Upper School Girls Start a Honey Business

It seemed like a no-brainer. The beehives on Hutchison’s farm regularly yield a good supply of honey, and the upper school girls in the entrepreneur class, part of Hutchison Invests, were learning how to create and run businesses.
The question was posed: Could the girls package and sell the honey produced on the farm in Hutchison’s Buzz Shop? It was a match waiting to happen.

“I reached out to Mary Riddle, our horticulturist, and asked if there was an opportunity for us to collaborate,” said Kim Ware, Hutchison Invests director. “My entrepreneurship girls had been talking throughout the year about maybe doing something with the honey.”

The Hutchison Invests program inspires ideas like this. The focus is to equip girls with the foundation they need to build, lead, and navigate the world of entrepreneurship successfully. The program covers creative entrepreneurship, micro- and macro-economics, responsible investments, and the civic role of business and finance. It also explores the impact of positive social change in the business world.

“We were looking for good cross-over projects between the farm and the entrepreneurship program,” Riddle said. “The honey seemed to be a natural fit.” The farm had just added over 20,000 new bees to its hives, so she was anticipating there would be a lot of honey to harvest.

With Mrs. Ware and Mrs. Riddle’s encouragement, the girls took to the idea immediately. They approached the project the way they had learned in their class: methodically. They researched labeling and packaging requirements, pricing, and health regulations for local honey sales. They designed their own label to comply with regulations, and the project was cleared by Hutchison’s business office with the school’s insurance company.

The girls involved in the project included: Kaia Starks ’18, who researched honey prices and the project’s break-even point and developed a pitch for the product; Rachel Kimery ’18 and Kellie Taylor ’18, who studied packaging methods; Hannah Daniele ’18 and Stuart Collier ’18, who worked on labeling designs; and Meggy Muller ’18, who investigated federal, state, and county health and sanitary regulations and helped Starks in pitching the product.

“Studying the price point, I had to factor in the cost of the raw materials, packaging, distribution, and response to the supply and demand,” said Starks. She plans to study international business in college and said that’s what drew her to the entrepreneurship class. “We’ve talked about business plans and what it takes to make a business succeed or fail. We’ve been able to learn about other entrepreneurs and hear advice from them.”
Next, all the girls got hands-on. Under the guidance of Riddle, they donned protective bee keeper outfits and learned how to harvest the honey by removing the wax cappings from the hive frames and extracting the honey. They then filtered about 14 pounds of honey and bottled and labeled the product.

“The whole process was so fast and efficient. I was impressed with the girls,” Riddle said. “They were asking all the right questions.”

The girls then pitched their idea – Hutch Honey – complete with finished prototypes to Bess Bartusch, manager of the Buzz Shop, the school’s on-campus store. “The pitch highlighted the benefits of honey, the program, and the fact that it’s unique to our school and our farm,” said Ware. “The girls came up with the concept around it and practiced the pitch.”
“The class gave me a lot of experience in pitching a business idea,” Starks added. “From touring start-ups and our earlier project of pitching a business plan, I was pretty comfortable presenting the idea to the Buzz Shop.”
Bartusch guided the girls on pricing, and the honey went on sale immediately. Although the girls had some marketing ideas to promote the honey, word-of-mouth spread so quickly that they sold all 18 12-ounce jars in a couple of hours the same day!

Hutchison Invests will keep 20% of the profits and reinvest it. “The girls did a good job of talking through what our baseline costs were and how much we needed to mark it up for us and the Buzz Shop to make a little bit of a profit,” added Ware. She said the girls are excited and will take ownership of helping to harvest the honey, restock inventory, and manage the proceeds.

Plans are to restock as soon as the bees produce more honey. Next school year, the girls are going to look into how they might be able to use more of what the bees produce by potentially making candles and lip balm out of the beeswax.
“Hutch Honey is unique because the whole campus is really involved,” Starks concluded. “The parents shop at the Buzz Shop, and girls throughout the school visit the farm all the time. It’s cool to be involved with the farm and the business side of it.”

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Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.