The day we connected with Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, founder and CEO of Bee Downtown, she and the team were on day 12 of extracting the company’s 2020 honey. Twelve very long days that, in the end, will result in about 2,500 pounds of honey (the good stuff).
Typically, small groups of employees at partner companies would be involved in the extractions as part of Bee Downtown’s employee engagement, company culture and leadership training programs. The purpose-driven brand has installed and now maintains more than 300 hives at more than 50 different businesses in the southeast. And yet, even with COVID-19 disrupting typical in-person programming (beekeeping classes to earn your MBeeA!, hive tours, and honey tastings), the beekeeping must go on.
Indeed, the “beesness” is growing. Leigh-Kathryn placed the first hive at the headquarters for Burt’s Bees in Durham, North Carolina, in 2015. Then she and the growing team placed and cared for hives in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, too. In 2018, the team expanded to Atlanta. This year, they’re adding Richmond, Virginia. And come 2021, Bee Downtown will be keeping bees in the Denver area, too!
The move out west comes with a definite learning curve. It’s agriculture, after all. The bees, plants, and temperature variation will all be different. Nevertheless, Leigh-Kathryn and the team are confident about the expansion. The bees will do what bees do. And people will learn from their division of labor, devotion to their colonies, and ability to produce something greater together than any one bee ever could alone.
At a rate of 95% and up, employees at partner organizations report being more proud of where they work because of the bees. Companies feature their honey in a variety of ways. Appalachian Mountain Brewery incorporates its honey into its flagship blonde ale. Hotels and venues offer it to their guests as welcome gifts. Georgia Power recently won the coveted 2020 National Black Jar Contest for its crop.
These gestures and good works are symbolic of something far bigger—the cultivation of urban honeybee populations. It’s imperative that we pay attention to this indicator species, whose increasing loss rates indicate that something is off balance in our world. Bringing honeybees and agriculture back to cities can help. And so can you. Leigh-Kathryn advises, “Stop and listen. Be thoughtful. Plant friendly plants in your backyard. Make meadows not lawns.”
We’re impressed and inspired by Leigh-Kathryn, the team she’s built, and the brilliant, purpose-driven brand that is Bee Downtown. This company is proof of the great promise in social enterprise, which Bee Downtown further amplifies through partnerships with companies that are committed to energizing their employees, enriching their cultures and giving back to our natural environment. We look forward to officially welcoming the brand to Colorado next year!
Now in our 50th year of business, Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.