Accidental Entrepreneur Turns Sideline Interest Into Big Business

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Starting a company based upon something you know is usually the best course for a new business. Sometimes, the idea blossoms gradually and eventually turns into a full-time endeavor. This means that aspiring entrepreneurs should open themselves to exploring fresh interests. For David Rzepka, that approach led to his business venture.

A friend asked Rzepka in 2004 to keep a couple of beehives on the farm he owns with his wife Amy. When a family matter rendered the friend unable to tend the hives, the Rzepkas had to take over the task. Unfortunately, their education at Ohio State University did not prepare them for the beekeeping business.

After a brief amount of informal and formal study, David became hooked on beekeeping. He began tinkering with a lip balm concoction using harvested beeswax. By 2007, he and Amy had launched the Beecology e-commerce website. The business had nearly $200,000 of sales in 2011 – double the revenue of 2010. Rzepka expects to see at least a 50 percent increase in 2012.

The website offers 15 products, including lip balm, soaps, body washes, creams, and shampoo. Every item is made from honey, beeswax, or the antioxidant-rich propolis that bees produce from tree resin to seal hive openings.

The business is no longer a mere sideline. Amy works full time in the operation’s sales and marketing. David has gradually transitioned toward devoting most of his schedule for the company. He creates new products plus obtains the machinery and packaging needed for expansion. At this stage, the revenue of Beecology supports investment in new product creations. According to Rzepka, development of each product requires about $15,000 to $20,000.

In addition to website sales, retailers in several states and Canada sell Beecology products. The company recently retained a national marketing firm to boost sales and build brand awareness.

To efficiently channel their capital and effort, the Rzepkas will likely need a sound strategic plan. But their initial success has been the result of taking the plunge into a new business – even if the industry choice arrived by accident.