Turning a passion into a business
In 2015, Rory and Hannah O’Brien decided to take a chance on an adventure. With their two-year-old son and a baby on the way, they sold their house, bought some beehives and started their own business: Hunt & Gather Bee Co.
Deciding to start the business was one of the biggest decisions Hannah and Rory had ever made. And after making a pros and cons list, the push to get started came from an overwhelming desire to do something they were really passionate about.
Fuelled by their passion, Rory and Hannah poured everything they had into starting Hunt & Gather. With their first hives bought and ready to go, they hit their first fairly large hurdle: Hannah got stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock.
Rory puts a lot of special care and attention into each of his beehives
“I started sneezing and coughing and then I stopped breathing. It was gnarly because I was about 37 weeks pregnant,” she says. “In hospital they told me to watch out and try and stay away from bees, and I had to tell them we’d just bought all these beehives.”
Having to keep an EpiPen close by and staying away from bees isn’t the only struggle Hannah and Rory have had with starting up. It can be hard to keep up with demand, as they tread a fine line between selling out of honey and having enough stock to carry them through the year. And, when cash flow is low and things are tough, Hannah and Rory have wondered if the sacrifices are worth it.
“We have those moments, but we know there’s nothing else we’d rather do,” says Hannah. “Beekeeping is the perfect job for Rory. From the start he just loved it. The more he started to learn about bees, the more he’d come home and tell me everything about them.”
I can sleep well at night knowing the industry I’m in is contributing something positive and sustainable – Rory O'Brien, Hunt & Gather Bee Co
Building a business for the future
While Rory takes care of the beekeeping side of things, Hannah works hard to keep the business running, doing everything from marketing to the accounting. Having seen a demo of Xero at Fieldays last year, Hannah was struck by how much easier it would be to keep track of the business’s finances.
And after getting started on Xero this year, Hunt & Gather is already reaping the rewards. Instead of sifting through past bank statements and spreadsheets to find out how much money they were spending on equipment or vehicle costs, Hannah can now see everything on the Xero dashboard.
“We keep a really close eye on the hives and the honey, but the finance side – which is so important – we didn’t really know what was happening.” she says. “Now we can see what’s costing money, what’s earning money, and how the business is tracking. It’s super helpful to have that all right there.”
And being more informed about how the business is doing, where the gaps are, and where they can make effective changes means Hannah and Rory are starting to think about the future of Hunt & Gather.
Hannah and Rory chose beekeeping for the lifestyle and they haven’t looked back
“We got on Xero at a really great time. We’re at a point with the business where we need to decide whether to keep trucking along as we are, or to expand,” says Hannah. “Now we’ve got lots of information to show investors and we can confidently say how much we’re making, what things cost, and where the gaps are.”
With the peace of mind that comes from knowing how the business is tracking, Hannah and Rory are looking forward to considering their options for the future and spending more time with their young family.
“Hunt & Gather is a lifestyle choice for us, we want to keep our good lifestyle, and be able to give back to the community that’s supported us,” says Rory. “Watching the little company grow is exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going to go.”
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