Bee Business Plan: How to Get Productive in Bee Farming

Intro excerpt: Establishing a bee farming business in the modern market needs a well-structured bee business plan. This guide gives you all you need to achieve that.

Einstein believed that humanity would have no more than four years to live if bees disappeared from the planet. Such is the global importance and demand of the beekeeping business that learning how to draw up the perfect bee business plan and start a bee farming project has long been considered a sustainable and profitable venture. 

While honey is the most popular product in the beekeeping industry (of course!), not everyone may know about other high-demand products related to bee farming, such as beeswax, venom, honeycomb, and royal jelly. 

Though it may seem a simple project, caring for bees could become a cash machine if executed correctly. Besides selling honey, businesses that raise bees can also profit by providing pollination services and selling beekeeping supplies

Today, the global market for bee products is thriving due to rising consumer interest and the awareness of health benefits, in addition to an increasing demand for nutrient-dense food. According to a 2022 report on global apiculture (the technical name for beekeeping), the estimated bee farming market will hit $10.3 billion by the end of 2022 and $11.8 billion by 2026, growing at 3.6% a year. 

The apiculture industry will thus continue to be a huge opportunity with plenty of room for newbies to enter the market. 

However, making a footprint in such a big industry is not a walk in the park, and you’ll need to go the extra mile by starting with a solid beekeeping business plan. 

This article demonstrates various types of bee business plans, why they are important, and how to achieve success one step at a time. We’ll cover:

  1. Why get into the beekeeping industry?
  2. What is a bee business plan?
  3. Main types of bee business plans
  4. How to develop a bee business plan
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1. Why get into the beekeeping industry?

While honey production is a big part of bee farming and can lead to profits of $300 to $500 per hive each year, this is just a small slice of the market potential a comprehensive bee business plan should aim to target. 

Besides honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, and propolis, pollination services can provide a significant portion of honey beekeepers' income; in fact, the price of many agricultural products, including fruits, nuts, seeds, and other items, would increase in the absence of pollination.

Honey remains a valuable commodity in high demand and acts as a key component in the pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and medical industries. It is used as a primary ingredient in a wide range of medications, chemicals, and personal care products, as well as a rich source of many essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, calcium, and antioxidants.

Lately, sugar has been getting a bad reputation for its poor health effects, leading to the further popularization of honey. Now with the use of natural, healthy, low-calorie honey, the emerging natural foods industry has preserved honey's position as a sweetening and flavoring substitute

Bee farming offers a particularly strong business case in the US. 

The US apiculture market will be worth $1.2 billion in 2022, accounting for about 12.02% of the entire global market. That doesn't sound too far off, especially for the nation that came up with American Honey, a pure-honey-flavored bourbon, in the 1970s.

2. What is a bee business plan?

A bee business plan will outline a company's goals and objectives in the apiculture industry, as well as how owners intend to get there, which will ultimately include identifying how much funding will be needed. 

A comprehensive bee business plan should include the following sections:

  1. Company overview, mission statements, and vision
  2. Company business model
  3. Marketing plans
  4. Company management hierarchy and teams
  5. Company operation plan
  6. Detailed market research
  7. Financing needs
  8. Growing phases timeline

Why is a bee business plan important?

Trusting your gut feeling all the time isn’t the best business approach. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, more than 50% of small businesses fail within the first year without a business plan. 

To avoid this common pitfall, you'll need to invest time to thoroughly understand your business. 

Here are a few more reasons why you should take time to produce a well-structured business plan. 

It's not hard as it seems

Small businesses and startups typically neglect producing comprehensive business plans, and the beekeeping industry is no exception. Some view research and data collecting as overwhelming homework that has no point, but that can be a recipe for failure. 

Sufficient planning is key, and getting it done right helps a lot. 

Simplify things by dealing with each part of the plan separately; this will relieve a lot of pressure, making it easier to work on. 

The numerous formats out there for writing a bee business plan may further confuse you. But don't sweat it; fortunately, there is no correct or incorrect way to write a business plan. Simply choose the format that best suits your needs.

It helps you identify needs for external funding

Producing a plan will help you better understand where financing will be needed to get you off the ground. 

Often, needs for exact parts of the business – such as specific equipment – won’t become clear until it's written down. 

Moreover, getting funding for your bee farming business will require a documented road map showing how capital will be used and invested

It should be noted here that promising the sweetest and best honey is a nice gesture, but doesn't count as a plan. 

Instead, give potential investors confidence and show them that their money will be used wisely. 

Here, a bee farming business plan should thoroughly explain how such businesses succeed, break even, and turn a profit. These details will tempt them to provide funding and avoid any loan denial.

It allows you to measure strategy and goals

A good bee business plan will leave no stone unturned, listing every aspect of the company's work and serving as a GPS to help steer the business as it grows. 

It also connects all the dots and offers a complete picture of the bee farming business, ensuring your business strategy is linked to workable activities

In addition, a bee business plan should indicate whether the business covers its current costs, including long-term fixed costs, and a clearly defined organizational structure and how various teams interact.

It improves cash flow management

A bee business plan is an effective solution for avoiding financial headaches because it includes financial projections linking costs, sales, expenses, and debt. 

Though even the best plans will never be a crystal ball, you can use your document to be proactive and prepare in advance for potential trouble. Allowing the separation of profit from regular cash will also help to ensure funds are exactly used as intended.

It boosts business growth by tracing results

Looking for growth and prosperity in your business? Here's a secret ingredient: monitoring, analyzing, and tracking results

Because a good bee business plan will include objectives and goals documented in a precise and time-specific manner, it can act as a crucial tool for tracking KPIs. 

Keeping an eye out for new developments and making the appropriate adjustments helps you leverage your target market and products. Additionally, it makes it easier to set priorities and strategically allocate time, effort, and other resources.

3. Main types of bee business plans

As previously stated, there is no right or wrong format for a bee business plan template because no one size fits all.

And a good plan for you must be picked based on the status and needs of your unique bee farming business. 

However, we can still broadly classify bee business plans into two types:

Startup business plan

A startup business plan acts as a cornerstone for a new company's success. It will guide you through building the business and put you on the right track to identifying funding, product marketing and other important strategies. 

Keep in mind that you should be writing this plan entirely from scratch, including as much in-depth information as possible, such as a business strategy, financial projections, the target market, and management structure. An ideal first draft could exceed 40 pages, which means a lot of work is waiting for you. (This is why some startups also hire professionals to build this plan for them.) 

Since it provides projections for the company's sales, profit, loss, cash flow, and balance sheet, a startup bee business plan is frequently used to identify funding from various sources. 

Growth business plans

If you already have a beekeeping business and want to grow and expand, this type of business plan is the right choice. 

Growth business plans are created for existing companies that are usually looking at expanding into new markets. They can be used internally to guide new marketing strategies, as well as to attract the attention of media and potential investors. 

Financial projections are crucial components of both business plans, but the growth plans will depend on real previous sales, revenue, and achievements.  

4. How to develop a bee business plan

It's time to start working on compiling your bee business plan. 

We recommend the following sections to be included, whether it is for a startup or an established company. 

1. Executive summary

The executive summary for a bee business plan is the first and most significant section to be presented and (sometimes) the last to be written. It provides time-pressed reviewers, such as investors, with a glance that can hook them and persuade them to read further. Moreover, it summarizes the entire document and highlights the key details.

Put yourself in the investor's shoes: they will not be interested in reading your life story from A to Z. So, keep it brief. Write about what kind of bee farming business you are operating and whether it is a startup or established company. 

Whatever the main purpose of your bee business plan, the following information must be included in the exclusive summary:

  1. Outline your proposed or current bee farming venture's objectives
  2. Identify target customers through a target market research
  3. Marketing plan and public relations strategy
  4. Competitor analysis 
  5. Financial projections and insights
  6. Team members and senior management

Bonus Tip

Since this is a summary, don't beat around the bush and stay on topic. One page is more than enough. Additionally, spelling and grammar mistakes impact the entire business plan. Pay special attention to the executive summary because mistakes will be a turn-off for readers!

2. Company overview

A company overview or description must be crystal clear. 

Before writing your company's overview, keep the two key questions in mind: "What are you going to do?" and "Who are you?". These questions can be answered in detail to provide information about the company, its unique qualities, and customer benefits.

A company overview must include details like:

  1. What kind of beekeeping business is it going to be? A stingless bee farm, a honey bee farm, or a bumble bee farm
  2. The business model, including areas of specialization like honey production, bee sales, pollination services, beeswax sales, and beekeeping equipment sales. Also, explain whether the company will have a physical store, an online store, or both.
  3. The beekeeping business legal structure; for example, a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company
  4. The company's vision and mission
  5. Background information on the bee farming business and its history
  6. Business goals, both immediate and long-term
  7. The business team, including important individuals and their compensations

3. Identify the target market

“Everyone likes honey” doesn’t count as good marketing. Indeed, not everyone does. (Did you know that vegans, for example, exclude honey from their food diet?)

It is therefore critical for your marketing plan to identify and define your target customer thoroughly. This section must describe who your bee farming business specifically serves and/or expects to serve, such as corporations, individuals, and families. If you can build buyer personas to further detail this, even better. 

Potential customer segmentation begins with board assumptions, which are then narrowed. The main factors for audience segmentation are:

  1. Geographic segmentation that includes the prospect's state, city, and so on
  2. Demographic segmentation that includes the targeted customer’s age, gender, income, and other relevant factors
  3. Psychographic segmentation that includes the customer’s values, beliefs, or opinions
  4. Behavioral segmentation that includes the customer’s behavioral characteristics, such as how they spend their free time, where they work, what websites they visit, what type of honey they prefer, and their purchasing habits.

Bonus Tip

Add a SWOT analysis to the bee business plan. SOWT is a term that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It's typically presented as a grid with key bullet points describing the business's best features, uncompetitive features, market growth opportunities, and what can prevent the company's success.

4. Perform competitor analysis

You're not going to enter the beekeeping industry alone. 

Indeed, you will have to make yourself stand out from the very beginning, and that's best done by getting to know your competitors. 

Usually, a competitor analysis is carried out in tandem with market and consumer research. This will assist in identifying the key distinction factors between the bee farming company and its rivals, enabling the creation of a unique strategy to differentiate your company from the others.

The analysis covers direct and indirect competitors, which in the case of bee farming are companies that provide goods serving as alternatives to yours, such as other types of sweeteners or services for farm pollination.

Major competitors must be outlined in the bee business plan, with specific information about each one of them, including:

  1. Strengths and weaknesses
  2. Who are their customers, how do they shop, what do they like, etc.?
  3. Pricing plans

With the help of this information, your company will be able to set its main competitive advantages, such as better pricing, higher-quality services, the availability of products others don’t provide, and so on.

Bonus Tip

Read customers' reviews on competing businesses and determine their weaknesses and strengths from the customers' perspective.

5. Marketing and sales plan

Target customer research will be used to develop the entire marketing strategy and help you on where to direct your efforts. There are two main components to the marketing and sales plan. 

The first is the marketing activities that will spread awareness of the bee farming business and the sales channels. It outlines how the company will sell its products, such as a physical or online store, or maybe both.

The second component is the 4Ps method. This method is typically used to display the marketing plan in detail: Products, Price, Place, and Promotion.

  1. Price: outline each product's costs and the reasons behind it
  2. Products: describe how each product, including honey, beeswax, and other options, differs from what competitors are selling
  3. Place: specify where you will sell the products and where the beekeeping operation will be, for example, close to a buzzing shopping area or on piece of rural farm land
  4. Promotion: outlines how to showcase the products to potential customers. Popular promotion tactics include:
  1. Launching a website for a bee-framing company
  2. Social media promotion
  3. Collect a list of email subscribers and start email marketing
  4. Promote locally by using resources like local radio stations
  5. Offline advertising, like honey festivals

Bonus Tip

Be open to various marketing strategies and stay adaptable. Never underestimate the social media influence, and start developing social media platforms and the company website as soon as possible. 

6. Management & operational structure

This section presents the organizational structure of your bee farming business and a breakdown of the command chain and authority distribution, demonstrating the enterprise's viability.

Management  can consist of two or three to a dozen employees—and possibly more—along with a few experts whose numbers will vary depending on the company's size. Their backgrounds and expertise are typically presented in this section to demonstrate how strong the management is and that there are no conflicts of interest.

Bonus Tip

Employees in the bee farming business are your task force and must have prior beekeeping experience. However, if they do not, consider hiring professionals as an advisory board to answer questions, set strategies, and mentor the business.

7. Operations plan

The workflow that will be used to bring the business idea to life is described in the operation plan. It consists of routine tasks like monitoring the beehive, returning phone calls, gathering honey, packaging, etc.

Additionally, long-term objectives highlight the milestones of the beekeeping company and its growth trajectory, such as having a specific number of hives after a year, increasing production each year by a particular percentage, etc.

8. Financial plan

It's time to talk about money now. The financial plan and analysis is the bee business plan's last and most crucial section. Typically, it describes five years' worth of financial projections. The first year is broken up into quarterly or monthly statements, and the following years are each reported annually. The following sections make up the financial plan's main body:

Income statement

An income statement, as its name implies, gives specifics about the income and expenses in a given period to demonstrate whether a company is profitable or not and to forecast when it will switch from asking for funds to making money.

Balance statement

In simple words, it identifies your assets and debts (liabilities). In this section, profits aren't the major concern because neither you nor the lenders expect quick returns on their investment.

Cash flow statement

Due to the similar information that income statements and cash flow statements provide, most entrepreneurs mix them. Cash flow includes timing, when revenues are received, and when expenses are paid. 

No rocket science: the cash flow will be positive when the revenue exceeds the expense and negative when the expense exceeds the revenue.

By forecasting, you can make the necessary adjustments to the operations and prevent negative cash flow statements. With this knowledge, it is possible to anticipate when the company has a surplus, its cash flow is weak, and when a backup funding source is required.

Bonus Tip

Most business owners are unaware of the hidden fact that they can quickly run out of money and even go bankrupt with (seemingly) profitable enterprises. Therefore, it's crucial to list important expenses like salaries, taxes, beekeeping equipment, and insurance. Include a summary of the financial forecasts in the main portion of the bee business plan and the in-depth investigation and analysis in the appendix.

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