Image: GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.
Image: GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.
When his honey-producing employer of 18 years abruptly had to shut down after a major fire gutted its operations, Brits-based beekeeper, Job Betha (66), had to quickly think of ways to put food on his table.
Brits is a town in the North West province.
“My father and I used to work at different farms after I finished school in the 90s. I worked for one company but then the company split into two. We stayed with the company in Skeerpoort at the time,” Betha told Vuk’uzenzele in a recent interview.
He moved with the company when it later relocated to Benoni, east of Johannesburg, and later to Silverton, in Pretoria.
When the company shut down permanently in 2007, Betha continued to receive orders from customers he had established good working relations with.
“By then I had gained a lot of experience in beekeeping, this includes how to process it (honey) and how to get customers. Most customers were relying on me because I was the one taking orders and doing deliveries.”
Inundated by calls from desperate customers, the then unemployed Betha pounced on a business opportunity.
It was at this point that Honey Nectarous was born. It currently employs six people, with three permanent and the others seasonal. Betha says the early stages of the business were not easy.
“In the beginning, I bought two buckets of honey, bottled them, and registered a company – Honey Nectarous. I repackaged the honey and poured it into labelled bottles. I took it to the shops and the customers were very happy.”
For a year, Betha maintained this formula until he decided to keep his own bees to produce honey.
“I started with buying 10 hives and I placed them on a field. I had to negotiate with farmers to use their land. I was lucky enough because some of the farmers that I [approached] didn’t refuse,” Betha says.
Due to a lack of land, the start-up does not produce enough honey to meet client demands.
Betha mitigates this by sourcing honey from smaller bee producers in the North West.
Today, Honey Nectarous produces a wide range of products that include varying sizes of raw honey.
Elements such as cinnamon, moringa, ginger and beeswax are also infused with the honey to make up other products in the catalogue.
Most of Betha’s clients are based in Johannesburg. These include The Fruit Basket, Foots & Roots, and NutriBalance, among others.
In 2009, things took a turn for the better for Honey Nectarous when it received a helping hand from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) after interacting with Betha at a trade show.
“They helped me with the business plan. In 2009, they came on board and helped me buy the bee-processing machinery, which was quite vital,” he says.
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The machinery was worth over R300 000.
Despite encountering functional challenges with operating the equipment, Betha says Seda’s intervention assisted the business a great deal.
“I informed (Seda) that I couldn’t operate the machine and it was replaced. I didn’t get the one that I wanted but what I received was very helpful.”
The assistance that Betha received was part of Seda’s Technology Programme.
This intervention increased the asset base of Honey Nectarous . The funding assistance by Seda also meant that the company could now meet the client’s expectations and increase production which ultimately increased the company’s turnover.
He says growing his business from the ground-up has been slow but he was aware of areas that impact the growth of his business.
“People are so sceptical of beekeeping, I struggle to attract people to work in the business. This means that when I have to [attend to other business] I have to close shop.
“This is because I can’t send people to work on the bees; I have to be there. Deliveries, I have to be there; processing, I have to be there.”
Betha concluded by saying he believes that Nectarous Honey can reach greater heights with more funding.