Di McQueen-Richardson and Scott Richardson, owners of HoneyBee Hives, live on a 100-acre property at Kremnos in Northern NSW.
Their bees were already suffering due to drought conditions when Di and Scott were asked to evacuate their property in mid-August 2019 and again in November 2019 due to bushfires. On both occasions, they returned home to find their house and beehives still standing.
Unfortunately, beehives close to bushfire-affected areas often suffer from smoke and heat stress. Heat stressed bee colonies can take months to recover and return to full honey production. Some colonies may even die.
After the fires, Di and Scott found the extreme heat had made their queen bees sterile, meaning they had to be replaced. Not knowing whether their bees would make much honey after the fires, Di and Scott had the idea of making home-made Christmas gifts using the beeswax they had stockpiled for over 10 years. With Di’s background as a natural therapist, she used her skills to create bees wax balm products with natural ingredients.
The bees wax products proved so popular with family and friends that a range of 15 beeswax balm products was born. Di said the biggest order so far has been from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), who bought 150 beeswax balm products and 150 jars of honey as part of their Australia now program. The program promotes Australian-made products from bushfire-affected areas through its overseas posts and overseas events.
The program is a way of showcasing Australia’s excellence, diversity and innovation and will be celebrated in Malaysia and in France. “Connecting our products to people across the globe is very exciting and may result in potential exports to Malaysia.” said Di.
Di believes HoneyBee Hives is better positioned after the bushfires than before because of their efforts to diversify into beeswax products.
Her advice to other small business owners and operators is to consider what resources you have, to always think outside the box and to avoid clinging to a particular role or title such as ‘I am a beekeeper’.
Di has been amazed at the amount of support available. Her small business has accessed Australian Government benefits such as the JobKeeper allowance and the $10,000 bushfire recovery grant for small businesses jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments to help diversify the business into beeswax balm products.
Di also strongly suggested small businesses reach out to a business mentor and access all the support available. She found Rural Financial Counsellors very helpful, as well as the free business advice available through Business Connect, a program run by the NSW Government.
If you are a small business and/or primary producer that has been impacted by bushfires, you may be eligible for more assistance than you think! Visit our small business support page for more information.