Editor’s Note: This blog post from alumna Leigh-Kathryn Bonner was originally published by NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative.
I have always loved the famous quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” From childhood, these words have spoken to me and have made me dream of how one day I could create change. As a student at NC State, I fell in love with the spirit of entrepreneurship, and how entrepreneurs can use their skills, talents and passions to create something that could make a lasting impact in the world.
During my junior year at NC State, I started a company called Bee Downtown. With help from many people I was able to use my passion and knowledge of beekeeping, to embark on a journey that would be able to create that change. Bee Downtown started as a small project to help rebuild healthy honey bees by working with businesses to sponsor the hives. In the 2 1/2 since its inception, Bee Downtown has been successful and has grown in a way I would have never imagined.
While I was a student at NC State, I studied international studies with minors in Spanish and nonprofit studies. However, I went on to start a bee business, or “beesness” as we like to call it. Many people often ask how an international studies major got into beekeeping, and while I am a fourth generation beekeeper, my international studies degree deepened my passion for finding a way to make a change in the world.
Now here is where it gets interesting and so incredibly exciting…
In a few short days, my passion for bees and the international world collided. About six months ago, I was introduced to a Duke alumnus, Robert Evan. He was a partner at the Wellington Fund in London, but as fate would have it, an avid beekeeper as well. For a number of years, Robert has been involved with a secondary school in Cape Three Points, Ghana, and we began to dream up a plan to build a beekeeping apprenticeship program for the young women in the area. With Robert’s background in banking and mine in beekeeping, our dream turned into a reality.
With the help of Rory Jackson, the founder of Trinity Yard School, on Jan. 18th, we will all be headed to Ghana to lay the foundation of the program, meet the wonderful people of Cape Three Points and do a lot of listening. This will be the first of many trips, as we do not want to rush this process. It will take time, but we want to build a lasting program that young women will be able to become a part of.
By bringing female-led beekeeping to Cape Three Points, our hope is to provide jobs for women in the community and create a sustainable source of income in their lives through honey and wax based product sales.
One honey bee makes one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime, but a hive can generate 80 pounds of honey in a matter of months. If we work like a hive, our efforts can create a lasting change in the world that we are proud to be a part of.
So, I want to challenge each and every one of you to find what talents and passions you can bring to the table as an entrepreneur that will help us collectively, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
To stay up to date as this adventure unfolds, follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @beedowntown