Kevin T. Velez, Campus carrier asst. arts & living editor
Spring semester may be coming to an end, but the Berry Bee student enterprise is already preparing for the Fall 2021 semester. Located across from the Gate of Opportunity and behind the Blue Tech Barn, the student-led business recently increased in popularity this year with the rollout of its limited honey in The Shipyard, which sold out in days. Since 2014, the student enterprise has used its collection of beehives to produce their products.
Co-general managers, juniors Helaina Epps and Colleen Visser, have retained their positions for two years. The pair oversee the business side of the enterprise and check on the beehives regularly. As part of their roles, it is essential for Epps and Visser to monitor the bees and check their progress. Visser estimates a single hive to hold hundreds of bees, with residents being either domestic or wild bees. With such a high number, the pair monitor the progression of the hives on a strict schedule to ensure the production rate of the honeycombs can meet the demand.
“One of the main things is checking the beehives, as beekeepers we do have checks every week in the spring and summer, and then every other week in the winter and following months,” Epps said.
Harvesting occurs in the spring and summer, so the beekeepers have been checking the hives weekly. The bees are especially active during this time of year and their rate of honeycomb production should model that increased activity, according to Visser.
Epps describes her time as a manager as beneficial for her life after Berry in helping her learn business management in a hands-on way.
“When I was first looking at Berry College, I was really attracted to the Berry student enterprises as a whole,” Epps said, “I really want to own my own business, so being able to see the inner workings of a small business is really helpful.”
Although Visser is glad she has the opportunity to work as a co-manager for a successful enterprise, she is especially thankful for her time and experience with the bees.
“I am here for the experience of handling the bees and monitoring what they do because it is epic and so cool,” Visser said, “The small business enterprise aspect has been quite the learning adventure as well.”
When Visser first arrived to Berry her freshman year, she was unaware of the extent of the student enterprise program and had even less experience and knowledge regarding beekeeping. Epps told Visser about the bee enterprise and she was drawn to the beekeeping aspect of the business.
According to the co-managers, the business is limited in its production capacity as of right now since it lost a portion of its hives over the past few season cycles. Currently, the business is relying on a single wild hive that was retrieved from a house on campus in 2014 by a previous manager.
“We unfortunately did lose a lot of our hives over this past summer and the previous winter, so that is why we are looking to get more hives,” Epps said.
Overcoming the loss, the business is planning a massive expansion in the number of hives available. With the expansion, the managers are also aiming to evolve the current product line to enhance product availability to customers. The current line includes lotion bars, cuticle creams, lip balms and candles. The potential update to the line could bring redesigned candles that resemble a beehive. All products on the line hold a 100% beeswax guarantee.
The expansion also brings optimism to the managers about what the future of the business. The managers predict that next summer could be a growing point for the business as it expands its amount of hives.
“We are hoping that next summer we will have a steady supply of honey, and we are very excited about that,” Epps said.
With a steady supply of honey, the enterprise’s vendors like, The Shipyard, will be able to stock more of the popular honey that sold out quickly earlier this year.
“We want to be able to give the costumers what they want, and with no bias, it is the best honey I have ever had,” Visser said.
Visser and Epps are excited to bring the honey back to Berry, and they hope to raise support among the students for local beekeepers. To learn more about the enterprise and follow its growth, follow the Berry Bees Instagram account @berrybees or go to the Student Enterprise page online.