My dad was a beekeeper and summer was our most hectic time. When the honey was flowing, he’d put in long days (14+ hours) working the beeyards on the hottest of days, fixing equipment, canning honey, while always trying to stay ahead of his busy bees. He was always tired and nothing ever went the way he wanted it to: stuff would break down or start on fire, the weather would always turn to crap on him, his employees (students with summer jobs) could never keep up to his pace, or the bees would be pissed and sting the crap out of all of us.
I’d like to tell you that Dad handled it all with grace and composure, but I’d be lying. His patience was non-existent and he and I would have plenty of fights.
However, this was the ideal time for people to get the experience and be sold on his honey. It was perfect time to give tours. The honey house was humming with activity, the heat room where we stored all the supers full of frames brought in fresh from the yard was full, the extracting line was jammed with workers, and you could go to the storage tank and pour fresh, warm honey right from the tap.
Yet, I never remember once where he went out looking for these people to tour the honey house. Often, they would show up on our doorstep and he would make the time to share his interest in beekeeping.
In fact, I don’t really remember Dad ever marketing his honey. He gave it away sometimes or exchange it in barter for the land he put his bees on. The company used to sponsor hockey teams, or be a part of village fundraisers, but it never felt like he was selling. To me, it was always about him being a part of the community.
When Ang and I started writing the novel together, I told her that we needed to get our name out there. We started this blog, I tried to revive my Twitter account, and we talked about newsletters and other ways to promote Team Counios-Gane.
A mental shift that had to occur for me. On top of all my busyness , I had to open the doors and give back by sharing something of myself in order to put Ang and I as writers out there. As someone who’s grown more private online in the past few years, this became a process.
Yet, this is when I think of Dad, who invited people into his workspace, even when it was his busiest time, to show them what he did for a living. I’m sure he knew it would help with the business, but I think he did it out of generosity, because it was the neighbourly thing to do.
I’d been thinking about this post in my head for the past few days, when I went into a local shop yesterday. I knew the store owner and I asked how the Christmas season was going. He told me that it gets busier every day, selling his wares, talking with customers, making orders, and receiving orders. Yet, he didn’t mind. He likened himself to a farmer: “This is my harvest season.” This is when new people became aware of the store, looking for the unique gift, discovering what items he has.
Just like touring Dad’s honey house, it’s this moment of connection, when you can build your customer base. You put your name out there through advertising and sharing your product with customers, but it’s in your busiest time, when they come to you, that you can open your doors and share with them your livelihood.