Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jodi Roth, Owner of Huckleberry Hives, located in Gads Hill, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Bees are my business! I keep honey bees and run a bee breeding program focusing on disease resistant and other phenotypic (observable) traits that indicate genetic strengths. I also produce raw honey, specialty flavoured honey, and beeswax candles, which I sell at markets and right on location at the main apiary site. My customers include local Ontario beekeepers who purchase bees from me as well as discerning locals looking for quality honey and candles.
Tell us about yourself
I first got into bees while I was in what I'd have to call a burn-out/compassion fatigue recovery phase of my life. I found that working with the bees allowed me to access a peaceful state of being that aligned with the concept of "flow," where everything else on my mind slipped away, and my total focus was on the bees, watching them, and interacting with them.
As I continued working with bees, I chose to take several classes about raising new queen bees and bee breeding and found that I enjoyed that aspect, which led me to begin my beekeeping business. I now operate around 100 beehives as a small-scale commercial beekeeper, and I still enjoy the flow state that comes when focused on a hive. I also run a limited number of tours during the beekeeping season to share the magic of the hives with people, and my motivation to continue in beekeeping stems from the joys of working with the bees and having a varied and active workday, along with the knowledge that my business is directly connected with nature.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been keeping my hives alive over our Canadian winters! Beekeeping is farming, and my honey bees are my livestock. There are many things I do to help give them the best chance to survive winter, and each year I have learned more about what I could do to better serve my bees. It is gratifying to see them surviving well and thriving come spring, knowing that this means I can produce new queens, honey, and hive products to keep my business going strong.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
As a new business still building a customer base, cash flow is a huge challenge. My business has a seasonal nature, so there are times of the year when income is very low compared to expenses, which has been a learning curve to manage.
On a personal level, as I am currently the sole employee, time management is also a challenge in that I wear all the hats, so I have to prioritize and be ready to adjust quickly to catch anything I've missed or overlooked.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I would recommend finding something, whether a service or a product, that you feel genuinely proud to offer to your potential customers - authenticity matters, and your customers will be able to tell if you are not 100% behind your product.
Stay on top of your bookkeeping (or hire it out if you have that option). Regularly plan time to enter bills and expense receipts and stick to it, even if you're just starting out and find yourself thinking, "oh, I don't have that many receipts," trust me, I've done that and regretted it. Being regular (might I suggest weekly) makes end-of-year and taxes so much easier.
With regard to growing a business, my best advice is to use your resources well and persevere. Be particular about what you spend your money on and when. Consider whether it's a business expense that could be put off or that you are pursuing more from personal excitement than the good of the business, and consider how the purchase will impact your business's ability to generate revenue - if it doesn't directly turn into revenue, how quickly down the line does it touch something that does generate revenue?
An example of this for myself is that some of the candle molds I have purchased were ones I was personally excited about but which really haven't shown a large and consistent popularity in sales once I used them to produce candles. While the purchase was only 1 step away from a revenue-generating product, my mold purchase was partially made from personal interest/excitement, and the purchase of the mold could have waited until I had done market research or simply waited until my business had some budget set aside for additional candle molds.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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