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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I am a home-schooled sophomore in high school and my parents and I are planing out my next few years in school. I am very interested in commercial beekeeping. I should have enough hives that I can split as I get bigger. I have relatives in the Carpenter, SD area that I could take bees to and have relatives that have an almond farm in CA. I am working on my own queen rearing also.
My questions are as follows-
1. What college or dual credit courses does one need to be successful? and/or what college classes were beneficial to you?
2. Is it best to work w/ a commercial beekeeper for a season or two? If so, any recommendations in east texas?
3. Any recommendations as to rate of growing numbers of hives, when to get a forklift, when to go to pallets, when to get 12' flatbed etc.
4. These days, where is the money made in commercial beekeeping?

I am a hard worker so I feel that if I can build up the capitol for my business I can make my business work for me.

Kingfisher aka mike
 

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1. What college or dual credit courses does one need to be successful? and/or what college classes were beneficial to you?
2. Is it best to work w/ a commercial beekeeper for a season or two? If so, any recommendations in east texas?
3. Any recommendations as to rate of growing numbers of hives, when to get a forklift, when to go to pallets, when to get 12' flatbed etc.
4. These days, where is the money made in commercial beekeeping?
1 - I would recommend a business major. Make sure you take quick books as part of that.

2 - Yes, work for a commercial beek for a few seasons so you know what you are getting into. Commercial beekeeping is different then hobby beekeeping and is very demanding work. Plus you will learn ways to manage your bees that is conducive to running a business. What you pick up can save you tens of thousands in your own operation.

3 - Grow at a rate you can afford. Try not to take out a loan if you can help it. The first couple of years put everything back into growing your operation. As you gain capital look for used flatbeds, swingers, etc. and build up that way. Used is much cheaper and works well (usually).

4. - The money can be made in all the aspects you listed. Find out what works best for your area. Diversity in operations is good.

Good luck.
 

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I agree with alpha on all the points listed.

To add to "where's the money?", it can be everywhere: Queens, pollination, honey, selling nucs/splits, pollen, wax, bee products like candles and soap... You only need to figure out what you like to produce and hopefully that's what people in your area like to buy. My advice is pick the brain of the commercial beekeeper you will be searching out to see what they do.
 

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You might work for a commercial beekeeper and discover that while you love bees, you don't love commercial beekeeping.

And that would be a valuable thing to learn about yourself, save yourself a lot of time, money, and heart ache.

Or you might discover the opposite. Either way, you are ahead.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the replies. I am up to 15 hives. I do not love to keep lots of hives, but beekeeping is what i am best at. I have a growing lawn care business that is doing very well, but almost all of my friends do that at some level, so I want something that I do, and hardly anyone else my age does. Currently I want to do both, but phase the other out.

Kingfisher
 

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I like the previous advice. No need to repeat it.

In my own personal journey into a serious sideliner mode, I plowed a lot of money back into my operation. I am adverse to borrowing money for many reasons and if you can pay as you grow, so much the better.

I also bought a lot of cheap, used, worn-out equipment in my initial stages that I fixed up. But the bigger I got, the less time I had for fixing things up. Buying the cheap stuff (most of it was just a high-grade of kindling wood) got me started, but these boxes needed replacement after a few years of my use. Buy quality. It lasts longer.

I also found I like selling honey at the farmer's markets. I am energized by the face-to-face exchange. The honey sells for more money than if I sold it by the drum, but the bottling and selling also takes more time, and this time competes with my demands in the bee yard. You need to decide where your trade-offs will be. Time-management (which is really self-management) is something you'll have to learn.

Also, dont' fall in love with someone who despises your long hours during the summer months. Beekeeping is not your typical 9-5 job with weekends off and paid vacations. If you go the commercial route, she'll just have to understand what it's like to live on the road or out of two houses.

My wife used to resent the intrusions into our dinner hour by swarm calls. I kept telling her it was "free" bees. She argued that "free" bees didn't pay the mortgage. I countered that it was next year that they'd pay off with the honey production.

Then one year I made enough money selling honey to send her on a 7-day cruise. She even let me come along!

Now she sees the benefits of my "hobby" and helps me at the farmer's markets.

It's that old saying that if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

I wish you all the best. It's a fascinating business.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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All very good advice. I too have plowed and continue to plow money into my business, i think it will be another year maybe two before I start to see any substantial return for the simple fact money made goes right back into the business as operating capital. I am also adverse to borrowing money, and have been fortunate enough to have found a few commericals who helped me here and there, as well as purchasing used equipment that needed some fixing and some of it worked like a charm. In regards to the lawn maintenance profession the nice thing is you are getting money for work as you perform it, with the bees it may be years before you ever see a paycheck or return on investment. I must applaud you for your work ethic and forward thinking cause in this day age most teens just wanna cruise through life playing x-box. Working for a commercial would be a great experience for you and I highly suggest it, as stated you might decide its not for you, or it can solidify that this is your course or direction. Good luck in all your endeavors, I am sure you will be a success at whatever you try, good attitude and work ethic IMO are more than half the battle and you obviously have more than enough of both.

PS: In a recent ABJ or Bee Culture there was a "business spotlight" article on a young man, I think in Texas??? who started as hobbyist in high school and now runs a full time 500-800 hive operation he built himself from scratch. I cant find the issue right now but maybe someone could look it up and forward the guys name to you, might be a good resource or mentor.
 

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yeah thats who I was thinking of, maybe to far away to work with but might be a good resource or "phone" mentor in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
There is some guys around here that have quite a few hives. I have bought some queen cells from a guy about a hour away. He has 1000s of hives.

Kingfisher
 

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offer to give him a hand, free labor is hard to find and most commercial guys I know like to have someone to talk to and pass along their knowledge. If I was closer I would def put you to work and trade ya some nucs for your labor
 

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Discussion Starter #13
This is something that I found on another site. I think it sums it up well-
[Beekeeping] requires the skills of a plant and animal biologist, a mechanic, a tax expert, a woodworker, truck driver, salesperson, bookkeeper, and personnel director.
Kingfisher
 

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i don't wanna foil your plans or be discouraging but that area of SD that you are talking about has 10-15 beekeepers in it. these days it would be pretty hard to get locations in SD unless you buy and outfit that is going out of business. SD has a 3 mile limit law which protects all of us around here from out of staters moving in on us. just something to think about
 

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Commercial beekeeping is not just about the bees! I would recommend a class or two in marketing and advertisment. An ento . . . entym . . . enti . . . BUG class would be useful as well, IF you can find one for an undergrad.

Many, many people start businesses and discover they are really good at something -- bees, truss design, bookeeping, underwater basketweaving, etc., and then find out they are lousy at, and or hate paperwork, sales, advertising, customer service, and so on.

Alas, they are all pieces of the puzzle. Since you are homeschooled you might consider "hiring" siblings and family members for some of these jobs when/if you discover you really stink at them. ;) Also consider paying them in shares of stock in your future enterprise.

Read some for Dummies Books and find out how to write a simple business proposal and 2, 5, and 10 year plans. Include some realistic financial projections. This is a wonderful learning experience in itself. (OK. The Ferrari is on the *20* year plan . . . dang.)

Your detail oriented and math whiz aunt can help you set up books and look over your shoulder for a while. A talkative sister might be a great customer service rep. That said, the more professionally you present yourself and your business, the more seriously you will be perceived. Don't neglect this. The clean-shirt-good-manners-stand-up-straight stuff your mom had been stuffing into your ears for years is all true.

While you don't want to start off with a loan, you WILL need to establish credit, which CAN be done at your age. see if you can scrape together, say $500. Put on that clean shirt and take your parents and that business proposal to a LOCAL bank. (You'll probably have better luck there, than at a national chain.)

Ask about a small (micro) loan for the purpose of establishing credit for your business. A $300 loan payable over 24 months, with a $500 CD at the bank as collateral. Asking for a BUSINESS loan will most likely NOT work -- they want established credit and a business history to do that, and that's what you are trying to establish. Your parents may be required to co-sign, especially since you are not 18. If the bank goes for it, or offers a variation of same, you are on your way to establishing business (and personal) credit.

Keeping personal and business monies separate is mandatory and vital if you want to be taken seriously. Go ahead and start a John Smith Prince Among Bees company as a sole proprietor for now. I don't *believe* you must be 18 for this. Report it to the IRS -- very straight forward, income was $0 and expenses were $50 this year, etc. Don't ever get cute with the IRS. The more tricky you get with the numbers, the more red flags it sends up to them. KISS. With that business number from your state you can get a sales tax license if you need one. Keep good records and paper copies of everything. (Ask that whiz of an aunt again) You're on your way, and anyone you deal with will be blown away by your professionalism. Keeping all that paperwork tidy and above board goes a long way toward showing people you are the real deal and can be trusted.

Good luck to you, and keep us posted!
Sum
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Thanks Sum

I am not saying that 5000 acres can support a ton of hives. I am saying I should be far enough from any beekeeping neighbors. He has acted like there are none around, but he may not be telling me. :lpf:

Kingfisher
 
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