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Discussion Starter #1
Looking for pointers on taking the plunge from part timer bee keeper to full time beekeeping for a business.

Allow me to provide just a little background. I'm currently producing about 300-500 nucs (and my own queens) a year locally. These are both for sale and for my own increases. I raise nucs from nucs and until this year have not been running many honey production hives (maybe 40-60). This year I decided to palatalize -4 way- my 10 framers and begin moving them to better flows as needed.

I have a 1 ton w/12ft bed and a skid steer already. Most recently I wintered in FL on pepper and will likely triple my hives by Feb. (have already increased from 56 to 129). I'm sorry if I ramble but I can already see that with my experience in raising queens and nucs -and the tremendous help from veteran mentors- thank you Dave Shreve - I'm quickly outgrowing my cash flow. Raising bees seems to be the easiest parts of this equation, it's keeping up with the equipment needs and finding ways/places to keep them feed that's far more difficult for me.
For instance, going from only 50ish production hives to 200ish from fall to spring honey flow requires a pretty large investment in supers. This is at a time when cash flow is absent at best! This leads me to consider the almond bloom but I'm not sure if that's smart for such a small operation like mine? I spoke with Joe Traynor from Scientific Ag co. today looking for help and he was very informative to say the least! I'd like to hear a little from this group about where to take this growing monster now that I'm ALL IN!!!

Btw: I don't even have a honey house yet, just a 12 frame extractor and a cold knife.

Ricky
 

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Waiting patiently and eagerly for any advice given.

I would agree that the hardest thing so far is covering the costs of hardware for expansion. Just need all the boxes and frames to put them in.
 

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Take a loan or grow small. You could strike it rich on almonds and outright buy your needs but $$$ and risk. You need a place to extract otherwise what will you do?
:)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I do have options for extraction for the short run. There are others who are wiling to share of their facility in exchange for some honey (share cropping). Given the up-fit costs of a good full scale honey house I wonder if more people shouldn't exercise this option?

Yea, that's the obvious first choice but borrowing money is not in my DNA!!! I'm just looking to find ways to spread out the cash FLOW beyond nuc sales. Selling honey isn't quite as easy as I thought it would be either. "Giving" it away @ $3-5/lb is very easy. Retailers (want) to steal it for $3-5 then re-bottle it @ $10-18/lb (sourwood). They make more on it than you the producer!!!!! Customers say "wow $7/lb that's more than I pay at w-Mart". Okay I'm venting a little, sorry.
 

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I am fairly new as a beekeeper, but I am very 40+ years experienced at starting and operating businesses. What you are experiencing is what my daddy used to call a plateau. A business is profitable at a certain level. It requires more and more commitment as it grows. These are points at which the fixed costs increase and are hard to pull back from. An example would be buying a larger truck or hiring another helper. Whenever your business reaches a plateau it is important to make a new business plan and make sure that the move makes sense and that you have a plan "B" in case things get rough. Plans "C", "D", "E" etc. would not be a bad idea. You should also plot your path to the next plateau so you will be prepared.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ian,

I can see that you've grown to pretty good size outfit. Are you focused on any one particular aspect (honey?) of beekeeping or are you diversified?
 

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Ian,

I can see that you've grown to pretty good size outfit. Are you focused on any one particular aspect (honey?) of beekeeping or are you diversified?
diversity is key
I manage only honey, but we are in cattle and grain

gota look at the bottom of the ledger, that number is not $3 per lbs, contact your nearest reputable packer, get a quote to base your expansion decisions on
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks Ian.

I think the greatest need in the entire bee market is "quality" bees. This (nucs) is where I've been focused. Local, local, local stock! Jamie Ellis (University of FL) and Sue Coby as well as others have continued to express that your best bees will come from selecting bees out of YOUR OWN best stock and reproducing from that. All the while maintaining good diversity also.

Our bees seem to do very well but the problem is forage. The spring bloom here only lasts from March-May but due to inconsistent weather you will only make honey from May1-June1 and then it shuts off like a faucet!! After that you can't even crack a lid around here with out robbing. We do move to the mnt's for sourwood during July but that is even more inconsistent. So that means no splits, no feeding, nothing. All they do is cost you money till next spring. I have to find a way to change this or it's just not sustainable. Pollination?
 

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Have you considered building you own supers and frames from lumber rather than ordering them?

If you make your own medium supers with just but jointed corners rather than finger joints you can make them for under $3 each and maybe make 8 or 9 per hour. If you go right to the sawmill and get rough cut lumber it can be even cheaper but take more time. I think the cheapest medium super Manlake sells is $12. That is a $9 savings per super. If every hive has 4 boxes and you want to increase your hives by 150 that is $5400 less out of pocket in cash (but more in time)

The same could be done with making your own frames. Once you get a system down I would think it would be possible to make 200-300 per day. Which is time consuming but may use up $0.30 each in lumber to make. If you made 6000 frames (that is the number of frames to fill 150 hives with 4 boxes each) that is another $5000 less in out of pocket expenses.

If you have enough wax you could make you own foundation as well but I have no idea of the cost of doing that.

Between boxes and frames if you make them yourself you could be reducing your out of pocket expense by $10,000 so even if it took you a couple months to do it may still be worthwhile.

Of course this is all assuming you are a woodworker who is willing to take on a project of that size.
 

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"Looking for pointers on taking the plunge from part timer bee keeper to full time beekeeping for a business."

Synergy, simplicity, husbandry. Don't branch out unless there is significant synergy and very little interactive conflict between the multiple branches. The more pieces that are necessary to achieve the outcome, the more likely some won't fit. Take care of the bees first. There are others who are much more informed than I am. Listen to them. Do what you love.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Joe,

I do build all of my own equipment now. I have the skills and equipment to build, manufacture, weld and fix anything. I could never survive buying from others. I don't know how the 'big guys' do it? My guess is that any 'good' pollination contract would supply the cash flow to purchase the next need.
 

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There are plenty of almond growers and brokers that will take your bees. Your best bet is to find a beekeeper sending a partial load to almonds that way you can jump in.
 

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Almonds are an interesting experience, if you talked to Joe you went to one of the best sources so your good there. the key to that kind of growth is a plan, and a backup. without that backup plan your asking for trouble.

Right now the honey market is dropping, and the bee market is getting saturated. not trying to talk you out of it, just think hard. plan on 1.50 honey and 100.00 nucs.

The real key is knowing your plan, going to retail nucs? fine. understand every customer eats an hour. retail honey? know how much you can actually move. weekend at a farmers market nets 1500 for us. not nearly enough. we move 100lbs of honey in a weekend. Cash is fine, but when your sitting on 30k lbs of honey moving it at 100lbs a weekend will not cut it. Same with nucs. do you have the time to presell all you can make?? do yo have the patience to sit and sell queens one at a time for 25.00??
 

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Almonds are an interesting experience, if you talked to Joe you went to one of the best sources so your good there. the key to that kind of growth is a plan, and a backup. without that backup plan your asking for trouble.

Right now the honey market is dropping, and the bee market is getting saturated. not trying to talk you out of it, just think hard. plan on 1.50 honey and 100.00 nucs.

The real key is knowing your plan, going to retail nucs? fine. understand every customer eats an hour. retail honey? know how much you can actually move. weekend at a farmers market nets 1500 for us. not nearly enough. we move 100lbs of honey in a weekend. Cash is fine, but when your sitting on 30k lbs of honey moving it at 100lbs a weekend will not cut it. Same with nucs. do you have the time to presell all you can make?? do yo have the patience to sit and sell queens one at a time for 25.00??
I think lazy b is right on the mark, especially on prices. I can't remember when competition was this hot for nucs and honey both. He and I both know what we built is here today and can be gone tomorrow. If you keep these points in mind and go in knowing this is not and easy business ( is there any easy business?) and one you better love then the best teacher from where you are to where you want to be is to jump. Nothing will make you a better beekeeper, nothing will make you a better business person, nothing will be more satisfying in your life than getting up in the morning, knowing you are the master of your universe and "sink or swim" it's on you every single day! You have to be willing work hard for total success and be ready to accept total failure or else keep the day job. I can see your operation well from here and you have everything you need except a savings reserve and the guts to go for it. I've shared this before, I'll share it again. A nurse friend of mine who worked in Hospice told me the single most common regret the people she cared for had was not going for something they really wanted to do in their life. If you are making and selling 300 nucs a year you cleraly know what your doing, so do it! I did it, I've had bad years, I've been hungry sometimes and I've driven a million stressful miles and I have never regretted it a day.
 
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