Bright Ideas Trust graduate Curtis Thompson has become one of Britain’s biggest suppliers of urban honey in just four years.
Curtis embraced his family’s 50-year “passion” for beekeeping to become one of Britain’s biggest suppliers of honey. In only four years Curtis, 31, has built his firm, The Local Honey Man, into a buzzing business. The company harvests and sells raw, aromatic, unpasturised honey from 1,000 environmentally-friendly hives often sited in unusual locations across the capital and it is on the verge of a major expansion in the UK, Greece and South Africa.
Not only do the Local Honey Man’s distinctive 454 gramme jars increasingly grace the shelves of thousands of independent delicatessen and heath food shops, the firm supplies the 1,000-1,500 kilos of honey a year that go into distilling giant Diageo’s J&B Urban Honey Spirit whiskey. Up to 15,000 pots go into the trendy Hello Fresh company’s home delivered recipe boxes. Partridges, the Queen’s grocer, stocks the company’s honey at the posh food store’s King’s Road shop. Online sales through Amazon and eBay are growing.
Demand is such that company has moved to a farm somewhere inside the M25 motorway ring. The current team of six employees has grown with the addition of a dedicated sales manager. Curtis admits biggest personal challenge is learning to hand the reins of “my baby” over to his fast growing tribe of new recruits. As a family man with a partner and toddlers aged two and three his time is precious. “My ambition is to delegate everything because I need to spend more time wearing the strategic management goggles,” he jokes.
Now the Local Honey Man produces four different types of honey, a delicate light version produced by bees visiting Lime Trees in London and Essex and a golden Honey with a strong and rich flavour that comes from mixed floral areas such as Hackney.
The firm also sells a strong and sweet honey created by bees who browse the Kentish fields of borage grown for pharmaceutical industry and rapeseed honey that has a notably thick, creamy texture.
“The essence of our product is that it is a luxury health food that conserves the ecosystem and the environment. That’s why we would never sell to Tesco or Asda – we would go to Waitrose and M&S. We have kept the cost of a jar to £7.50 the same as when we started because we want to build market share.
“I would not say at this point that I have emerged from the machine and that I am a success. But our business is growing because we are responding to a change in the way people shop. People can see that local communities are dying. Everyone is concerned about where their food comes from and they are more worried about their health. They want food to be local and they want real butchers and bakers rather than to go to Tesco or Asda which can’t care in the way we do about quality.
“One of our other aims is also to help reverse the decline of the honey bee. We buy honey bees, we sell them, we also sell beekeeping equipment and we train people to keep bees too. Obviously pesticides don’t help but I believe the decline in Britain’s bee population is mainly caused by mismanagement. People move bees around too much which puts colonies under a great deal of stress and that causes them to pick up diseases. They need to be allowed to settle. I am driven by my love of bees and beekeeping just like my uncle.”