The Escapist: Black Bee Honey co-founder Chris Barnes
Chris Barnes, co-founder of Black Bee Honey, on swapping graphic design for keeping bees
My business partner Paul Webb (pictured right) and I first met while working as designers in a digital agency about 15 years ago. We shared a love of nature and the outdoors, and became friends. One year, we decided to buy a friend a beekeeping lesson for his birthday. We ended up going on a couple more sessions, and when I quit my job in London to go travelling in 2010, I made my way to New Zealand and got a job on a bee farm for a season. My role was to install and inspect hives all across the city of Auckland, and I returned to London in 2012 with idyllic stories of bees, honey and fresh air.
It didn't take long to rope in Paul; we decided to buy our own bees and start a beehive rental company in London soon after. But it soon dawned on us that the honey we were making and selling as a byproduct was more popular than the beehive rentals, and that's how Black Bee Honey was born.
We work with local beekeepers based in London, the Cotswolds and Exmoor to create three products, all jarred in batches straight from the hive: London Honey, Summer Honey and British Heather Honey. Crucially, the honey is left unprocessed, just as the bees intended, to ensure that each jar keeps its optimum flavour and nutrition.
As you might imagine, it's a completely different job to being a designer, with a lot of work happening outdoors. It can also be very unpredictable, as you never completely know what the weather will be doing or how the bees are going to behave. But that just keeps us on our toes. We still get to do a bit of design by working on the branding for our own jars and website, but our roles are much more varied now, taking in finance, marketing, sales and logistics. We learn a lot on the job, and there's never a dull moment.