Creating A Beekeeping Business Plan
Here are some factors to consider if you are drawing up a
beekeeping business plan, whether you wish to become a honey producer, or are wanting to offer a variety of products and services related to beekeeping, honey bees and hives. On the one
hand, you may be able to earn a living from keeping bees, but like all
businesses, there are potential pitfalls.
At the bottom of this page, you'll find a PDF business plant template you can adapt and use for your own purposes. We'll first look at the following topics:
- Initial considerations
- Income routes
- Finances (costs, sales, cash flow, profit & loss)
- Researching your beekeeping business plan (What? Who? Where? How? Why?
- SWOT analysis
- General administration
If you require a loan to help you get started, then you will
need to demonstrate to the lender that you have thought about the business in
detail. Consider things from the
lender’s perspective: if you were in his or her shoes, would you loan money to
this new beekeeping business based on the plan and information you are being presented
In addition, you need to work
through the details yourself, so that you can have confidence, minimise your risks and have a
genuine chance of success.
Drawing Up A Beekeeping Business Plan – some initial considerations:
It sounds obvious, but.....are you an experienced beekeeper?
If not, best get some experience first, and ensure you:
- know what you are doing,
- you are happy handling the bees,
- you know what to do in a crisis,
- you don’t suddenly discover you have a severe allergy to stings,
- you have full knowledge of how to keep and provide for your
bees (where will they forage, how will you protect the hives against disease,
predators, even vandalism, the elements and so on).
Can Beekeepers Earn Income From Keeping Bees?
You may have a firm idea already of how beekeeping is going
to earn an income for you, but it's also worth trying to think outside the box, and look at offering a multiple range of products (and maybe even services), in order to build your income across the seasons.
However, whether you decide to focus only on being a honey producer business, or
selling a wider range of product and services, you’ll need
to estimate your potential earnings, and add these to your business
are some ideas of what your business might include:
- Selling other bee products, such as wax.
- Selling services, such as pollination or beekeeping tuition. Note, selling pollination services can be a
tricky business these days if the crops are treated with pesticides such as
neonicotinoids, as the experience of beekeepers across the globe suggests.
- Selling beekeeping courses at your apiary, or on line, CDs & books you have written yourself,
wax, or will you begin selling beehives or other beekeeping equipment?
- If you have land, would you be interested in running a nursery or cut flower business alongside your beekeeping business? You'll need to think about flowers for the bees to forage on anyway, and having visited such a business, there was a huge amount of flower available for bees, despite cutting. Read about this UK example here.
- Selling other items, such as manufacturing or being a distributor of
beekeeping equipment, such as bee hives, or beekeeping clothing, or books or CDs you have written yourself, or even hives
you yourself have built, such as top bar hives (construction kits and plans for these are increasingly available and sold).
- Are you able to build a brand, such that you could offer other 'add ons' for sale from an online shop - from honey sticks to socks, who knows?
In thinking about your business, put a great deal of thought into whether it is something you can start up as a hobby (perhaps whilst continuing with your day job), and build it from there.
As I write, I am aware that some large commercial honey sellers run training schemes whereby you can earn whilst you learn. As far as I can make out, the salary is modest, but if you are especially keen, it may be a way for you to get valuable experience if that is what you need.
However, do check first regarding whether or not you are then tied to
supplying the company with honey etc for a set period of time, and
whether this suits you, and also whether you are happy to supply honey
in this way.
Some beekeepers prefer to set up small-scale, organic
practices, charging a premium for their products, selling directly to
the public or specialist delicatessens.
A Beekeeping Business Plan Needs To Cover Finances: costs, sales, cash flow, profit & loss
Consider these costs:
- Initial set up costs (hives, honeybees,
beekeeping equipment, premises, insurances), building a website if needed and
- Product related costs & inventory, such as
honey jars and labels.
- General business running costs: travel, any
items relating to the care of the bees, postage and packing, phone, rent, stationery
- Will you spend any money on marketing, such as
advertising honey or beekeeping courses in the local paper, or will you engage in internet advertising? Be sure to build in a mechanism that allows
you to assess the cost effectiveness of any marketing activity, if possible.
- Cost of finance (interest and charges).
- Also consider your home and family incomings and outgoings. Are you considering giving up a regular, paid job in order to run a beekeeping business, and if so, for how long can you survive?
- Will you need to adapt your land in some way, to cater for bees on your property? If so, be sure to factor in the costs and timings.
You should calendarize these costs, and also add a realistic sales
forecast as far as possible. Although you will need it to go along to
the bank or lender, forecasting is of course very difficult, and may
need to be adjusted from time to time.
How much, if you implement your marketing
plan (we’ll get to that in a minute), could you sell on a monthly basis? Itemize each activity: how much honey will
you sell, how many courses will you fill etc.
Financial challenges can hit any business.
- How will you cope with payment schedules? For example, if you supply 200 jars of honey
to a store, when will you be paid, and can you cope with late payments? Cash flow is one of the major challenges to
any business, but especially new ones.
Not being able to pay your bills because somebody didn’t pay you, can
create misery and force businesses to close.
- What is your profit margin? Remember it needs to cover ALL of your costs,
with enough to earn the income you need, and hopefully leave some for
Your Beekeeping Business
Find out as much as you can about the market, products, services, prices, your
customers, relevant law,
prior to committing yourself.
Ask yourself the What? Who? Where? and How? Why? questions.
For example (no doubt, you can come up with more):
- What are customers buying, what do they want and are there any unexploited niches you can fill?? Whatever you are selling, are there any
legal or labelling requirements or standards?)
- What should the packaging look like?
- Who is buying your products and how should they be approached, when, and what are their needs/wants? (think in terms of the public, retailers, wholesalers).
- At what prices are comparable bee products being sold in your area? Are there many competitors? How much supply
is there versus demand? Can you compete?
- Where will the customers need to go to buy the products? Internet? Shops? Market? Where will you reach them?
- Where will you buy your own supplies from?
- When will
customers purchase from you, and how does this impact your business? Do you have to warn customers in advance/how long
do advanced booking periods need to be, and...
- When will you be paid and when do you have to pay suppliers?
- How will you persuade customers to buy and how will
you generate awareness? How often will
your customers purchase from you?
- How much will it all cost, and how much do you need to sell to create a viable beekeeping business?
- How will your product be different? For example, will yours
be the only organic meadow honey in the area, or perhaps the only raw comb
- Why will anyone wish to buy your products? Don’t be offended by this question. This question is deliberately asked so that
you think of things from your customer’s perspective.
Having considered these questions, what actions need to be
taken, when, by whom and at what cost?
Marketing And Your Beekeeping Business Plan
There are many cost effective ways to promote your products.
- You can sell directly to the public at the local food market, promote on social media for a low cost.
- Can you call in favours and assistance from friends, relatives and local business?
- You can start a blog or website relatively cheaply, and you may be able to generate some free PR with your local newspaper.
- If you are planning to distribute far and wide, you may wish to get your name out there generally, by teaming up with bloggers, on-line news sources and so on. Find an interesting angle, something you can talk about in an engaging way.
- Depending on what it is you sell, you may also consider joining an affiliate scheme, thus harnessing the power of people on the web to promote on your behalf - in exchange for a small percentage of the sale. Check all the details before you sign up.
- Remember to think about your target purchaser and the impact this may have on your labelling and packaging. For example, if you are targetting the gift market, your presentation might be different than if you are targetting the gourmet food market. Don't underestimate the power of packaging design! There is a whole page about this subject here.
- Consider also setting up an online store via Amazon - this does not prevent you from having a store on your own website. The point about amazon is that it is widely trusted. You then need to explore ways to increase your visibility through this channel.
A SWOT Analysis For A Beekeeping Business
It’s worth doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and threats) for your beekeeping business plan, as with any other
Make a list, and decide whether there are actions you can
take. Don’t run before you can walk, or
over-stretch yourself, however.
Here are some examples (let me stress that - examples only!)
Lifelong experience of beekeeping – generations of
beekeepers in the family.
Use this in marketing, to talk about a caring family business with generations
of expertise. Customers are buying from people, not a
Limited business experience of book keeping – only ever provided a few jars of honey for
How to Minimise
Enrol on a small business course or book keeping course, buy a simple on-line software package, or check on line for
suitable courses. Check with the local council
for free, helpful resources.
Free access to 100 acres of organic farm and meadowland
How to Exploit
(Depending on regulations in your country). Label the honey
product ‘organic’ and 'meadow honey' or 'wildflower honey', and sell in to speciality organic food stores and
delicatessens, with appropriate pricing and packaging.
How to Counter
Keep bees and hives in good condition, and practice high standards of
Insure hives against losses due to diseases.
This is often forgotten, but.....
- How will you manage the paperwork for paying taxes etc? If you need assistance, you'll need to factor in the cost of that assistance.
- Remember to keep comprehensive records, and in good order. File receipts and paperwork. Take copies of crucial documents. Take back-up copies of any computer generated admin.
- Have a visible calendar and/or diary to ensure you file any important paperwork on time, such as taxes and any legal documents, to avoid fines.
More Beekeeping Business Tips
Hopefully you will be able to keep your set up and business
running costs to a minimum.
- With a bit
of luck, you won’t be renting property, but if for any reason you must rent
space, then try to ensure favourable terms and conditions. Avoid arrangements that will be difficult to
get out of, that demand penalties for early termination of agreements or very
long notice periods. Also, look out for hidden clauses on lease agreements.
- Check the regulations with regard to beekeeping in your
- Is there sufficient forage for the bees?
- Keep on top of payments from customers, and be a good
- Have more than one income stream if possible.
You can use the free beekeeping business plan template - download it here (opens a new window) - to
help you get started, but ensure that you add any legal considerations
applicable to your own country.
Also, take a look at these tips on packaging your offering, depending on your customer target.
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