For Winston Wong, owner of Burnaby’s BC Bee Supply, opening a beekeeping supply business was a daunting task – especially since he and his wife had their hands full running their other business, a local gift gallery.
“The timing was absolutely wrong, but we jumped in anyway. This way, we get to commute together, we get to run not only one, but two businesses, and it’s more of an expansion of our hobby of beekeeping than anything else. But I have a business degree and was transitioning out of my ‘job’ job, and we were learning stuff on the fly anyway, so we just threw a little extra spice into the mix and bought this company that was open about five or six years ago. The owner has moved away and wanted to leave it in theoretically good hands – ours!”
It’s been over a year now since Winston has taken ownership of the business – one complete season in beekeeping – and while the work is challenging at times, he loves getting to work at what he loves while building strong, sustainable communities.
“We’re that neighbor that has their garden a little unseemly in the wintertime, but it’s very fruitful and bountiful in the summertime. Of course, beekeeping takes a little more work, but we would argue no more work than mowing lawns, clipping hedges – stuff like that. We just happen to get food from it.”
Like most beekeepers, Winston and his wife started out small. From their humble beginnings with just two hives, they soon found that their friends and family were begging them to set up and manage beehives in their yards and gardens. That was over six years ago, and since then, they’ve only grown more ambitious.
“I think now, we’re moving in the direction of controllable growth. If we see five years of continual growth, we’ll be ready to move places or hand it off to someone else. In five years, we might outgrow our space and require more equipment and more supplies at different times of the year to justify a larger space. We’ve also thought about franchising, but that’s a little far off.”
Of course, in today’s online era, it’s no surprise that building a strong digital presence is integral to their plans for expansion.
“The only way we could grow our space is if we had more customers. If we had more customers, they’re likely to not be just limited to the Vancouver area. So, in reaching some of our remote customers in other geographic areas, online is the way to go. We’ve got a great a shipping program, and a way where we can quote very quickly. We just need the stock and a way for people to view that stock and get a lot of their questions answered. And that’s what we want our website to look like and support.”
Winston chose DG1 to help him grow his business since it had everything he was looking for, and he’s been pleased with the results so far.
“DG1 just seemed to have the whole package. We recognized it as a bit of a chance, and we’ve been rewarded. It’s been a good working experience with each of the staff members. I don’t understand all the tools yet, but we’re hoping to apply most of them in the very near future.”
Right now, he has over 200 products uploaded with full descriptions and images, which he easily manages in the Web CMS included with every DG1 package. Marketing is a snap, too – with the click of a button he can send targeted newsletters to hundreds of clients with content tailored specifically to their interests. But the biggest benefit to him is the interaction between all the different tools – shop, marketing, website, booking, and the mobile app.
“I feel a little like I’m behind the cockpit of a plane, and there’s all these controls and I kind of know what each one does. There’s a lot of support from DG1 in describing what tools we have and what potential lies there.”
Despite the increase in efficiency from using an all-in-one system, time management has been the biggest challenge for Winston.
“I was supposed to do most of this stuff over the winter,” he laughs, “but now that we’re in spring I still find myself not totally prepared for what I hope is an onslaught of customers.”
Part of the reason people keep coming back to BC Bee Supply, he believes, is simply because he and his wife know their stuff.
“We’ve got the advantage of having a good knowledge of backyard beekeeping, which is the exact market we’re trying to tackle. Everything that we’re trying to sell here is stuff that we’ve pretty much used. We know the area, we’re getting to know our customers, and they’re in surprisingly very similar positions as us – just trying to help the honeybees as part of the macro picture, and help themselves and the neighborhood, which is sort of the micro picture.”
At the end of the day, Winston sees DG1 as a big part of his success and would recommend it to other businesses in a similar position as him.
“I think BC Bee Supply is a very ideal candidate for DG1. First of all, we’re a small business. Second, we have relatively a high number of products and variants of products, but it’s not so out of control that it’s like a full department store. If there was a small business that had the need to launch a website, have their marketing tie into that website, and wanted the analytics to help along their future sales, I think DG1 would be a good fit. And I think that’s what we are.”
Check out BC Bee Supply's website at https://www.bcbeesupply.ca/