Carmel, CA (September 17, 2020) — I was excited to interview Jake Reisdorf, the founder of Carmel Honey Company (CHC) to see how his passion for honey bees had progressed. Jake had participated in a weekend regional business plan competition, Startup Challenge, hosted by the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED) at CSU, Monterey Bay. Startup Challenge includes coaching, mentoring, and pitch practice sessions to hone the skills of entrepreneurs. Jake was by far our youngest and one of the most successful program participants. (The iiED is funded in part through a grant from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.)
What had started as a 5th-grade homework assignment for Jake, ended up being his winning project for the 2016 Startup Challenge, a regional. He and his family had prepared for a year by testing the market need, and sold their honey products at special events and farmers’ markets to find if people were interested. Through this process, they found they filled a growing market need. The Startup Challenge helped by connecting Jake and his family with a mentor, Bob Kramer. “Bob Kramer from the Startup Challenge helped with putting us on the right track, and keeping us motivated moving forward improving the business”. The whole family has attended some of the seminars to further educate themselves. Jake’s mom Becky and dad Jeff are also crucial mentors, not only helping with the business in general but with individual advising meetings focusing on the big picture, as well as details, to better the business.
Jake is now already 17 and a senior in high school. He says time has flown by. He considers his family his partners: dad Jeff, helping him with the hives, using his general contractor experience to do build-outs in the stores, and co-hosting honey tasting shows on Facebook, mom Becky with the day-to-day business, and sister Brooke, currently a high school freshman, helping with window and in-store displays, and hive-related products. Additionally, he now has six retail employees for his stores and runs a thriving online business. The family and employees now have to do constant cleaning in the stores, maintaining social distancing, and are looking forward to the time when they can do in-person tasting events again, in addition to the tastings Jake and Jeff do on Facebook.
He is proud of being able to stay in business during COVID-19, due to local and online support. Many people and businesses are customers of Carmel Honey, including specialty stores and chefs, both local and national. For example, Pebble Beach chefs use Carmel Honey products. Also, the recent fires only impacted the number of customers able to come to the stores and some of the bees had to be temporarily relocated.
The CHC stores are upscale honey stores, stocked with honey and hive-related merchandise, including apparel, unique gifts, bath & body items, and specialty edibles. CHC sells honey products from all over the world. Jake and his family have traveled extensively to bring the best honey in the world back to Carmel By-the-Sea. They already have a sample program from the East Coast ready and have traveled to locations worldwide including far-flung cities such as Istanbul. “There are a lot of different kinds of honey with different flavor profiles,” says Jake. “In Europe, for example, the honey is more savory than here. It’s fun to see people’s faces light up when they taste the quality of my honey and it’s cool to answer questions about honey bees.”
Carmel Honey currently has two stores, one in Carmel, and the other in Monterey that just moved to a more visible location next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. CHC is currently in negotiations to add another store in San Francisco. Jake’s vision for the company has evolved over time with new products and ideas. His current vision for the company includes building an interactive educational facility in the future with insects, animals, and plants sometime after COVID-19, called “Pollination World”. He not only gives back to the community now by educating individuals and groups but also to the industry by donating part of CHC profits to “organizations that are expanding in honey bee research & education efforts”.
“The educational side of the business is growing,” he says. He is a passionate advocate for saving bee populations and is a knowledgeable speaker who regularly gives talks, demonstrations, and workshops to schools, civic groups, companies, and nonprofits on the importance of bees and honey. “When I first started in 5th grade, not many kinds of honey in stores were pure; many honeys had additives, and few single-source varietals were available. Many people just need more education about honey and honey bees. Honey helps sleep, the immune system, and allergies with the nectar (honey) and/or the pollen. Bees help the environment because pollination helps plants reproduce and spread. Bees will fly down to a flower and pollen will jump to sticky sacks on their legs from the static electricity generated by their wings. They will get nectar from sucking through their tongues which are like hollow straws. To feed their babies, they combine the nectar and the pollen to make bee-bread. Adults just eat the nectar.”
Jake leads a balanced lifestyle by doing schoolwork from home (due to COVID-19) during the week in the morning, business in the afternoon, and after dinner, he takes a break to play video games or do other activities. He works more on the business during the weekend.
The biggest challenge Jake faced launching his business was his age. Both “not being able to sign for things, and still needing more business knowledge”. To solve this challenge he learns as much as he can, absorbing everything like a sponge. The whole family has been very helpful in overcoming age challenges: all learning how to run a business together.
Learn more about Jake and his business by visiting https://carmelhoneycompany.com.