Bee­keeper wins busi­ness award

Coastal News - - News - By AL­I­SON SMITH [email protected]­news.co.nz

Tairua woman Han­nah O’brien has taken out the Emerg­ing Busi­ness Cat­e­gory in the NZI Ru­ral Women New Zealand Busi­ness Awards for her Hunt and Gather Bee Co by putting the well­be­ing of her fam­ily — in­clud­ing her bees — at the heart of busi­ness.

The NZI Ru­ral Women New Zealand Busi­ness Awards are an op­por­tu­nity to show­case the in­no­va­tion and en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­cel­lence of women who own small ru­ral busi­nesses while also sup­port­ing their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“These awards recog­nise the sheer hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and en­trepreneur­ship that goes into de­vel­op­ing ru­ral en­ter­prises,” says pre­mier part­ner NZI ru­ral man­ager Jon Wat­son.

Han­nah grew up in Tairua and was schooled at Tairua School and Thames High, where her hus­band Rory O’brien was also ed­u­cated. The cou­ple moved to Raglan so Rory could take on a new bee­keep­ing job in 2015 but reg­u­larly visit

Tairua to stay with her brother Sean and dad Lance Peggs, Tairua’s phar­ma­cist.

The cou­ple’s 5-year-old son Kieran has his own bee suit and Han­nah says her daugh­ter Al­ice, 2, knows that if you poke a bee’s bum it stings.

Han­nah is her­self al­ler­gic to bees — but that hasn’t pre­vented her from treat­ing the hun­dreds of bees in their hives with the care you would ex­pect if you were part of the fam­ily. It is the kind of ethos that led to her award.

“It comes down to if we don’t have a healthy en­vi­ron­ment and happy bees then we don’t have a busi­ness,” she says.

“One of the things about hav­ing your own busi­ness is that you can build it around your own ethics.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity is im­por­tant to us, so we pack ev­ery­thing in glass jars with pa­per la­bels and buy them back from cus­tomers and re­fill them, and we set traps for rats, as hives can be a mag­net to rats which nest un­der them.

“We sell on the do­mes­tic mar­ket and are try­ing to keep it af­ford­able so that lo­cals are able to buy it. We also try to build the busi­ness around the fam­ily so we can still have time with the kids and in­volve them if we can.”

An­other fo­cus is treat­ing the bees well, which means not mov­ing them around to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, mon­i­tor­ing them closely for dis­ease and en­sur­ing they have enough honey to feed them­selves through win­ter and don’t get over­crowded with too many hives.

Han­nah says keep­ing them in one lo­ca­tion means they must feed on sea­son­ally flow­er­ing plants which pro­vides dif­fer­ent types of honey.

“We do manuka honey and it’s an amaz­ing prod­uct but it has be­come the fo­cus of the in­dus­try in many ways and there are so many great at­tributes and prop­er­ties from the dif­fer­ent types of honey you get from dif­fer­ent flow­ers. It’s also eas­ier on the bees not to move the hives.”

Hunt and Gather honey can be bought at Tairua Phar­macy, the Green Gro­cers and Bite Deli in Thames and Han­nah is in­ter­ested in Whanga­mata and Whi­tianga shops that would like to stock it.

She says the com­pe­ti­tion was a huge event and is en­cour­ag­ing any other ru­ral women busi­ness own­ers to con­sider en­ter­ing for the huge ben­e­fits that have come from her par­tic­i­pa­tion.

PHO­TOS/SUP­PLIED

Han­nah O’brien and her hus­band Rory are bee­keep­ers.

Rory O’brien check­ing out the bee pro­duc­tion.

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