Bee Happy: Interview with founder of Kenyan honey business
Bee Happy Enterprises is a Kenyan company involved in bee farming and the production of honey-related products. The business was started in 2017. Founder and managing director Lester Maranya (26) answers our questions.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
We are a family-owned agri-food company in the honey and honey-based cosmetic products space. Our range of products include pure honey and infused honey, while our cosmetics range comprises skin moisturiser and soap. Bee Happy aims to build a life long relationship and connection with our customers through quality products and service while making our society more environmentally conscious in our fight to save the bees.
2. How did you finance your startup?
Bee Happy was financed using family savings and resources. After a few months of bootstrapping with my personal savings to gain traction and present the viability of the venture, the initial capital investment was provided by my parents. We then leveraged on each family member’s strengths and used family land to set up our first apiary.
3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?
The funds would go into scaling the business further. It would enable us to source more honey from beekeepers within and beyond the East African region as we seek opportunities to sell our products in various international markets. A portion of the funds would also go into machinery and setting up a facility to scale the production of our existing honey-based products.
4. What risks does your business face?
The global decline in the worldwide bee population is the greatest risk to our business. This has mainly been caused by the use of pesticides and insecticides as well as climate change. There is also stiff competition in the honey industry as there aren’t large barriers to entry.
5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
Social media marketing has proven to be the most successful form of marketing for us. Since launching on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, these platforms have made online sales our main revenue channel. We are able to know our consumers better and easily respond to any queries they may have, thereby contributing to better customer satisfaction. Running paid advertising promotions has also enabled us to target our desired clientele which earns us a better return on marketing investment. These platforms also enable cash sales as opposed to credit sales through retailers such as supermarkets and convenience stores.
6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
The reception we got after launching our business online and selling out all our products in our first week of business. It gave us the much-needed confidence to continue in this line of business and the motivation to come up with more value-added honey and bee products.
Tell us about your biggest mistake.
I was too trusting of a friend I had employed in our organisation. This familiarisation led to problems we are still recovering from to date. I have since realised the importance of formalising all work relationships from the onset no matter the size of the organisation or the type of person you are dealing with. It is never too early to put structures or processes in place to guide how you want the company to be run.
8. Identify an untapped business opportunity in Africa.
Waste recycling. A lot of waste produced in Africa finds its way to landfills and waterbodies whereas it could be processed into useful products. The opportunity exists from waste collection systems down to recycling waste into useful household and industrial products such as building materials, shoes and clothes.