Urban beekeepers Andrew and Megan Colwell were just about to launch their raw honey business, B*Keeper - the culmination of five years of hard work - when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
The timing could not have been worse. After the drought, their honey yields were already down by three-quarters.
Like a farmer forced to hand-feed sheep, Mr Colwell had been feeding his nucleus colonies pollen and syrup just to get them through the summer.
Now the year's worth of weekend markets they had been banking on to sell their product were in doubt.
"When everything changed, we had to really re-assess what we were doing," Mr Colwell said,
They decided to push ahead, pivoting from a face-to-face business model to e-commerce. They started offering free multi-jar delivery, with a 24-hour turnaround. Friends started buying and sharing their products through social media. They went from one order a day to 20. Then they nearly sold out.
Now the pair are set for a collaboration with Beef and Barley on the Kingston Foreshore. They are having to expand operations in order to meet demand and may possibly be stocked in local stores in the future.
"We've had a great response from the community, people have been really supportive," Mr Colwell said.
"There's been a real push to support local producers, for people to know where their products have come from."
Starting from behind has forced the Colwells to be innovative. They've revisited their business plan to focus on developing new product lines, like DIY beeswax wrap kits and DIY insect hotels, as well as educational demonstrations and talks.
"I'm all for educating people, I love talking about my bees and love beekeeping in general so I hope to share that with people," Mr Colwell said.
"The other half of the operation, my wife, is a school teacher so part of what we want to do is get into schools, we have an observation hive where we can showcase and really give people an insight into the highly social habits of bees."
They've also been inspired by how creatively other Canberra businesses have risen to the challenge of coronavirus.
"At the moment we're seeing such innovative ways of people overcoming hardships in their business model, finding innovative ways to recreate themselves," Mr Colwell said.
Mr Colwell said while it's been a challenging environment to start a new business, there is also a lot of opportunity.
"If you've got an innovative idea, and a way to tap into the markets, get amongst it," Mr Colwell said.
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