By Alicia Cunningham | Nov 08, 2015
Before brothers-in-law Welsh and Ford started Beehive Cheese, the only thing they knew about cheese was that they liked to eat it. "I am a foodie," admits Welsh. "I'll drive 50 miles for a fresh pear. But we didn't know the first thing about cheese."
Neither Welsh nor Ford grew up on a dairy farm, and they certainly don't have backgrounds in microbiology. But the desire to break away from their careers in software and real estate was strong.
"We wanted to do something real. Pat and I wanted to do something together. We were looking for opportunities and after doing some research, we decided to start an artisan creamery."
Welsh says they began by contacting Utah State University. "They really helped us get started," Welsh says. The creamery at Utah State University was able to provide guidance to Beehive Cheese and even their first recipes.
"Utah State University is a land grant university. Their mission is to transfer resources to the private sector," Welsh says. "We paid them a consultant fee to help us design the creamery, but recipes were given as a service as a land grant university. We've had a beautiful 10-year relationship with them. We love Utah State. We still ask them technical questions and have hired folks from them, including one of their students from their Master of Cheese program. They have been wonderful to us."
Beehive Cheese also experienced help from a growing revolution in the grocery retail market. In 2005, consumers expressed a desire for more local products, something Welsh believes was instrumental in driving sales for Beehive Cheese.
"When we started, we did not expect Utah to be a big market," Welsh says. He expected their customer base to be in the San Francisco Bay area. "But people started to want to buy local. When we won a few awards, our phone started ringing, and our local business has been awesome."
Beehive Cheese also enjoys worldwide fame, sending cheese as far away as Canada, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, and France.
Welsh believes they are successful because they follow traditions proven by time. Beehive Cheese ages their cheese for six to nine months. Each product is handmade in small batches, with milk from a single local dairy, Wade's Dairy, working through Gossner Foods in Logan, which has also been a crucial supporter to Beehive Cheese.
Challenges: Managing growth. At their very first cheese competition, Beehive Cheese received an order for more cheese than they had ever produced. Sam's Club also called and ordered more cheese than they could produce in six months. "Keeping up with growth is a beautiful problem to have," says Welsh.
But their product -- artisan cheese -- demands that they keep growth in check. "When you get beyond a certain level of production, it's not artisan cheese anymore. We'll reach that limit in five years, which is fine."
Opportunities: One of Beehive Cheese's most popular products, Barely Buzzed Cheese, is an espresso and lavender hand-rubbed cheese. "We made a big wave by rubbing flavors on the outside," Welsh admits. But now Beehive Cheese has direct competitors doing the same thing. "We pioneered a new product, a completely unique artisan cheese." Welsh says that every day he and Ford discover something they did not know before.
Needs: "For us, it's about having a great group of employees," Welsh says. "We do not care about making a billion dollars. We want to be comfortable and have a great time making cheese."