Over the course of the last year, Laila Palmer ’21 and Gabby Issa ’18 have navigated starting and running a small business during a time that was particularly difficult for small business owners. Bark + Bee Honey, established in 2020, is an online business that sells fresh honey with 100% of the proceeds benefiting dog shelters in New Jersey.
It all started when Laila learned of a connection that her mom had to a beekeeper in Poland; upon learning, she began researching and discussing with her cousin, Gabby, about starting a honey business. Laila and Gabby, who both have a love for marketing, decided to jump right in. They quickly purchased ten bee hives and began working with a local beekeeper to harvest honey.
While Gabby and Laila were set on starting a business revolving around honey, they both were eager to incorporate a passion that they both share: adopting dogs.
“My capstone project at Hun was volunteering at a dog shelter, and we both grew up with adopted dogs and other animals,” Gabby said. “So we both have the ‘adopt, don’t shop’ mentality and we really wanted to do something to save both dogs and bees. So, Bark + Bee Honey turned into a company that sells honey with 100% of the proceeds being donated to SAVE shelter in Princeton and Love For Dogs shelter in New Jersey.”
Due to the difficulties associated with selling their product in stores throughout the pandemic, Bark + Bee Honey currently operates as an e-commerce business with plans to expand to local farmers markets and small shops.
“We started this business in the middle of a pandemic, so it has been really difficult to get our foot in the door of other small businesses, local shops, and farmers markets to sell our honey,” Laila said. “So right now, we sell our products only online and our goal is to expand into small shops and get a table at several local farmers markets in the coming months.”
Laila and Gabby not only hope to expand their business into different markets, but they also have plans to expand their product list.
“There are a lot of honey related items that we are looking to start selling as well,” Gabby said. “Honey sticks, honey dispensers, different clothing items. It’s all up in the air right now but that’s what we plan to do.”
While the future of Bark + Bee Honey is headed towards success, as young professionals, so are Gabby and Laila.
“We both have an interest in marketing and advertising so this type of first hand experience just isn’t something we could get in a traditional classroom,” Gabby said. “We are really lucky to be able to learn the ins and outs of running a business. I would say we have both learned so much about just budgeting and planning both for the business and for ourselves.”
While Gabby and Laila note that they have loved getting this hands-on experience, both girls agree that the best part of this experience is that they get to run a business together, strengthen their bond, and do good for the two communities that they are most passionate about.