For someone who had a rough start to beekeeping, Stephanie Grant has figured out a lot in six years. The single hive she started with died that first year. In her second year, she had two. Now Grant manages as many as 17 hives in micro apiaries around suburban Wilmington, Delaware.
“Micro apiaries are small clusters of colonies (hives) in different locations. I manage micro apiaries, as it more closely replicates honeybees in the wild and is better for colony health and survival. You will not see wild bee colonies tightly packed together in row after row of trees,” Grant says.
These small clusters of hives are good for the bees and are also a requirement to be a beekeeper under Certified Naturally Grown certification. (You can read more about Certified Naturally Grown in the November/December 2022 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.)
A few residential properties, a community garden, a state park and a historic site, the Hagley Museum, are home to Grant’s bee colonies.
“An increased number of organizations, as well neighbors, reach out looking to have hives placed and managed on their properties for both educational and environmental reasons,” she says. Because of her Certified Naturally Grown certification and her concern for the wellbeing of the bees and the quality of their honey, Grant is selective in where she’ll house hives.
Not Just Honey
Grant sells Sassy Bee products online and at small shops and events around her area. Products range from sweet, raw honey to herbal-infused honey, soap, lip balms, body and beard products, candles, and even pet-care items.
“Everything I sell is small batch, handcrafted. We use honey from our hives and run out every year, even as we continue to grow the micro apiaries,” Grant says. “While we do use and sell the beeswax produced from our colonies, I do have to source natural beeswax elsewhere, as my colonies do not produce enough wax yet for all the products we have.”
Additional ingredients, like what you’ll find in the creamed honey and infused honey, are all organic. And she’d like to source from Certified Naturally Grown producers, if there were more in her area.
From the Beginning
“I have always had a passion for nature and been intrigued by all aspects of it, big and small. I am amazed at how everything is interconnected. I used to say being a beekeeper was on my bucket list. One day I said just that to one of my close friends, and she looked me in the eye and said, ‘Then why don’t you?’” Grant says.
That encouragement was all she needed. Next thing she knew, Grant was researching beekeeping and getting her first package of bees. Things were going well the whole season, until Grant noticed in September that the bees no longer came and went.
“When I looked inside, there was a very small number of bees and no brood. Baffled at the time, I slowly watched them until there were no more bees,” Grant says.
Without a mentor, she had no one to turn to with questions about what was happening. She calls not having a mentor “the biggest mistake a new beekeeper can make.”
Grant collected what honey there was and, in just two days, she sold out of her stock on social media. She saw the potential here and decided to try again.
Hobby to Side Hustle
Grant calls Sassy Bee Honey a hobby-turned-business success story. Her first job is as a mother, and her full-time career is as a recruitment manager for a large healthcare organization.
Then, she’s a beekeeper and gardener.
“The business has grown exponentially over the past few years. However, it is my passion, creative outlet and side hustle,” Grant says. “That is why it is important to me to make this a family endeavor, as long as the kids remain invested.”
Many of the ideas for Sassy Bee’s products come from Grant’s 11-year-old daughter. All three of her kids (ages 7, 11 and 12) make and sell “bee hotels” to support wild bee populations and their own entrepreneurial spirits.
Family and friends are known to help jar honey, add labels, and work the Sassy Bee booth at busy markets and events. Her engineer dad builds things for her beekeeping business, like hive stands, a warming cabinet from an old ice chest and even a display case to showcase beautifully drawn pieces of comb from which people can jar their own honey. (They haven’t been able to use the fill-your-own-jar display case in public yet, but Grant has plans for it.)
Her father, husband and brother help when it’s time to move hives.
“I like to think I am a strong woman, but I cannot do it alone,” Grant says. “I am very much a visionary and come up with ideas I wish to explore. And I am incredibly fortunate to have my family. Talk about the hive mentality. It is the best way to get through life.”
As she educates more customers about her natural beekeeping philosophy, she’s finding interest is growing. Grant mentors new beekeepers in this philosophy and is looking toward the need to hire others to help Sassy Bee Honey grow.