Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Thomas Dennard, Owner of Savannah Bee Company, located in Savannah, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
On the surface, we sell honey and honey products. But what we are truly doing is using the sales of these products to save the bees! Our customers are truly from all walks of life. Everyone can appreciate the benefits of bees, and our products are a very affordable luxury that appeal to the $3 lip balm user to the $120 gold reserve honey buyer.
Tell us about yourself
I had been a beekeeper for 20 years; it was just a hobby. I had also done a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, working with beekeepers in Jamaica. Suddenly I found myself in my early thirties and in dire need of a career. After selling a few jars of honey, I realized the possibility of building a career out of my beekeeping and selling honey full time.
Bees motivate and inspire me. I love them, and I love what they do for the planet! Each beehive visits 500,000,000 flowers each year! Their products are amazing and full of life. They need to be appreciated and protected.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One might say it’s persevering for 20 years and taking this idea from a kitchen operation to a 200-person company or selling tens of millions of dollars in products. But really, for me, it’s sparking and funding a not-for-profit, The Bee Cause project. That non-profit has put beehives in 700 schools across five countries. Thousands of students, their parents, teachers, and principals have all learned about bees in both their triumphs and struggles. The hope is to raise a generation that understands, loves, and protects the honeybee.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Easy answer: having to let people go who have worked for the company. There is a lot of pressure to continue to succeed - to survive even - when you have so many people and their families depending on it. There are an infinite number of decisions and outcomes, and it is my job to decipher the possibilities and choose the best one. “What is best for Savannah Bee Company?” is the question I try to answer. I know that is a bummer answer, but unfortunately, it is a reality in the striving for harmony in our hive. The obligation is for the entity and those that make it up over the individual. And believe me, I am always working to reinvent and grow myself along with the team, so we all stay current.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Follow your passion like breadcrumbs leading you to your individual purpose in life. If you are doing what you love, it makes all the inevitable struggles easier to overcome than succumbing to them.
- Ask for help, read books like "Good to Great," and listen to podcasts like “How I Built This” for inspiration and guidance.
- Persevere. Honestly, given time, the accumulated years of effort will begin to build a “castle” and become what people know and rely on. Simply put, if you can continue to strive, you will become a trusted and thriving member of the community that, when you started out, didn’t know anything about you.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We like to think that using a beehive business model leaves everything better and more symbiotic. That is sustainable. Honeybees have been around for a LONG time; they have outsurvived the T-rex and left the planet better for having been here. We strive to make products that benefit the customers and vendors, help our employees, and support bees in the process. As we grow, so does our positive impact. When everyone wins, that is not just sustainable; it is admirable.
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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