Re: starting a sideline operation
From personal experience I can tell you that you will maximize your profits by selling retail yourself at your local farmers markets or similar venue. We have our honey in several stores and it doesn't even come close to the volume I get at the farmers markets. With 100 hives you will never be at the volume to sell to something like a City Market or Whole Foods venue, so if you do sell in stores it will be your local marts.
Selling to stores means you will have to do all the work and sell at wholesale. Your wholesale price should cover your expenses and your labor plus leave room for a 40 to 60% mark up by the store. Selling at a farmers market is more work, not in preparation but in tending to the actual market. The advantages are this. You are representing your own product that you can talk about and sell. You can sell your honey at the highest price the market will bare, which sometimes can be a good deal if you know how to sell. I have one honey that I am getting $40 a quart and can't keep up with demand, so much of what you do has to do with presentation, selling quality, and knowing your market.
Start visiting your local markets. Talk to the veggie vendors and see what traffic is like. Notice the prices. Are there other honey vendors or will you have a corner on the market. What angle can you use to make your product unique, etc.
Having said all that none of it really matters much until you get your hive numbers up and can produce a large enough crop to meet whatever market you decide to enter into. NOTE: all your costs will be up front so expect that and figure in about 50% more then you think you will spend. Have a plan on how you will expand. Buy someone out, wood ware, pallets, where you going to put the bees (yards), don't forget extracting, bottling, labeling, etc. It is going to be lots of work...if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
Good luck. Check out Chef Issac's operation. He is doing it right and I picked up some good tips and examples from his operation. But first get your bee numbers up and start seeing what kind of crop you can expect. Horse before the cart kind of thing.
Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne