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How to keep customers coming back
If you consistently offer quality products, you’ll develop a loyal following. For a small business in a niche market, word of mouth is often your highest-producing marketing tool, and positive customer experiences speak volumes.
How and when to build a team
Beekeeping is typically a job done in solitude, so you really won’t need a staff to run the business. If you do decide to hire someone to help with special events and on market days, be sure you employ someone who is fully educated on your products, as well as the beekeeping process.
Read our beekeeping business hiring guide to learn about the different roles a beekeeping business typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain multiple licenses pertaining to honey processing. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting the Small Business Administration’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Because honey is being sold as a product of this business, you will need licensing from a local health department. All establishments serving and/or preparing food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspection can be found here.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Certificate of Occupancy
A beekeeping business is generally run on a property with a honey-processing building called a honey house. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations have been met.
If you plan to purchase or build a honey house on a property:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Beekeeping Business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices vary depending upon the product, size, and process used to produce the item. Honey is typically sold in pounds, with a 1.5 lb jar of raw honey selling for $11 and 3 lbs for $21. Local bee pollen retails for approximately $10 for 10oz.
What are the ongoing expenses for a beekeeping business?
Well-maintained beehives often last for more than 30 years, significantly lowering your ongoing expenses. Annual costs for additional supplies should run between $80-$100 per hive, depending upon your specific needs.
How much profit can a beekeeping business make?
Annual profit depends upon a number of factors. What types of products do you plan to sell? How many colonies will you have? What region of the country do you live in and what is the weather like? If the weather is good and the bugs are minimal, 800 colonies could yield a profit of $90,000 annually.
How can you make your business more profitable?
The following are a few strategies other beekeepers have implemented to ensure a more profitable business:
- Rent your bees for commercial crop pollination
- Make and sell a variety of products, including honey, beeswax, lip balm, tinctures, and hand cream
- Selling pollen is a great way to increase your annual profit
- Some beekeepers have found success offering bee sting therapy
- Rear queen bees or sell bulk bees
- Donate honey to a local food bank or kitchen to generate a tax deduction