21 October 2016
Li Ping-xung said honey produced in the winter contains more nutrients. Photo:
Li Ping-xung said honey produced in the winter contains more nutrients. Photo:

Beekeeping: Sweet rewards from business lessons that sting

People go into business for various reasons. Some want to change the world with a new technology, some see a profit opportunity and jump into it, while others just want to have something to do with their lives.

But for three youngsters in Taiwan, business is a challenge.

They decided to get into the business of honey production and sales after they met the owner of a bee farm who felt he was getting too old for the job.

Li Ping-xung and her two partners decided to take over the operation and learn everything about the business from scratch.

Being outsiders, the young entrepreneurs were able to look at the business with fresh eyes. For example, they were able to develop new marketing channels on the internet.

Taiwan imports about 2,000 tons of honey from Thailand each year, which means there is no way to find out the actual production process and how safe the products are. Li said local produce provides an assurance of quality.

Their bee farm is located in the southern county of Kinmen, which provides unique advantages.

First, the place has very little light pollution, which gives bees a better chance to survive, Li said.

Pesticides are largely prohibited in Kinmen, which is another environmental plus for bees. Operating costs are also low.

“We knew nothing about the honey business,” Li said, recalling how she made all kinds of mistakes in learning the trade. She used to be a salary woman, and this is her first business venture.

“When we harvested for the first time, we picked some beautiful bottles,” Li said. “But we later found out customers usually want to see the color of the honey. Our bottles were nice but non-transparent. So sales were very slow.”

So now they make sure bottles are not only transparent but also easy to hold and the honey inside can flow out smoothly.

“Sometimes, the only way to learn is to pay for the lesson,” she said. Li shares the story of the company on the internet.

Li is also brushing up her business knowledge, attending courses on startup development and cost control, and learning from other startups how to develop the company name Xiangteng into a brand that people will readily associate with honey.

Xiangteng is now selling both online and offline, targeting primarily female customers.

To expand their business network, the three entrepreneurs have linked up with several local farming organizations. In the cyber world, they are talking to a number of online e-commerce platforms as well.

Li said disagreements among partners are hard to avoid, but they make it a point to thresh out issues and keep communicating with one another.

“Keep trying,” Li said, when asked for her advice to fellow startup entrepreneurs.

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EJ Insight writer

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