Brushy Mountain Bee Farm

Moravian Falls, NC

For 30 years Steve and Sandy Forrest owned and operated Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, a manufacturer and retailer of hobby beekeeping, candle making and soap making supplies located in Moravian Falls, North Carolina. What began as a part-time business in their home has blossomed into a thriving business with 50,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, over 70 employees and a robust e-commerce website that has experienced tripling sales with top-selling items like the Bee-ginner’s Beekeeping Kit and online education for beekeepers.

In 2010, Steve and Sandy were connected to the SBTDC by NCSU’s Industrial Extension Service (IES) and the NC Department of Commerce in response to Governor Perdue’s Biz Boost initiative, which aims to help businesses retain jobs and accelerate their prospects for future growth by focusing additional SBTDC resources and leveraging partnerships.

When the Forrests and Shane Gebauer, their general manager, first met with Kevin McConnaghy, assistant director at the Appalachian State University SBTDC office, they were experiencing fast growth woes. They were concerned about inefficient inventory management systems and warehouse layout, office operations, and purchasing department processes leading to a high number of out-of-stock orders and the inability to forecast demand.

Over a two-month period, the SBTDC and Brushy Mountain Bee Farm worked together to collect data to develop a strategy to deal with the concerns. The SBTDC conducted individual and group interviews with key managers to obtain perspectives and data. Industry data was collected covering markets, competition and financial benchmarks. Financial data covering the prior 3-year period was collected and analyzed to help with pricing strategies. Finally, a tactical road map session was held with key managers.

All of the research and analysis helped Kevin and the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm team to develop an actionable plan, which included price increases across all product lines. Margins produced by the price increase would be used to increase stocking levels resulting in a lower frequency of out-of-stock items, improved use of existing management information systems (MIS) to increase efficiency and expand margins, and exploration of new MIS options. By re-forecasting financial performance based on the implementation of the plan, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm was able to extend and expand its six-figure line of credit by 60%. During the tactical planning process management stated that a number of jobs were saved and, in 2011, it is anticipated employment will increase by 5 to 10%.

Brushy Mountain continues to expand and provide products from coast to coast and beyond. Brushy Mountain Bee Farm’s success has been recognized by the likes of Business North Carolina magazine (Small Business of the Year 2009) and the ION Channel (voted World’s Greatest Bee Supply Company). OSHA has given them Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) distinction for being a model of worksite safety and health – only 65 NC companies and 1,000 US companies have this designation.

The Forrests give the SBTDC and partners like ASU and the NCSU Industrial Extension Service credit for making their business a little easier to manage. “The SBTDC’s expert analysis made decision-making so much easier for us,” says Steve.

Story originally featured in the SBTDC's 2010-11 Annual Report.