In March of 2021, Bread for Life brought our vision to establish a social enterprise that will employ clients and offer job skills and opportunities to transition to self-sufficiency to the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain with the hopes of a partnership and funding for this creative endeavor. We were thrilled by their response and support and so The Southington Honey Company was born.
We had three hives built and installed in May 2021 and began our beekeeping instruction under the direction of our bee master, Roger Dietz. Our student beekeeper was chosen from the Karen Smith Academy and we also secured a volunteer beekeeper and coach. They attended weekly classroom instruction and beehive maintenance sessions. As the summer heated up, so did the birthing of more bees. They happily pollinated our Common Good Garden and newly planted pollinating flower garden. By the fall of 2021 we were ready to harvest our first gleanings. Hard work and perseverance was at work on many levels. Our student and her coach were working the hives extracting honey. Meanwhile, two Bread for Life clients were preparing the jars for honey by sanitizing them, labeling them, and finally putting the honey in the jars. On the insistence of one of our client workers, we added a new item to sell with our honey. This client was handy with wood working and he presented us with the idea to include wooden coasters that were wood burned with the Southington Honey Company logo. We were happy to include his suggestion so we sold both honey and SHC coasters for our first sales opportunity.
In December of 2021, we had two sales opportunities: the Southington Chamber of Commerce Sip & Shop event and an in-house sales night. We had 100 one-ounce jars of honey from our first harvest and 30 four-coaster sets. For this first year of sales, we did not have time to train our clients for sales opportunities so our staff and volunteers handled these two SHC sales events. Our first sales event was the Chamber’s Sip & Shop event where we highlighted the mission and vision of SHC and sold our local honey and the handmade coasters. We sold out in one hour. SUCCESS! We had reserved some honey jars and coasters to sell at our in-house open house for friends and supporters who wanted to purchase SHC goods.
As we reflect back on SHC’s humble beginning, we are grateful for the amazing partnerships we have formed. We could not have done this project without the support and partnership from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. We also received advertising support from the Southington Chamber of Commerce. During our first year, we are thankful for the working relationship with had with Pro Bono Partners directing us legally through the sensitive issues of stipends, insurance, and agreements with landowners hosting our additional hives. We are also starting a new partnership with two CCSU marketing students who are going to help us develop a marketing and business plan in preparation of sales at the farmers market and local store distribution. Many lessons have been learned and much hope given to those clients involved in the enterprise. We look forward to the future of the Southington Honey Company enterprise.