When thinking of international or national days to showcase brilliant entrepreneurs, I doubt you would include World Bee Day (20 May) among your list of options. But such is the never-ending variety of entrepreneurs celebrated at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, we have an ideal candidate to celebrate this very day.
Katie Hayward is the founder of Felin Honeybees, the first honey farm to simultaneously operate as a honey bee education centre.
“There are many aspects to the business, because as a small business, you have to diversify,” she explains.
In addition to supplying local restaurants and hotels with honey, and selling the product in Harrods, Katie and her team teach beginner beekeepers, run beekeeping therapy for people with various types of trauma, and support people who have come through drug and alcohol rehab.
Having started the company 18 months ago, beekeeping might be a relatively new concept to Katie, but farming is anything but.
“It’s our family farm. We’ve been there since 1532, so nearly 500 years,” says Katie. “I took up the chalice after suffering a stroke at the age of 35. I left my career in construction [to run the farm].
“I started the company because our farm wouldn’t have survived. I sold my beef herd and sports car, and sunk my life savings to start the business.”
Despite being relatively early on in her entrepreneurial journey, Katie’s fascinating story has resulted in consecutive runner-up spots at the 2016 and 2017 NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
Katie also told us what has been the best part of becoming an entrepreneur over the past 18 months: “Being your own boss. Using your brain to change things in a positive way,” Katie starts. “You operate by your own rules and your own ethics.”
She continues: “I think one of the best things is, having always worked to a high quality as a project manager, it’s in my power to deliver that high quality now. And changing people’s lives in the process is brilliant!”
On the flip side, there are, of course, drawbacks. Katie says: “The hardest thing is sinking all your life savings into the business at the start to make it grow. It does take a while to pay off, and that moment when you think you’re going to give up because you’re worrying about paying the next invoice. But that’s exactly when you don’t give up. That’s when you have to believe in yourself.”
Now, Katie has her sights fully fixed on an upcoming expansion into the European market this summer. And who knows, perhaps it will be third time lucky at this year’s Awards.