In 2015, Nicole Buergers quit her marketing job to pursue a longtime passion: beekeeping and selling local honey in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Today, she is the owner of Bee2Bee Honey Collective, which helps build and maintain backyard beehives and sells local honey produced in Houston. It can bring in over $100,000 a year.
While Buergers was still working at a marketing agency, her financial planner asked what she was really passionate about, and her answer was somewhat unconventional. "I really care about cheese," she says she told him.
Their conversation led her to start a blog, The Queso Queen. One post about a Houston cheese shop called the Houston Dairymaids led to a job offer at the store, and within months, Buergers began working at the shop on Saturdays. Around the same time, Buergers also dove into beginner beekeeping with a beehive in her own backyard. She learned of the "hundreds of backyard beekeepers in the city," and became part of their community.
When Buergers started noticing that Dairymaids patrons frequently requested locally made honey (which the store didn't sell at the time), she started developing an idea for a bee business.
"I was like, 'OK, this is gonna be kind of a weekend project, a side hustle,'" she says, "But the more I worked on it, I just became obsessed with it. … I could not do my full-time job anymore, and I ended up quitting."
Today, Bee2Bee takes care of anywhere between 70 and 125 hives per year in Houston and the surrounding area, and sells honey from up to 30 different honey makers, depending on the season. The business brings in as much as $10,000 a month, says Buergers, who charges clients a monthly fee for setting up the hives and for maintaining them. She also keeps 35% of her clients' honey, which she sells for a profit. On top of all that, she gives classes on beekeeping and food pairing.
Here are four of Buergers' key takeaways from her booming business.
When deciding where to focus, start by zeroing in on what you're excited about.
"A lot of people I know have really boring nine-to-five jobs," Buergers says, "and they have all of this creativity and ingenuity that they want to explore and exercise but don't get to. ... A side hustle can do that."
Once you've determined a subject or idea you're passionate about, explore the market and see where there might be a niche or how you could fulfill a need. For Buergers, that meant connecting consumers craving local honey with backyard honey producers.
The way Bee2Bee makes money has changed over time. "This past year has been really interesting," Buergers says, "because I took over for a few beekeepers at the big farmers market here and it really changed my revenue stream. Before I was making most of my money through the beekeeping services, and now I'm doing a lot more honey sales."
By remaining flexible and aware of opportunities, Buergers has been able to capitalize on what's come her way and continue to expand the business.
As soon as Buergers started beekeeping, she joined local bee clubs. Even as a hobby, beekeeping can be a solitary endeavor, she says, and it helped to have a community to learn from and collaborate with.
"You need a community," Buergers says. "I know a lot of other small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we're all dealing with a lot of the same stressors and questions, and to have those people around you who are also insanely busy ― at least you know you have these people in your corner."
Despite the growth of her business, Buergers herself does not make bank on Bee2Bee ― at least, not yet. That $10,000 per month mostly goes towards paying her employees, maintaining an office and classroom space, the company truck, and other expenses.
"I don't pay myself very much," she says. "I'm hoping to change that. I never really envisioned this being a money-maker type of thing, more of this is something I really want to do so I'm going to pursue it. ... I'd like to make enough revenue where I pay myself a pretty good living wage."
These days, Buergers pays herself $1,000 a month, a salary she more or less lives on: Her business income is supplemented by an occasional shift at the Dairymaids and by renting out an extra room in her house on Airbnb. She's made some lifestyle changes since founding the business, like selling her car, for instance, and not dining out very often.
The bottom line, she says, is that when you try to build a business, "you're gonna struggle for the first few years before you can really pay yourself, but I think it's totally worth it."
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