John Wright has an unusual inheritance waiting for him: bees. The story is, John's grandfather passed his 10 colonies of bees down to his father, who decided to turn full-time to beekeeping and honey production.
John joined his father and helped turned their small family business into Bee Wild: a company that not only produces a line of raw, wild-crafted, naturally flavored honeys, but spreads a message about local, organic food.
We chatted with John about how he built the brand around Bee Wild, and about his passion for real food. He's charming and enthusiastic, and his love of his trade is clear. But we don't need to tell you that—meet him for yourself!
Where did you grow up?
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A master gardener/landscape architect.
Who taught you to cook? And, if the answer is different: how did your interest in food and cooking ignite?
N/A — this one is still sitting on my bucket list!
So, your father started learning to beekeep when he received 10 colonies of bees from his father when he was 10 years old — when did you start beekeeping?
My father does the beekeeping end of the business, and I do the marketing and sales. We make the perfect team because I’m more afraid of the bees than people, and my dad is more afraid of people than the bees!
What are the biggest challenges of keeping colonies of bees?
The biggest challenge is keeping the bees alive. The bees have many natural predators — the number one predator being the varroa destructor mite.
Had you been selling honey before you started Bee Wild? How did you get the idea to start the business?
I started Bee Wild as a brand that would reach the targeted audience we have today, in order to sell our amazing raw honey. I got the idea to start the business when I was thinking about different business ideas, and this one was the obvious choice!
What have been the best parts and the biggest challenges of running Bee Wild?
The best part of running Bee Wild is the team culture that has grown both intentionally and organically. I truly enjoy working with my amazingly talented team of sales people that run our farmer’s markets and backend support ( writers, bloggers, and graphic artists). The team culture is all about making unique and personal connections with our customers at the local farmer’s markets and festivals.
The most challenging part of running Bee Wild is timing. Knowing what to do is actually easier to navigate than knowing when to pull the trigger. As an entrepreneur with a growing small business, there are endless ways you can grow your business — i.e., create additional products to sell, create services to dovetail with your product line or brand, open new markets in new territories, launch major advertising & marketing campaigns...the list goes on.
I have found that once a strategy is chosen, the real question becomes timing and logistics. Does this make the best business sense right now? Will this make more sense in six months, or a year? What benchmarks need to be identified so that we know we’re ready to launch this strategy?
Honey is always my go-to to calm down the heat in my mouth from hot peppers. Given that heat and honey seem to be polar opposites, how did you figure out how to combine them in the Devil’s Advocate, and how much experimentation did it take to get the balance of heat just right?
This may sound kooky, but I’m going to be completely honest here…I literally had a dream one night where I could hear my own voice, and it said, “You have to create a hot honey.” So I woke up and started working on it with my team within days of the dream.
Once we started this project, it took about four months of trying different types of hot peppers and different amounts to get the perfect heat level. Once we had a recipe where we were happy with the heat level and flavor profile, we actually had a farm tour for local foodie bloggers who did a blind tasting of it and of a few other batches with different heat levels. They almost unanimously agreed on the same batch that we had earmarked as our favorite. This was how we finalized our decision on the secret recipe!
What other products are you working on, or thinking of developing, down the line?
More infused honeys, as well as honey-based skincare products.
What’s your favorite local restaurant, café, or market?
R Thomas Deluxe Grill in Atlanta.
What’s your favorite comfort meal to make?
What’s your go-to dinner party meal to make?
What’s your favorite drink of the moment?
Teavana Youthberry White Tea.
We have some quick-fire questions for you now—answer before you have a chance to think too long about it. Dog or cat?
Tomato sauce or pesto?
Regular fries or waffle fries?
Chocolate or caramel?
Pizza or pasta?