Lessons in startup marketing from a teenage beekeeper

July 15, 2014
by Admin

Watermelon tastes better when you buy it off the back of the farmer’s pickup truck. This is one thing I learned during the years I lived in Alabama, when summer Saturdays were for trips to the farmers’ market. From May to October, we bought our collard greens, peaches, blueberries, okra, tomatoes, squash and other produce from sales people with soil under their fingernails. When we piled into the car this spring to move North, I realized I would probably never buy a watermelon straight from the truck again. It’s a loss.
But at our new farmers’ market in the Boston suburbs, I recently found that some things are as sweet as they were in the South. The tomatoes are just as juicy. The zucchini is just as abundant. And the honey is just as irresistible. Our local beekeeper, it turns out, is a 16-year-old girl with what seems to be a natural knack for entrepreneurism and an ability to pitch her product that plenty of founders would envy.
She started beekeeping when she was 10, we learned, when my family stopped by her booth to ask about her honey. Now 16, she sells honey and related products to restaurants and stores, and via farmers’ markets and her website. She told us about the science of bees; about her production, operations and sales teams (her dad and mom); and about the origin story of her business. She told us where to find her on the Web and on social media. She closed a sale when we bought a great big jar of honey (which I am trying really hard not to eat all by myself as I sit here writing this). Through some basic grassroots marketing efforts, she ensured that we would remember her and find her next time we come out to the farmers’ market.
It can be difficult for entrepreneurs to wear the many hats that come with founding a business (or in the case of a beekeeping business, the many hats and veils, gloves and other protective gear). At least in their early days in business, founders have to be the tech experts, the marketing leads, the sales guys and the spokespeople. Someone who is great at product development might struggle when it comes time to talk to the media, for example, but she has to learn how to do it and do it well in order to generate awareness, leads and sales. Founders can learn marketing and PR skills, though, with the help of the right team and the right resources – and a willingness to try.
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