Up to about three years ago, Jamaican 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 said.
White and her 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.
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.
“I decided three years ago to learn more about beekeeping,” she said.
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, White stated 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 said.
Taylor said 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 workers 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,” Taylor shared.
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.
White said 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 people 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 offered.
While a number of small businesses are buckling from the impact of the novel coronavirus restrictions, 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,” Taylor shared.
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,” Taylor said.
“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 [gross domestic product],” he continued.
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 e-mail at email@example.com.
This story was culled from Jamaica Observer