My husband is an apiarist. In the area where we live, there are many apiarists ... some that do it as a hobby and others that do it as a full time business. My husband falls somewhere in between. He has a full time job, however, beekeeping and honey production/sales is one of our side-businesses that has recently begun to show us profits. One of our friends quit his full time job a year or so back because his apiary business became a full time job unto itself, in part because he found a niche product that no one else produces and beekeepers want. Business is booming for him and this past year has been one of major growth.
While my husband doesn't have as lofty of dreams, we gain business because of my husband’s old-school beliefs on customer service. He remembers back to a simpler time growing up in an era of trust and honesty where you gave your customers value for their patronage. My husband offers services such as swarm/hive removal and crop pollination but rather than charging an insane fee, he exchanges one value for another. For example, he will remove a swarm for free whereas others charge to do this. He does this because his business needs swarms to stay operational ... after all, no bees = no honey. Providing that the swarm is fairly easy to access, he will remove it at no charge thus providing a service for the customer and saving himself the expense of having to pay for bees. On the flip side, if he encounters a hive extraction, he charges $50 per hour for removal because that is a more labor intense procedure. People remember this and call him frequently during swarm season. They also pass his name on to others and when they are looking to purchase honey products, they call him because they know he is fair, honest, knowledgeable and personable.
Our apiaries sit on land that belongs to local farmers because we don't own enough property to house all of these hives. The farmers allow us to place hives on their property because it provides pollination for their crops and we don't have to pay to lease land to keep the hives on but my husband goes above and beyond that simple "arrangement" and gives each farmer a free bottle of honey at harvest season. It may seem like a very small gesture but let me tell you, it is appreciated more than you would think. Many other apiarists would just charge a monthly fee to the farmer for having their hives on site and be done with it and it may seem like my husband is selling himself short but it is this type of relationship that actually helps to keep the business going. He keeps a set number of hives and should someone approach him requesting pollination services that would require him to maintain more hives than he really wants to, he would charge but for now, there is a nice balance that benefits everyone.
Lastly, he is willing to mentor others. He takes his free time to help 4-H kids and farmers learn to keep bees. He isn't afraid of a little healthy competition and believes the field needs more people protecting the honeybees during a critical time when science can't solve the Colony Collapse Disorder crisis. He is thinking of the bigger picture and putting sustaining the eco-system ahead of personal gains which people find admirable.
All of these things make him stand out just like his friend stands out because of his niche product. They are two of the most sought after and respected beekeepers in the state.
In his new article here in the community, Steve Strauss discusses "the X-Factor" and what drew him to a little cafe each morning for breakfast while on vacation. Every great business and entrepreneur has something that sets them apart. I know that there is something that makes you stand out and I want to know what that something is! And if you don't want to share your "secrets", then tell us what draws you to your favourite place?