Updated: May 10, 2021
After speaking to New Forest Craft Market we worked together on making this lovely blog all about our small family business - enjoy!
Hello! We aren’t just one person…this is a team effort and the whole family is involved! We’re the Warmer Family;
Ian (the senior beekeeper), Pat (the messenger, packer, deliverer and candle maker), Maddy (the Instagram poster and website designer) and Katie (the junior beekeeper) Together we are honeybyian.com.
We live in Ringwood and we have beehives dotted around Ringwood, Ferndown and Alderholt. We produce delicious pure, raw honey and beeswax candles.
How did you get started with your craft?
My mum very sadly passed away in June 2014 and a couple of weeks afterwards, we were sitting in our back garden where we lived in Ferndown, enjoying a picnic and feeling rather sorry for ourselves. Suddenly this huge black cloud appeared out of nowhere. My husband had been given an old beehive from a customer which had not been used for years and we thought it looked beautiful placed at the bottom of our garden as a decorative feature! We didn’t realise at the time but the scout bees (worker bees who are in charge of finding a good location for the colony to build a hive) could obviously smell remnants of the old honey in our empty hive and decided to choose our back garden as their new home!
Our girls, who were then 11 and 13, had run into house, scared stiff, shutting all the windows and doors! My husband and I were thinking what we should do; should we just hope they flew away, or should we call pest control?! We had no idea, but Ian started to do some research, contacted the BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) and BADS (Bournemouth and Dorset South Beekeepers) and it all started from there! We like to think that this swarm of bees was a sign from my Mum, her showing us that she was still with us. Crazy, I know, but comforting and that has helped us many times.
What is the inspiration for your products/designs?
We started off giving jars of honey away to friends as gifts, then realised they kept coming back for more! It grew from there and we’ve been selling honey for about 6 years now.
The real turning point came during Lockdown when our eldest daughter (by now 19 years old and back home from university) decided we needed to do things properly and set up a brilliant website and an Instagram account.
We soon realised she had a real talent for taking photos and linking up with like-minded people and soon the orders started flying in! We decided we had to do something with the beeswax. Several years ago, we tried to make lipsalves but they didn’t go too well, so we decided to invest in some silicone moulds to make candles.
This is a great activity which takes up the whole kitchen and makes the house smell of honey! You can guarantee that in the middle of pouring a candle, the doorbell or the phone will ring! Our gift sets with honey and candles were very popular Christmas presents but we realised (too late) that we should have started making the candles in July and August because we really struggled to cope with the demand. Of course, we had no idea that Lockdown would continue for so long and people were really starting to appreciate homemade local produce. At Christmas we started preparing for Mother’s Day and Easter! It’s all a learning curve!
Ian would happily have a whole garden full of beehives, but we’ve had to scale down because 2 years ago our youngest daughter, a junior beekeeper, mentored by her Dad, was stung by a bee and had an anaphylactic reaction. This was a really scary time and Katie now has to carry an Epipen with her at all times. However, she has regained her confidence and is back helping her Dad whenever she can and we have relocated our hives to other beautiful gardens and fields.
Our main inspiration is that we want to keep the cycle of life turning! We feel that in a very small way, we are keeping the bees healthy and happy and they are our most important pollinator of food crops. A world without bees would be a disaster; they are vital for biodiversity in nature and the preservation of ecological balance. We need to treat these amazing little creatures with the utmost respect
Do you have a favourite item/project/product?
Yes, my favourite is probably one of the tiniest candles we produce, the sunflower tealight with a breakfast jar of honey. It’s just a perfectly formed little candle and sunflowers always make me happy!
Finally, do you have any advice for someone who wants to turn their hobby into a business?
Yes, be brave and go for it! We still class what we do as a hobby, not a business. We are not
really business people, we just love what we do and are happy that we’ve managed to find
something to focus on during this difficult year of Covid. It has also been so lovely to meet
such wonderful local people who really appreciate fresh honey and the amount of work that
goes into producing one jar of honey or one candle…and that’s not just our hard work, but
also the bees!