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So I've been turning down new beeks with the following advice. Order in the fall for the following spring. I'm not suggesting they order from me, as it's too early to tell whether I might win the lottery (not likely since I don't play).

I still have a few extra nucs but I don't want to sell to a newbeek this late in the season. So one guy is already wanting to order several spring nucs. My biz model is not to take any deposits, send updates with estimates in early spring. This year I set several Saturdays and had a certain number (small number) available on each of several pickup dates. They usually sold out 2-3 weeks prior to pickups, and I only had 2-3 ppl go dark on me all year (queen sales included).

So if someone goes dark or changes their mind, I don't have their money and I'm therefore feeling less obligated to hold/shift schedule or whatever.

Last year my first customer contacted me just before Christmas, and followed-up about every month.

Interested in how you guys approach this.

Thanks! :)
 

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For overwintered nucs I start sometime in March. Usually about a month before dandelions. We can still have losses after so I dont sell all before we are out of the woods. I am fine with wiat listing people if i may be running low. At that point most people are sold out so folks are happy to be on a waitlist.... I did start taking deposits. Its a bit of a pain but this way I get to weed out the not serious folks before I write them on my list. We usually sell out close to a month before pickup.
 

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So I've been turning down new beeks with the following advice. Order in the fall for the following spring. I'm not suggesting they order from me, as it's too early to tell whether I might win the lottery (not likely since I don't play).

I still have a few extra nucs but I don't want to sell to a newbeek this late in the season. So one guy is already wanting to order several spring nucs. My biz model is not to take any deposits, send updates with estimates in early spring. This year I set several Saturdays and had a certain number (small number) available on each of several pickup dates. They usually sold out 2-3 weeks prior to pickups, and I only had 2-3 ppl go dark on me all year (queen sales included).

So if someone goes dark or changes their mind, I don't have their money and I'm therefore feeling less obligated to hold/shift schedule or whatever.

Last year my first customer contacted me just before Christmas, and followed-up about every month.

Interested in how you guys approach this.

Thanks! :)
you sound like your plan is ok.
can take the number then call back feb 1 and ask if they still want them, else sound like it works.

GG
 

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For overwintered nucs I start sometime in March. Usually about a month before dandelions. We can still have losses after so I dont sell all before we are out of the woods. I am fine with wiat listing people if i may be running low. At that point most people are sold out so folks are happy to be on a waitlist.... I did start taking deposits. Its a bit of a pain but this way I get to weed out the not serious folks before I write them on my list. We usually sell out close to a month before pickup.
good idea on the deposit

GG
 

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For overwintered nucs I start sometime in March. Usually about a month before dandelions. We can still have losses after so I dont sell all before we are out of the woods. I am fine with wiat listing people if i may be running low. At that point most people are sold out so folks are happy to be on a waitlist.... I did start taking deposits. Its a bit of a pain but this way I get to weed out the not serious folks before I write them on my list. We usually sell out close to a month before pickup.
This layout is great, waiting list, and deposits allow the serious buyer to feel more at ease if you will. Especially for those wishing to purchase true over wintered NUC’s. I mean most know a overwintered NUC is worth its weight in gold.
 

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I only sell a few overwintered nucs. I started that list in January when I had a pretty good feeling about how many were going to survive. I did not require deposits at the time. I did have several people cancel on me but I had no problems finding other homes for the overwintered nucs.
 

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This summer I transitioned to selling only overwintered nucs--mostly deeps and a handful of medium. The queens are mated in late May-late June. Will see how that goes. I find the tension of getting queens mated and nucs prepped in the early Spring burdensome when the calendar is already full with keeping up with full-sized production hives (plus still working full time). Last year I offered 20 overwintered nucs for sale in January and sold out in 24 hours. There is a deposit required--just to make sure folks are committed. Customers were very happy with them this year as they come out of the gate strong with a proven queen and are likely honey producers.
 

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I usually tell people to order somewhere else if they "have" to have bees. And to get back in contact with me early spring March/April timeframe if they'd like to toss another nuc into their apiary. I tell them June at the earliest. I had SO many people contact me this spring and summer, but our winter just kept dragging and dragging. And then I had someone want to buy packages from me in late August this year lol I don't sell packages, but I do struggle to take people seriously sometimes. I usually have a decent idea of what my apiary is going to look like by February as I like to make a good visit during a nice warm, sunny afternoon... especially if there is snow on the ground. Really gives me a good idea of what's alive and how strong they are.

I hadn't sold nucs for the past two years, just too busy to want to deal with it. This year worked out better and there's been a guy who has contacted me every year for the last three years. This year I tell him I'm finally able to do it. So we get it all set up and then be backs out the week before. It's not a big deal. It just makes me laugh. This guy wanted bees from me so bad for three years and then a few days before we complete the multi-year ordeal... he says no.

I sold quite a few this year kind of as people called me. I am thinking that this winter I will make a list and might even take refundable deposits if they want to back out, I'd still give their money back. But there's just something about the action of handing over money that makes it so much more serious. Even if it's a small amount of money like $20 or 40. There are a lot of tire kickers out there that will talk your ear off and contact you 10 times only to totally go ghost when the time comes. The less of those the better for everyone involved. That's why I typically steer them elsewhere first and tell them I'll sell them all the queens they want in June/July for splitting or requeening. I think whatever deposit I take will become non-refundable once they make a date to pick it up. The way I make up nucs, if someone doesn't come get it on the agreed upon day... I'm going to have a real mess on my hands within 3-4 days and absolutely have to take action or they're going to swarm. So that's lots of extra work and apiary trips for me. I think they forfeit they money if they do that.

I overwinter a number of 10 frame (5/5 nucs). Of those, I promote some number of them into any deadout production colonies I have. Some others will get more boxes on top as needed. Steal brood for queen rearing. Some broken apart for mating nucs if they're not performing particularly well. And the ones I sell are usually just nucs over wintered and I split them off (with all of their own resources, shake some extra bees in from their colony) and then tell them to get them into a second deep within a week or two at the most because they're set up to explode. I made up two for my brother this year with even less resources and I was late getting second boxes on them, but caught them before they left. It's amazing what a well made nuc/split can do with a mated queen. So I did runout of overwintered nucs this year, but sold queens that had been laying for a couple of months off in nucs (being honest about what they were buying) for the same price and everyone was happy. No clue how they look going into winter and if they're properly managing mites. It's still a little tough for me to sell queens and/or bees. I really do care about what circumstance they're going into a lot still and am more than willing to talk to people about their bees and what's going on as much as I can. Most people seem to realize that's "free" and a bonus... and they're typically pretty respectful of my time. Did have a guy get a little too needy this year. I always called him back if he left a voicemail or sent a text. Last time he called he didn't leave me a message and never called or texted, so not sure what he wanted there. As that base grows the word of mouth also grows and it can start to get a little unwieldy. That said, I like queen rearing and making nucs VASTLY more than I like harvesting honey. This year I managed for a small crop (ideally zero, but didn't quite get there) and more colonies/nucs. If I got a reliable customer base, I could see making the transition to managing more for nuc sales than honey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I really do care about what circumstance they're going into a lot still and am more than willing to talk to people about their bees and what's going on as much as I can.
Yeah I get that. They may not exactly be pets, but mine are not far from it. As far as the free bee lessons I do a bit of that. I buy woodenware from an older gentleman about an hour from me. He sells a ton of it, but he probably takes 30-40 calls on a normal day. He can tell you some stories about folks buying a hive then wearing you out, or worse yet buying nothing and wearing you out. lol
That said, I like queen rearing and making nucs VASTLY more than I like harvesting honey. This year I managed for a small crop (ideally zero, but didn't quite get there) and more colonies/nucs. If I got a reliable customer base, I could see making the transition to managing more for nuc sales than honey.
Selling 5 frames of resources with a healthy, packed colony on them was difficult for me mentally. I kept my prices high so at least I didn't feel I was giving them away. I was thinking about only selling queens, but it was a feast/famine thing all summer. Other than giving up a couple colonies to raise a ton of drones, something to graft from, a few packed houses to raise them, and some time, the amount of money spent raising each queen is not that much. That said, I saw Richard Noel on a bee club Zoom they had recorded a few months ago. Someone asked him if he ever had a surfeit (British folks saying surplus) of queens. He said no, that if he had extra queens he just put them in nucs. He said, "What is a nuc but a queen and her support staff". Somehow that made me look at it differently.

On honey, I worked harder than I like to collect a few buckets, most of which I couldn't sell because I was feeding at least some during the time it was made. So if you don't like harvesting honey, just work a few nights here and there until 10pm spinning it (ye old hand crank), then buy bottles so you can give it away. It will not make you like it more. ;) I can't imagine honey will ever be my thing.

I'm also with you on the cold, wet false starts to the season. This is the primary reason I'm asking for input. By the time I could get a queen back I had folks standing in line for nucs. I thought I could easily put them together a full month before I got it rolling.

I only sell a few overwintered nucs. I started that list in January when I had a pretty good feeling about how many were going to survive. I did not require deposits at the time. I did have several people cancel on me but I had no problems finding other homes for the overwintered nucs.
That's great for your customers. After checking them all winter, I'm far too attached in the spring. ;)
This summer I transitioned to selling only overwintered nucs--mostly deeps and a handful of medium. The queens are mated in late May-late June. Will see how that goes. I find the tension of getting queens mated and nucs prepped in the early Spring burdensome when the calendar is already full with keeping up with full-sized production hives (plus still working full time). Last year I offered 20 overwintered nucs for sale in January and sold out in 24 hours. There is a deposit required--just to make sure folks are committed. Customers were very happy with them this year as they come out of the gate strong with a proven queen and are likely honey producers.
Again, great for your customers. I imagine it's just a mindset on my end. I'd actually spend a lot less time getting them ready in the fall and selling them all at once than juggling the schedules and pickup dates for several people. My work has a bit of flexibility, but I still work as well. You must be a superhero if you work a full-time job and do honey, and do nucs. I definitely want to cherry-pick the fun stuff for next year.
 

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Selling 5 frames of resources with a healthy, packed colony on them was difficult for me mentally. I kept my prices high so at least I didn't feel I was giving them away. I was thinking about only selling queens, but it was a feast/famine thing all summer. Other than giving up a couple colonies to raise a ton of drones, something to graft from, a few packed houses to raise them, and some time, the amount of money spent raising each queen is not that much. That said, I saw Richard Noel on a bee club Zoom they had recorded a few months ago. Someone asked him if he ever had a surfeit (British folks saying surplus) of queens. He said no, that if he had extra queens he just put them in nucs. He said, "What is a nuc but a queen and her support staff". Somehow that made me look at it differently.
Yeah, queen sales are a total feast/famine thing for me too. This year...famine. Last year I'd pull ten and they'd be sold in two days. I sold more nucs than queens. And I didn't have a single person take me up on my free queen cells this year. Even my regulars! Nothing! I was pitching 8-10 virgins from every batch into the swarm lure (that I've never used).

I think that's a Michael Palmer line :) But that's absolutely correct, anytime I have 'extra' queens she gets pitched into a nuc or in some cases I'll contact some people who have me ship queens most summers to them and see if they want any. And then I also giveaway quite a few queens during the year. That said, I do try to size my queen rearing more to my own needs + some extras for misses/failures to return. Queen sales are just way too erratic locally.

On honey, I worked harder than I like to collect a few buckets, most of which I couldn't sell because I was feeding at least some during the time it was made. So if you don't like harvesting honey, just work a few nights here and there until 10pm spinning it (ye old hand crank), then buy bottles so you can give it away. It will not make you like it more. ;) I can't imagine honey will ever be my thing.

I'm also with you on the cold, wet false starts to the season. This is the primary reason I'm asking for input. By the time I could get a queen back I had folks standing in line for nucs. I thought I could easily put them together a full month before I got it rolling.
It's rough with the timing. I've found most people to be pretty flexible and understanding, but I don't give an actual date until I'm like a week out. It's just too tough otherwise. I try to time it with a set of cells so that I can make the nuc to sell and follow up with a cell in whatever remains of that nuc (I usually take about half, but there's typically enough left for a pretty strong nuc still or 2-3 mating nucs). This is why I always suggest a known package supplier for new beekeepers. You know you're going to be able to drive an hour and a half in early May and pick up all the packages you'd ever want from some local supplier. Or you can drive a half hour to me maybe during some vague timeline that I've agreed to. Beekeeping isn't my job... it's an oversized hobby/small business for me and I do try to make sure everyone understands that. I haven't had any bad in-person issues. But there's always a few knuckleheads on the phone... which is fine.
My main hangup with a waitlist or taking deposits is that it then becomes something I'm committed to. And I do not like failing. And who freaking knows what is going to happen in my personal life... for instance... I just pulled honey three weeks ago and got some sinus crud after. Usually pull Saturday and Sunday then I extract over a couple of nights that following week after work like 8 PM to midnight or 2 AM, it works out pretty well. But wasn't feeling well enough after pulling, so I punted until the next weekend. Then it's boom... one of the kids has Covid. Then I have it the following day and it knocked me out pretty good for a few days and then I could barely walk up steps without coughing and being gassed after that. Work said I couldn't come in, but I physically couldn't prepare to extract, let alone actually do it. Finally felt pretty normal this weekend and thankfully the honey was OK and that's out of the way. If that happens in prime queen rearing time or when I have plans to make up nucs... then what? I mean, that's the way it rolls with what I've got going on and it's OK. It just gives me anxiety thinking about pre-selling. And even if I'm pretty successful as a beekeeper and have a pretty good feel for things now... I'm still always thinking "they're all going to be dead, you'll never be able to sell nucs". It's just the way I am, I guess. Maybe I'm not cut out for preselling nucs. 🤣
 

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Yeah, queen sales are a total feast/famine thing for me too. This year...famine. Last year I'd pull ten and they'd be sold in two days. I sold more nucs than queens. And I didn't have a single person take me up on my free queen cells this year. Even my regulars! Nothing! I was pitching 8-10 virgins from every batch into the swarm lure (that I've never used).

I think that's a Michael Palmer line :) But that's absolutely correct, anytime I have 'extra' queens she gets pitched into a nuc or in some cases I'll contact some people who have me ship queens most summers to them and see if they want any. And then I also giveaway quite a few queens during the year. That said, I do try to size my queen rearing more to my own needs + some extras for misses/failures to return. Queen sales are just way too erratic locally.



It's rough with the timing. I've found most people to be pretty flexible and understanding, but I don't give an actual date until I'm like a week out. It's just too tough otherwise. I try to time it with a set of cells so that I can make the nuc to sell and follow up with a cell in whatever remains of that nuc (I usually take about half, but there's typically enough left for a pretty strong nuc still or 2-3 mating nucs). This is why I always suggest a known package supplier for new beekeepers. You know you're going to be able to drive an hour and a half in early May and pick up all the packages you'd ever want from some local supplier. Or you can drive a half hour to me maybe during some vague timeline that I've agreed to. Beekeeping isn't my job... it's an oversized hobby/small business for me and I do try to make sure everyone understands that. I haven't had any bad in-person issues. But there's always a few knuckleheads on the phone... which is fine.
My main hangup with a waitlist or taking deposits is that it then becomes something I'm committed to. And I do not like failing. And who freaking knows what is going to happen in my personal life... for instance... I just pulled honey three weeks ago and got some sinus crud after. Usually pull Saturday and Sunday then I extract over a couple of nights that following week after work like 8 PM to midnight or 2 AM, it works out pretty well. But wasn't feeling well enough after pulling, so I punted until the next weekend. Then it's boom... one of the kids has Covid. Then I have it the following day and it knocked me out pretty good for a few days and then I could barely walk up steps without coughing and being gassed after that. Work said I couldn't come in, but I physically couldn't prepare to extract, let alone actually do it. Finally felt pretty normal this weekend and thankfully the honey was OK and that's out of the way. If that happens in prime queen rearing time or when I have plans to make up nucs... then what? I mean, that's the way it rolls with what I've got going on and it's OK. It just gives me anxiety thinking about pre-selling. And even if I'm pretty successful as a beekeeper and have a pretty good feel for things now... I'm still always thinking "they're all going to be dead, you'll never be able to sell nucs". It's just the way I am, I guess. Maybe I'm not cut out for preselling nucs. 🤣
Preselling..
call it a waiting list with commitment (down payment) that is refundable and not guaranteed.
offer that in writing, and do say you cannot possibly get them all build but you will work down the list until it is refund time.

GG
 

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Preselling..
call it a waiting list with commitment (down payment) that is refundable and not guaranteed.
offer that in writing, and do say you cannot possibly get them all build but you will work down the list until it is refund time.

GG
That's what I mean :) Preselling isn't the right phrase.
 
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