By Alicia Cunningham | Sep 25, 2015
Beeswax and Beekeeping technology
MacCabe was only stung by three honeybees on a recent weekend.
Since he was swarmed by thousands of bees while extracting honey and happens to love his work, three sounds just about right.
Rewind 12 years. Bear Country Bees began with a simple question asked one afternoon: "Dad, can we have a beehive?"
"My dad thought my brother was crazy," MacCabe explains. "But we tried it out. We started with a few hives and just took it from there."
Ten years later, Bear Country Bees came to fruition, with a little help from bees, of course. Today they manufacture beeswax candles, lip balm and honey and sell beekeeping equipment, including suits, smokers, and extraction tools.
But MacCabe's primary purpose in growing Bear Country Bees is simply to drive change in a staid industry. He says beekeeping practices have not changed in over 160 years. With the growing honeybee crisis, MacCabe believes that the time has come to take a new look at beekeeping.
"The hives are built out of wood," he says. "Disease gets into the wood, and it never comes out. And the bees cannot get it out. The live in dirty, nasty hives and the beekeepers wonder why their bees are not surviving."
Bear Country Bees is working on a cleaner hive. With new equipment manufactured by Bear Country Bees, beekeepers will be able to wash, sterilize and keep their bees in a more sterile environment. "Beekeepers can rotate their bees and give them a consistently clean environment. We hope to provide bees with a better chance of survival," he explains.
MacCabe believes it is saving the honeybee, not necessarily netting a million dollars, that will define the company's success.
"I love when people call me," MacCabe says. "I love anytime that I can make a sale because, to me, it means that I am helping somebody and helping them do something they love. It is the best feeling. Yes, we need to be profitable. But we're not a business that just wants to make a buck. We want to help the bees. We want to help the backyard beekeepers. That is our main goal and our main focus."
Growing Bear Country Bees has taken longer than MacCabe expected, but the rate for the business this last year exceeded his expectations, and the business has had the added benefit of strengthening his family relationships as well. The company consists of MacCabe, his father, Bret, his wife, Stephanie, and four siblings.
"We've learned from our mistakes and put a lot of work into our business," he says. "And we're having a great time doing it. It has brought our family together."
Challenges: "Keeping the bees alive," MacCabe says. "And we're trying new techniques to keep them alive longer." Reinventing the wheel, or, in this case, the beehive, is not an easy thing. "But we know we need to do it," he says.
Opportunities: "If we can get our new technique to work, we can create a very profitable center to our business. We love being beekeepers. We love to see people so excited about this industry and love to answer their questions. That's exciting to us. We hope that addressing new beekeeping techniques will help the backyard beekeepers keep their bees alive longer."
Needs: Bear Country Bees is a family-owned, bootstrapped business. In order to keep the business in the family, they have not sought outside funding. "Everything is financed through me and my dad now, and growth will always be slower that way. But we do not want to overexert the company and then have it collapse. But we certainly need to keep advancing our sales," MacCabe notes. "There's a large customer base here in Utah. Beekeeping is becoming a popular thing to do. We need to advance that interest into a sale. That is what we work for every day."