Beekeeping Businesses Overlook Funding Source
An apiculture management service provider is surprised more beekeepers are not tapping into government funding available for business development purposes.
MyApiary managing director Darren Bainbridge says, as one of the registered service providers with the Regional Business Partners (RBP) Network, he has seen the benefit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment backed scheme has brought some beekeepers over the past two years. However, he believes many beekeepers who could benefit are not aware of the programme, how it works and how the funding could be used to improve their businesses.
“MyApiary has been registered with the RBP Network since April 2020 and have helped facilitate between a few beekeepers and the service providers they require to improve their operations. I would love to hear from more beekeepers who tap into the funding as a way of improving their business though,” Bainbridge says.
Waikato beekeepers Hannah and Rory O’Brien, owners of Hunt and Gather Bee Co, are one such business that has joined the network. They are now entering their third round of funding having first applied for a grant in late 2019.
“Any kind of professional development you can do is worthwhile, especially if it is free,” Hannah O’Brien says.
Hunt and Gather Bee Co have put the range of funding they have received through RBP over the past two years towards a business plan and cashflow forecast with their accountant, a social media planning session and – most valuably according to O’Brien – business mentorship and advice from experience beekeeper and consultant Andrew Stratford.
“I would highly recommend him above anything else we have done. We are working with Andrew on an ongoing basis now because he is incredibly knowledgeable and he has all that knowledge in the apiculture industry. Previously, we have found it challenging with business mentors who know the type of business they have been in, but none have been in apiculture. He has made a big impact on our business and especially on our beekeeping front,” O’Brien says.
Also in the Waikato, beekeeper Joseph Gethen has tapped into funding through RBP, with good results for his Earth Soldiers business of 1500 hives. He too has seen the most benefit through calling on the knowledge and advice of Stratford, while also receiving funding to develop a website and carry out market research.
“Talking to Andrew and having a plan to keep on top of varroa, to improve hive health, strength and performance has helped us lower our winter losses,” Gethen says.
“We spent time with him last season and are seeing the benefits now as we come out of winter. Hives are looking really nice and we feel we are on top of varroa better.”
Both Gethen and O’Brien say they would have been unlikely to employ the service providers they have, had the RBP funding not been available.
“It is allowing us to do extra things that we wouldn’t be able to afford to do otherwise,” O’Brien says.
“It is pretty hard to find money for that kind of thing. A day long social media planning session, we just wouldn’t do that otherwise.”
The process of joining the network and applying for funding is not difficult either O’Brien says, with a short Zoom meeting with their local RBP provider to explain their business easily navigated.
Further to that, being a part of the RBP Network means doors may open to other avenues of support, O’Brien explains.
“I think it is useful to make that connection with them. Besides from the funding, they have other things they can help you with, such as links into NZ Trade and Enterprise and any research and development or export help. They hold the key to a lot of funding.”
Gethen says for Earth Soldiers the funding, and the resulting advice from Stratford, has been “really, really useful”.
“Small to medium sized commercial outfits, who need a bit more clarity or understanding around the industry, would benefit from it in a big way,” Gethen says.
That is a sentiment shared by Bainbridge as a service provider to the Network, but also by O’Brien as a grant recipient.
“All you have to do is go through a small process and you get something for free, or half funded,” O’Brien says, adding “It is all going to help your business”.