Q&A: Happy bees the key to a sweet business

This week we speak to Katelyn Wall, co-founder of Wall’s Honey Co. – a family-owned and run beekeeping business in Nemingha, NSW. The company’s primary business is wholesale bulk honey supplies and pollination services, and it also sells of premium boutique bottled honey, natural lip balm with beeswax and beeswax wraps. Katelyn and Justin’s efforts have seen them rewarded as Australian Rural Business of the Year winner at the Australian Rural Business Awards among alongside a host of other small and micro business award nominations.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you founding Wall’s Honey, and when and where did you start the business?

KW: Wall’s Honey evolved quite organically from a hobby of ours when we first met in 2015. One hive soon turned into two, then four and now we have 650. Justin went full-time commercial beekeeping when our son was born in April 2021. We started the business in our backyard of our hobby farm in Nemingha, around 15km from Tamworth, but soon outgrew that and now our bees are spread over the New England region of NSW on farms and public lands.

ISB: Wall’s is a family business – who fulfils what role in your day-to-day operations?

KW: We like to think that Justin is Chief Bee Health and Happiness Officer, while I manage marketing, wholesale clients, crafts our range of natural lip balms and beeswax wraps, and takes care of the books.

ISB: I understand sustainability is very important to you – how does this manifest itself in terms of your products and packaging?

KW: Our business has a strong commitment to environmentally friendly beekeeping practices and to leave our world in a better position than how we inherited it. None of our retail products contain any plastics, and we package them in materials that are gentler on our environment and more readily recycled. Our premium bottled honey is packaged in glass jars with aluminium closures so reusing or repurposing by the consumer or recycling is much more energy and output efficient. Accessories for our boutique honey are sourced with our environment at the forefront – our honey dippers are made from bamboo which requires less water and is faster growing than other wooden materials and our twine is made from jute which is a vegetable that grows quickly with minimal water requirements as opposed to cotton. Our beeswax lip balms are packaged in metal containers rather than the usual plastic tubes. These containers hold twice the amount of product than plastic alternatives and, like glass, are more efficiently recyclable.

ISB: And community clearly matters to you, too – what do local people mean to the business?

KW: Building a thriving small business in regional Australia has its challenges. But the support and encouragement we’ve received from our customers and wider community is what’s helped us to grow. That’s probably the best part about operating in a regional area…the people. While our business has continued to expand and we are reaching markets that are beyond our local area, our local community members are consistently the people that have been there since the beginning and we hope will continue to be there going forward. The support of our community has meant that we have been able to turn our hobby into our career and have more time to spend with our family.

ISB: How do you see Wall’s Honey growing and developing in the next couple of years? 

KW: We are planning on growing our beehive numbers further, and have just expanded our existing premises to include a new extraction line and bottling plant in preparations to scale up our business. We have recently released our line of natural beeswax lip balms so we are currently looking for wholesale clients for these.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to start up their own small business in a rural, regional area?

KW: Our advice is to start off with something that is your passion. It is a huge task to start up a small business in a regional or rural area, but if the business is something you are truly passionate about the late nights and hard work will be worth it.