After Rachael and Erik got married in 2010, they began their search for a deeper connection to their food sources. Their first foray into urban farming was their 900 square foot garden. There, the couple began raising chickens and making their own soap.
“Bees were a natural next step, but they were much harder than we thought. We loved collaborating on beekeeping and coming up with solutions to make our hives more successful. After the first few years, we started to have some small victories in the bee yard. I ended up with quite a bit of extra beeswax, and decided I wanted to make some lip balm and try to sell it. I found myself obsessing over the details and making a product I was really proud of. At that time, I was also making ceramics, soap, and spinning wool. With no clear outlet for all these products, I organized a small craft show to sell these things, and the support from the community was overwhelming. The community also let me know they wanted more things from the hive! Within a year all the other hobbies were put on the back-burner and it was all bees all the time!” –Rachael Messner
“Educating others about honeybees is one of my favorite things about my job! What I hope people understand is that bees are extremely hard-working, endlessly fascinating, critical to our way of life on this planet, and are in serious trouble. Also, I hope they know that all of our products from the hive are made with love from us and the bees!” –Rachael Messner
Life lessons Rachael has learned from the bees:
Work hard, and think about how the work you do will impact future generations. The bees that store honey for winter are long gone by the time the generations are born that will be consuming those resources.
If you work hard as a team with a common goal you can have a huge impact.
Another valuable practice Rachael has picked up from beekeeping is how crucial it is to learn from your failures. As with most small business ventures, beekeeping is a world of trial and error. During the first few years, small victories and defeats are the educational bricks you use to build your trade. The Messners took a few years to finally yield a successful harvest, and once they did their victories began to compound.
“I started out with a combination of books, bugging mentors to death, and of course the infamous Youtube. It took too long for me to realize that the ideas and advice that people give on the internet often does not align with real-life experience…especially because so much of beekeeping successfully has to do with understanding your local climate and seasons. What a beekeeper does in Florida to be successful does not necessarily translate to Missouri. We get our best info from beekeepers at our local beekeeping association. We are grateful for such an open community!
We learn new things about beekeeping constantly, and we love that there is no end to information to take in. We also learn a lot from our customers! They bring new questions and ideas to us every week and challenge us to always be improving and growing.” –Rachael Messner
Rachael and Erik are raising their children on the bee farm in hopes that their eyes will be opened to the possibilities the world has to offer if you put in a little elbow grease.
“I hope they will see that the ability to independently learn and work hard will get them where they want to go. Each step in our business has seemed daunting: keeping bees successfully, making and selling products, opening a retail store, educating large crowds about bees. Now that I’ve done these things I look forward to seeing what we can do next with our business! I hope that this drive to work for what you believe in and see a dream to its end is passed down to our kiddos.” –Rachael Messner
Rachael's advice for running a small business:
Work for other small businesses first. Most of it is not glorious work. It is moping the floors, crunching numbers, and getting stung. Before running the Bee Farm, I worked for 6 small businesses and I got to see behind the scenes. I’m grateful for the experience so I had the right expectations.
The transition that made us happiest was moving the business out of our actual house. It’s so nice to have a place to retreat to for rest. If it’s not possible to move your business out of the home, try to put it in its own space. It’s exhausting to feel like you’re always at home and always at work.
Tenets of the Messner Bee Farm:
Dreams don’t work unless you do.
Honor the bees and their work.
Work for the long-term benefit of life on this planet.
“All of our products use beeswax and/or honey as an ingredient. We make things that are natural, useful, and enjoyable to use. Because beeswax products have been made for 1000’s of years, they are easy to keep natural. Natural product are both something that I value and keeps our customers coming back. Before a product hits the shelf I spend up to a year researching and trying ingredients before it’s ready to sell.” –Rachael Messner
“Honeybees pollinate over one-third of all the fruits and vegetables we eat. Of course they also make honey! The best way people can help bees is by minimizing their use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and supporting other organizations that do the same. Buy local honey, support your local beekeeper.” –Rachael Messner