Happy New Year!

Starting our 10th year, a little retrospective and change

Happy (slightly belated) New Year!

Avital’s is starting the year off with change. This little business is growing, as little businesses should, so I’m mixing things up a bit. This blog will be more about bees (mine and in general), life stuff, and general musings.

Product information, especially really in depth stuff, will be over at our retail site, ShopAvitals.com.

Back in 2010, when I started his hobby-business, I named it after my daughter and my bees. Nothing like two words that the average person has never heard and can’t remember, huh?

Toddler Avital in striped sweater, jeans, and bee-themed boots in front of a beehive.
The boots! The hive! The adorable! This was taken right around the time I was starting Avital’s Apiaries. So here’s Avital. In the Apiary.

After a 15-year career in IT, I was home with a toddler. It was my choice, and I was enjoying it, but toddlers don’t stay little forever. I saw the break in my career as an opportunity to do something else rather than go back to a desk and screens and a keyboard.

A beekeeping business was a natural choice. Before I met David, my husband, I’d been kicking around the idea of having a beekeeping sideline business. So… why not?

My first thought was to have a traditional beekeeper’s business, hence the name. I thought I would be selling honey and candles, lotion bars and lip balms, maybe raising queens and splitting colonies to sell to other beekeepers.

My first fair. Wow, that was a long time ago!

Plans have a funny way of not working out quite like you expected. The first fair I did was a total success–but not because people wanted honey and candles. They wanted lotion bars. People were so enthusiastic that someone bought the tester. Seriously.

So I started running the numbers. If I had a traditional beekeeping business, with honey as my primary product, how many colonies would I need to make the business relatively successful, make enough honey and wax, etc? I estimated 300. Deep sigh. That would mean finding land for those apiaries (there’s a limit to how many hives you can put in one place, so I was looking at finding as many as 10 places for my bees). It would mean driving to those apiaries, a lot of miles every month, to take care of the bees. I would probably need seasonal help to bring in the harvest and extract.

It didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t practical for me. Instead of having a hobby I loved, I’d end up with a business that was a grind. Definitely not the plan.

So no.

But those lotion bars… They pointed the way.

I get real satisfaction from making things, hands on, that people find both a pleasure and useful. As a sysdmin, most of my creative energy had gone to cooking and baking. What better way to make people happy than with freshly baked bread or yummy beef jerky? Uh, unless they have celiac and are vegetarians, I guess. But I also make a mean chickpea and lentil stew.

Making soap, lotions, and balms is a lot like cooking. It’s both a science and creative. You have to get the recipe right, but there’s a lot of leeway for expression around color, scent, and texture.

And it’s useful. We all need to get clean. We all need some moisturizing now and then (or, if you’re me, all the time).

So in 2010, I registered the business and starting looking for a logo and packaging. I started researching formulas, and shaping the kind of company I would want to have. I was still imagining it as a one-woman, barely-more than a hobby company for the foreseeable future, but I decided to start the way I meant to go on. I would take it seriously, and do things right, whether I had one wholesale account or twenty.

Here we are in our 10th year, and I’ve done things I did not know I could do. I’ve walked into stores and sold what I make to buyers. I’ve hired employees. (Thank goodness I haven’t had to fire one.) I’ve produced and organized production of thousands of products every year. I’ve ordered thousands of boxes and commercially printed labels. I’ve learned about packaging (and cursed packaging, let me confess).

It’s a good time to take a deep breath and a look around: what have we accomplished? Where are we going? 2010 seems like a lifetime ago. I was a different person, living in a (frankly) different world.

We’ll always be a bee biz. Honey bee values will always be at the heart of what we do: hard work, diversity, productivity, strength, and efficiency. These aren’t necessarily flashy values. Efficiency is probably not going to trend on Twitter, ya know? But getting it done is the bedrock of everything, whatever the it is.

So there will be some changes this year. We’re still hashing out what those will look like, though a few are already in the works: We’re definitely going to revamp the ShopAvitals.com site, which is pretty boring right now (other than the products, of course, which are fabulous). Descriptions will be rewritten and new photos will show up. And we really want to give you more video and more behind the scenes looks at what we do.

Be prepared to jump in with us. I know we’ll have questions and we’ll want to hear what you think. Our customers are part of the colony, after all. We couldn’t do what we do with you.


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