Honey with Style and Sweet Cyndee’s Bees
- April 13, 2020
- April 13, 2020
"The advisors at the Illinois SBDC can help you get a perspective on what your business really could be."
- Cyndee & Frank Moriarty, Owners
Honey with Style & Sweet Cyndee’s Bees, Hawthorn Woods, IL
Everyone knows bees make honey, but not many people know how creamed honey is made. Frank & Cyndee Moriarty sure know how to do it. And they’ve got the accolades to prove it! What started out as a hobby in the fall of 2018, has now grown into a business with a very unique product line. Creamed honey is similar to jams and jellies in that it’s very spreadable and pairs well with items like toast, bagels, and croissants. But creamed honey has a more butter-like texture. If you’ve never tried creamed honey, you can find Frank & Cyndee at various craft fairs and farmers’ markets around the area. Just look for the guy in the chubby bee jacket!
Why did you choose to start Honey with Style & Sweet Cyndee's Bees?
While I was still working in consulting, I became interested in beekeeping. To learn more about it, I joined the Lake County Beekeepers Association in Grayslake. The Lake County, Illinois area has an environment that is very hospitable to bees and there are several beekeepers who are really into competing with their honey products. Some fellow beekeepers, who have won many awards for their honey, suggested that we enter our honey into contests as well. On the way to our first event, a couple jars of honey broke. It was sort of an ominous start, but our honey ended up placing second in the nation, very exciting! Since we proved we could create a high-quality product, it just made sense to try and turn it into a business.
Tell us a little about your business and what makes it unique.
We quickly realized that, even though our honey was very high quality, it was still perceived as a commodity product. We needed a way to differentiate our honey and add value so that we could charge a premium price. We started out by selling honey in beautiful, vintage glassware. This is still one of our product lines. However, we stumbled upon something else while attending a beekeeping class. Another couple in the class had been producing a creamed honey. It’s actually an old process that dates back to the 1930’s, primarily based on time and temperature of the honey. I made some notes about the process so that we could try to make a batch of creamed honey ourselves. We made up a batch and then bought some creamed honey for comparison. Ours tasted similar but didn’t really look the same. Our version was a lot smoother and almost white in color. The comparison products had much more of a yellow color. We weren’t sure if we had made creamed honey or something else! It turns out, I misheard some of the information about the process. We actually used the wrong volume of honey and the wrong temperature! Still, we entered our version of creamed honey into the next competition and it came in first in the national competition!
What was the problem you were facing when you decided to contact the Illinois SBDC?
I was familiar with the Illinois SBDC because I attended Harper College for my undergraduate degree. I thought they might be a good resource to help us plan for the future. Although we were doing well selling at markets and craft fairs, we were trying to figure out how we might be able to scale the business to handle larger stores. We needed to identify new sales channels and how to more efficiently manufacture products to support those opportunities.
How did the Illinois SBDC help with the problems you were having?
The advisors I met with at Harper’s SBDC office really helped me think through the steps we needed to take to scale the business. Tom helped me understand what would be required operationally to produce larger batches of creme honey and he helped me analyze our pricing, cost of goods, and margins. I met with Cheri to discuss our marketing ideas and which channels of distribution we should consider expanding into. We also discussed how we could use a co-packer to help scale up production. All of the sessions I attended helped me gain new insight into a number of areas including manufacturing, cost analysis, and expanding our social media play.
How did working with the Illinois SBDC impact your business?
Because I had been talking with the Harper’s SBDC to plan for future growth, we were well positioned to take advantage of a great opportunity to scale the business. The products we developed were exceptional but we could only produce a limited number of units to sell. We really needed help from a co-packer to ramp up the production volume. However, all the co-packers I talked to required us to commit to many more units than we really needed. We were caught in the middle. Fortunately, I was introduced to the vocational programs at Lambs Farm. This was a perfect match for us; Lambs Farm could provide packing, sealing, and labeling services for several of our products. This would allow us to focus on larger batch production, product development, marketing, and sales. We are really excited about our partnership with Lambs Farm. We’re grateful to be able to give back to the local community in this way. We’re also planning to feature Lambs Farm in our marketing to help give the organization more exposure.
Would you recommend small business owners use the services of the Illinois SBDC at Harper College?
Absolutely. The advisors at the Illinois SBDC can help you get a perspective on what your business really could be. Plus, since they talk to so many different businesses, they can use that experience to help you identify potential pitfalls with your business.
What does the future look like for Honey with Style & Sweet Cyndee's Bees?
We recently moved into a commercial kitchen so we can produce honey in greater batches and a more controlled environment. We also bought new equipment that simplifies the process of extracting honey. So far, we’ve developed fourteen flavors of the creamed honey and six flavors of infused honeys. We’re working on adding more flavors to the line, like pina colada and strawberries & champagne. Cyndee is really good with flavors. She just knows what works! We’ve also begun experimenting with bourbon barrel-aged honey. We think this has potential to pair with teas. As a next step for the business, we’d like to take what we’ve learned so far and expand into new categories like confection and ice cream toppings.
If you had one piece of advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be?
I recommend that you try to find people who are in comparable spaces to you, but not competitors. Look for like-minded individuals who are willing to share their experiences with you, to be a source of information, and to make recommendations. Then work to actively help each other out. For example, mention them in your newsletters/social media and share their promotions. It doesn’t cost you anything and there will likely be a coat-tail effect from which your business will benefit. And, utilize resources like the Illinois SBDC, they are a vast source of information and experience.