Hi, please introduce yourself and your business.
Backyard Pollinator is the retail/hobby market side of our (Jed & Kathy Williams) leafcutter bee / alfalfa seed farm. You may have seen the blue huts alongside Hwy #11 near Kenaston – that’s where our millions of leafcutter bees fly, pollinate and reproduce each summer. With Backyard Pollinator we turn the focus from field pollinating to the pollination of your backyard and give anyone who enjoys bees the enjoyment of having these miraculous insects close by.
I've noticed you don't tend to use the word hive when talking about your bees, is there a reason for that?
We don’t use the word “hive” and there is no honey produced at all. These are solely pollinator bees that live inside styrofoam nesting blocks.
Why did you start crafting business and how does your passion still drive your business today?
A massive crash in the market for leafcutter bees in 2017 led us to explore other avenues for selling our bees. We now control our own destiny through our marketing online and via retail partnerships.
At what point did you realize this is what you wanted to pursue and that the potential to make a living from it was there or was there a turning point or what made you want to switch this from a hobby to more of a business?
We have sold Backyard Pollinators to every province in Canada and would like to expand our USA sales too. It has been slow growth, each year there are more sales and recognition of our product in the marketplace.
What brought you to selling your products with Handmade Saskatchewan?
We don’t have a storefront in our town of Imperial, SK and the potential to place our products in an urban mall setting was appealing.
What do you attribute your success to?
Giving people a window into our day to day bee operation on the farm through our FB page, people love to learn how it all works and how the bees are produced. Being awesome at customer service gains customer loyalty, return calls and emails promptly. Increased fascination with bees, especially the non-aggressive, friendly ones!
If you could speak face to face with yourself when you first started, what pearls of wisdom would you impart?
Embrace change, don’t be scared of technology & social media. Involve your customers in your business and listen to their feedback.
What new products have you been working on? Any you would like to highlight?
We’re hoping to introduce a screen for the front of the Bee Barns to prevent damage from hungry birds.
Do you find the hungry birds to be a problem for people either experienced or new to raising bees?
Come late summer when there is new larvae placed inside the nesting blocks by the mama bees, hungry birds such as woodpeckers can cause damage to the nesting blocks in a hurry as they try to get at the larvae. Lots of people put a screen over top of the pollinator to protect it and by next spring we hope to have a screen for sale on our website.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
For the most part our business has not suffered at all. People at home = more online shopping so our sales increased last spring. Uncertainty with food security and more time at home meant people began gardening again and that led to more interest in bees and pollination.
Thank you for your time! Any last closing comments?Janelle runs a well-organized shop. She has done well to hang on during a very challenging time for retail and the expansion to the Cornwall Centre is a tribute to her ingenuity and determination to succeed.