This is the first in our season of Toast Food interviews with food & drink producers, where we invite a variety of producers to share their story, knowledge and insights with us.
Fresh from their appearance on Channel 4’s Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast show, we meet our friends and clients, The Honeymakers. Beekeepers of 150 million bees and producers of fine Oxfordshire honey.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with Lucy & Viktor from The Honeymakers for a good few years now, initially working with them to develop their naming and branding and since with ongoing design and marketing support. Not only are they very passionate about what they do, but their bees make some great honey too. Here goes…
Ice-breaker – allow us to get know you a little better: how do you take your coffee/tea?
We love a cuppa sweetened with our honey (I’m addicted to my tea made with honey; we’re very fickle because we regularly change honey flavours in our tea!) Coffee has to be strong, taken only in the mornings, and made to my very exacting standards (I am a coffee fascist!)
Tell us about your business, what do you produce?
We run a bee farming business and honey producers, we raise our own beautiful, well behaved, gentle queen bees and honeybees, which we sell to mainly hobbyist beekeepers and beginner beekeepers. We also sell other products of the hive – beeswax candles, and a small skincare range made with our own Cotswold honey, beeswax, propolis and pollen, pure plant extracts and essential oils.
When did you start-up?
We started in 2009, working from a shed in our back garden and a spare bedroom in the house!
If you had to describe your company in one line, what would it be?
We care for the bees, and they look after us.
What is your role there?
Lucy is tea maker to the bee maker, general admin, and jack of all trades! Viktor is the bee man, honey producer and jack of all trades!
What was the biggest obstacle you had to get over to establish your business?
Finding our premises, finding the sites for our bees, establishing trust with farmers and private landowners to allow us onto their properties to set up and maintain our apiary sites.
What’s been the most enjoyable surprise in business?
Seeing our bees become film stars! Our bees were selected for “Mr Holmes’ because of their beautiful calm and gentle natures.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
The hardest thing is to find the right people with the right skills, willing to work in the industry and who able to adapt to the many challenges that come with the job.
Did you have a detailed marketing plan in place when you started up?
Yes we had a basic business plan, however, we have been very flexible about the direction our business has taken.
Did you follow it? Do you follow one now?
Yes partly. But we have also been open to diversifying and open to new ideas. We believe a new business should up to a point be allowed to find its own direction.
How do you measure your success beyond the bottom line?
We wouldn’t describe our business as successful yet. However – we are expanding year on year and for that, we are very happy and very grateful.
What value do you place on your current ‘Brand’?
Our brand is becoming more and more recognisable, and we realise how important it is to have a good brand identity.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to fellow aspiring foodies looking to do something like you, what would it be?
Do the food markets as a base for your market research. Yes, you’ll freeze in the winter and wonder where everyone one is in August but it’s a great way to make a few quid and, save a fortune on marketing. The feedback you’ll get from your customers is spot on and worth all the hard work. There’s nothing better than someone walking past your stall and saying something nice about your product not realising that it’s your baby they are complementing. You quickly find out which lines sell and which ones don’t, and it gives huge confidence when you are ready to approach the shops as you can talk really knowledgeably about how your products perform in a retail environment.
What do you look for in a design partner?
Understanding our needs, and bringing our visions to life.
If you had to describe Toast in one line, what would it be?
Just like creamy butter melting onto toast, and topped with lashings of the finest Cotswold honey!!! PS: Toast’s branding and label design make us very, very very proud!
Last one – how important is design and branding to your company’s success?
A brand needs to make an impression, so it’s very important. Today’s retail environment is intensely competitive and a strong and recognisable logo and identity is essential.
We would like to thank Lucy and Viktor for taking the time to answer our questions and share their insights and experiences with us, not just creating a business but growing it and we wish them all the best for the future too. Find out more about The Honeymakers and their delicious honey at www.thehoneymakers.co.uk
Keep an eye out for other interviews with food and drink producers and other ‘Friends of Toast’.