What began as a hobby was simply Meant to Bee for Mark and Jodie Saint who now own a pollination business producing honey, and wax beauty products.
Jodie is a local school teacher and Mark works away in the mines, so becoming apiarists was not something the couple had ever planned on.
But now they say their small business is buzzing along nicely.
It was more than two years ago when Mark realised he had a few extra quiet days on hand and so decided to follow his passion.
He bought four bee hives, and just as the saying busy as a bee goes, the four bee hives have now grown to about 180 and is now a little more than a hobby.
“At the time I had no interest, happy for him to have a hobby. However, my curiosity grew, I wanted to see inside the hive,” Jodie said.
“We have found once you start enquiring about these fascinating creatures it’s hard to stop.
“The short of it, in four months we went from having four hives in our backyard to having processing equipment, hundreds of hives and a tractor. In January of 2018 we began Meant to Bee Tranquil Apiaries.
“Funny how things happen in life, some things are ‘meant to bee’. We are definitely busy bees, balancing our day jobs, running a business and family life.”
In the journey of creating Meant to Bee Tranquil Apiaries Jodie said there were definitely a few stings along the way, but the support from family and friends was amazing and had given them the strength to keep following the dream of becoming bee keepers.
“Believe me we’ve had our moments; all-nighters, sun down to sun up, late nights, equipment breaking down, blown tyres and bee stings,” she said.
“Thinking to ourselves ‘what did we get ourselves into’, ‘can we really do this?’; how quickly we learnt, this is business, and this is farming.
“I love one of Richard Branson’s quotes – “If someone gives you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
Meant to Bee Tranquil Apiaries started in January 2018, and as time flew by, the couple had landed their first pollination contract on an avocado and macadamia farm by August, and they were processing their first batch of honey by October that year.
“We are truly fortunate to live amongst a fruit bowl in Bundaberg,” Jodie said.
“We are just entering our third spring pollination season for local avocado and macadamia farmers. In May, we started pollinating a zucchini farm in the local area.”
Sweet surprise as passion for bee business grows
Jodie says she is still surprised how engrossed she has become in the bee business, saying there is so much to know and learn about the significant insects – that are more important than just honey makers.
“My husband has always had a real passion for bees, the environment and nature. Mine has grown significantly since starting this business,” she said.
“At first, I was just going be the bookkeeper in this journey, I wasn’t very keen to go near the hives.
“How things change! We are both very hands on, inspecting hives, relocating hives, cleaning, or making new boxes and frames. There’s always something to do!”
The mother-of-two said they both had a new appreciation for these significantly important creatures.
“We wanted people to be able to enjoy one of nature’s oldest and versatile gifts through the very hard work of thousands of beautiful highly intelligent creatures to whom we owe the deepest gratitude for keeping our planet alive,” Jodie said.
“When you start reading facts about bee’s decline and the effects of drought and fire, it’s a worrying concept.
“We feel like we are making our small contribution to the conservation of bees. Our boys are gaining an interest and are understanding the importance of bees. We are teaching them not to be afraid of them, but to have a respect for the bees and their purpose on our planet.”
And what started as a hobby for Mark has led to an avenue for Jodie to become a little more creative, as she branched in to making beauty products from their bees.
Honey making leads to beauty products
“I started researching beauty products that use beeswax or honey,” Jodie said.
“I came across lip balm and soap. Being a pour and set product, I thought I could manage to make something that is appealing.
“I made a few and gave some to family and friends as Christmas gifts, hence this was my trial.”
Last year Jodie set herself a Mother’s Day goal to have some of her products packaged and she said the response was humbling.
“Before the following Mother’s Day, I asked our graphic designer to create a label, sourced gift packaging, and got into production in my kitchen,” she said.
“This began ‘Meant to Bee Beauty’.
“Our local community has been amazing, so supportive of local businesses.
“Our Meant to Bee Beauty range is available at Chippindale’s Newsagency Stocklands, HSG at the Gardens and One Little Farm.”
Meant to Bee honey comes in a variety of flavours, depending on the hive locations when the bees are busy making it.
“We name our honey depending on their surroundings,” Jodie said.
“Macadamia and avocado – our hives pollinate these local farms during the spring season.
“Other times of the year we have hives located near South Kolan by the river for Honey by the River, and near Coonar Beach for Honey by the Ocean.”