Sweet Pure Honey started about 15 years ago when Stella Sehn and her husband Sheldon had the idea to put their honey in containers and sell it to people directly. Working as beekeepers, the price of honey was not enough for their family’s everyday needs. They had a vision for their own brand of products, something that would be authentic and they could believe in and get behind.
Stella largely identifies with being a farmer. Through her business, she has worked to garner respect for farmers, so they will be celebrated as the entrepreneurs and resilient people that they are.
Challenging the Status Quo
Sweet Pure Honey’s appeal is that it never crystallizes or granulates; it always has a creamy smooth texture. Stella sees that there is a disconnect between consumers and producers, with companies bridging the gap between those groups. People seek her out because they are fed up with not knowing where their honey comes from. She urges everyone to support farmers by being in contact with them. She’s also a champion for what she calls full-circle shopping local, where both individuals and businesses keep their money local.
Building Each Other Up
Sweet Pure Honey does much more than sell honey and related products. Stella is proud that the business works to do good in the world, while also finding a way to make a profit and support her family. She has always mentored and shared what she’s learned, helping people with the contacts and knowledge she has. In Medicine Hat, the company is known as a power brand, as forward-thinking and an influencer. Something she is very proud of is winning the 2016 Business Ethics Award from the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce.
“As businesses, we need to be held accountable for who we are and what we stand for.”
Stella came to Business Link in 2018, at a time when she was basically fighting to survive. She says that it’s been women at Business Link who heard her story. After receiving information on the Women Entrepreneurship Fund from Community Futures, she came to Business Link and we encouraged her to apply. She knew that she couldn’t fill out the application on her own, so we were there to support her along the way.
Sharing Is Caring
When asked what advice she had for other businesses or would-be business owners, Stella had some great insight to provide:
If you have an idea, research it. Reach out to people, and learn what they’ve learned. Start with the knowledge that is given to you, then make it your own. You don’t have to experience pain and hardship to be authentic.
Be kind to everyone, because you never know who is going to make it and one day, that person may be the one to help you. Sometimes we are so focused on our own industry or where we are, that we forget we are part of a larger community.
Find a way that you can give back. Why not share the skills you have with your community? It doesn’t have to be in an organized manner, even connecting with one person is volunteering.
Coming Up Roses
When the 2015-16 downturn happened, company sales dropped 60%. At the same time, Stella’s husband lost his job, so they had no choice but to reinvent. They invested in flow hives and attended the Vancouver Gift Expo, where international buyers noticed their products. Since then, exporting has been a main revenue driver for the business.
With factors like low market value prices, weather changes, bee losses and tainted honey (check out the Netflix documentary Rotten), there are still challenges ahead for Sweet Pure Honey. This year is going to decide whether they continue to be beekeepers or not. Stella says that just because they have that hard decision to make, that doesn’t take away from what she and Sheldon have done over the last 15 years.
One possibility for their future is purchasing honey from the bee co-op they are a part of, packing it, and selling it under their brand, rather than farming bees themselves. Stella doesn’t see this as a failure of her business, but a pivot that will support their legacy and ability to do good. Exports are currently growing, and Stella is also focusing on workshops where she helps local groups learn a new skill. While times are tough, I’m confident this won’t be the last we hear of the good that Sweet Pure Honey is doing.
Business Link acknowledges and respects that we are on traditional land, meeting grounds, territories, gathering places, and travelling routes of Treaty 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10 and the home to many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the lands of those who have come before us, reside here now and in the future.