Re: information on commercial beekeeping
Hey Ben, sounds like you're in the same boat as me. I don't have a formal mentor any more than YouTube. Not saying that's the best, but it works for me. I've also ramped up from one package this spring to 8 hives now. I do removals, hive sales, honey sales, etc, trying to be as diverse as possible while not getting in over my head.
I'm obviously not a master at it yet, but my biggest piece of advice is that you only grow as fast as you can handle. I started my entire operation from a meager allowance of only $25/week. I know this sounds silly coming from a grown man, but it forced me to keep it cheap, and not dive in to too much debt. I keep precise financial records on everything I've done. Cash I earn from services renderred is reinvested into the hobby where it is most needed. To date, I am almost broke even on a cash flow. However, I also track all of my assests and appreciate/depreciate accordingly. I have valued my current assets at nearly $2000. So even though my cash flow isn't positive black, if I sold out today it would be. That's the important thing.
Record keeping is everything. Good notes and documentation on everything you do will be worth just as much as the product you deliver. It will help you to always streamline and become more efficient, knowing what worked and what didn't. Here's are really simple tip: figure out what your time is worth, and don't work for any less than a minimum salary. I make great money at my day job, and I can't at this point match that (consistently) with beekeeping. But my point is, I have a target, that I don't do anyting as a side job unless I think I can make at least the equivalent of $25/hr. Don't justify loses because you love what you do. Make yourself better so you hit your target. Every time I do a bee removal for example, I quote and upfront single cost, rather than charge by the hour. Then it's a competition with myself to work faster and more efficiently so that I make more per hour in the end. A few weeks ago I did a removal of a swarm under a deck. I guoted $150, not sure how long it would take. In 30 minutes I had caught the queen, the march was on, and I was packing up! It won't always go this wellm but that was my personal best.
Ok, I've blabbed enough, but the end point is, don't get in too deep too fast with the hope of paying out later on. I intend to continue to grow my operation steadily over the coming years, but only as long as a positive cash flow will allow. I hope to have it built up for a retirement cash cow by the time I get there.
One last note, applying to the thought of "what is your time worth". It's simple. If I can save $25 and do it in an hour or less, I do it myself. For example, you can buy a fully assembled hive body for $100, or you can buy all the pieces and assemble yourself for $50. Assemble in two hours or less and your winning. Or, find someone else willing to work for less than your base rate, and pay them to assemble it. You won't save as much, but you still save. I intend to have my kids do this when they are big enough. I'll pay them fair wages to assemble hive bodies, teach them to work for a living, and a trade at the same time, and keep the savings all in the family.
If you want to pick my brain feel free to PM me. Good luck!
One package to 4 hives in 3 months. After 12 months I'm over a dozen hives and growing. Head over heels for bees!!!