It’s World Bee Day, so what better time to chat to our CEO and founder, Scott, about his passion for bees and the story behind Hilltop Honey? Grab yourself a lemon and honey tea and settle back, as we let you in on the man behind it all…
Bees are amazing creatures
World Bee Day is the perfect opportunity for us to share a little more about how amazing and wonderful these little buzzy creatures really are- but how did Scott come to discover this back in the early days? Surprisingly, all it took was a back injury and a year laid up in bed, unable to play rugby… we don’t recommend it, but in a strange way we’re so glad it happened. Sorry Scott!
It was during this year out that Scott started to read up on bees (strange where your brain takes you when you really have nothing else to do!) and almost immediately he was struck with just how amazing they are. From the rather special and very clever ‘waggle dance’, to the fact that bees are absolutely crucial for the survival of the entire human race- Scott quickly became more than a little obsessed with bees and how they operated.
The first Hilltop Hive
And so, with their son stuck in the house with nothing to do, Scott’s parents took the first step, and bought him his first hive. And now, over 60 hives later (all currently housed at Scott’s dads) aren’t we glad they did?!
That very first hive was a turning point. Yes, ok- so beekeeping is notoriously taxing on your back, but the bees themselves were ‘pretty cool’ enough to make up for that, and it was no time before Scott had a fully fledged new hobby to fill his time. And that’s all it was supposed to be. A hobby. Something to pass the time while he was unable to do his day job as a digger operator. A pastime to keep him occupied… fast forward a few years, and Hilltop Honey is now a household name!
So what happened? How did we get from one hive to keep Scott ‘entertained’ to over 60 hives and a trophy cabinet of awards?
The Hilltop journey
It hasn’t always been an easy ride. Scott told us that in the beginning, aged 22, he was working odd jobs to make ends meet. Dog walking. Looking into selling sports equipment. No real plans. But still, there was this niggling buzzing in his head… bees. Bees were cool. Everyone needed to know just how cool. But the banks weren’t giving out business loans and almost everyone Scott spoke to were doubtful he could do anything with this newfound passion. He almost gave up… but he didn’t.
With hard work and dedication that the bees themselves would be proud of, Scott threw himself into short courses designed to teach him all he needed to know about running a business. How to write a business plan. How to market a product. How to grow in confidence, and how to set up a company. And it worked! Scott describes it as a slightly surreal moment when his business plan earned him a 5k loan… and then the real work began.
Hilltop Honey started life in Scott’s parent’s kitchen. Picture him, with his dad, wearing a shower cap because he couldn’t find a hair net. Picture him jarring up his first pot of honey, selling door to door to neighbours. Picture him walking up to the top of the hill in the garden to tend to his hive… and that’s how the ‘Hilltop’ name was born. Thanks mum!
Being a beekeeper
Scott never had a mentor. He learned from scratch, with a few hard knocks along the way. But would he do it any differently if he had the chance again? Maybe not. So what’s his advice for anyone wanting to get into beekeeping now?
It’s a costly hobby, he told us. And bees don’t read the same books that we do, so they don’t always behave in the ways you expect. But is it worth it? 100%.
“Get in touch with your local beekeeping association,” he told us, “and take a few courses with them. Once you’re happy, they will guide you to a local beekeeper that has bees available to buy. Get yourself a beehive and all the necessary equipment, take everything you’ve learned and just give it a go.”
Tempted? We don’t blame you!
How you can help the bees today
So what if beekeeping isn’t possible, but you still want to do your bit to help the bees this World Bee Day? Scott’s advice: do what you can.
“Just try and keep bees,” he says, “and if you haven’t got the time, space or money to, then just support bees by using honey more. Only 50% of households in the UK buy honey, so getting more people into honey directly impacts the market and feasibility for beekeepers to keep beekeeping.”
Planting bee-friendly flowers, letting your grass grow and avoiding pesticides are all actions you can take today. A happy beehive can contain up to 50,000 bees in the height of summer, and in mid Wales just one hive can produce up to 14kg of honey- that’s about the same weight as 750 sushi rolls, or a year’s worth of cheese for the average American. Pretty impressive, huh!
“I think it’s been very well documented over the years just how important bees are for the ecosystem,” Scott adds. “Scientists have proven that bees are extremely important in general for the survival of humans- they’re quite literally the bees knees!”
How Hilltop are supporting bees
So what are Hilltop doing to protect the bees?
“We promote British beekeeping and we keep bees locally,” Scott told us. “We plant trees, we reduce carbon emissions and we support projects around the world, helping to support wildlife and fighting climate change. Our aim is always to make the planet a safer place for bees.”
And if, like us, you’re curious as to whether or not Scott has a favourite bee… he does. “I should say the Welsh Black Bee, but they’re so aggressive generally that I actually prefer the nice ginger Italian bee.” He told us. Fair enough!