Hannah Amante, Apiculture New Zealand Communications Coordinator
Since Mary Bumby introduced the honey bee to New Zealand’s shores in 1839, women have long contributed greatly to the success of the beekeeping and honey industry. But they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
Based in Katikati, Julie co-owns two companies with her husband David: BeeNZ and Buzz Apiaries. During a downturn in the horticulture industry 30 years ago, the couple purchased a kiwifruit orchard which then grew and turned in to four orchards. They soon found that one of their biggest yearly expenses was pollination, so they purchased 100 beehives to pollinate their own orchards.
One hundred soon became 300, which pushed them into honey production. In 2010, they built their own extraction facility to extract honey for themselves and for other beekeepers. It was the that Julie took over the administration of the extraction shed and the day-to-day running of the risk management programme (RMP), while David continued to work with the hives.
In her dealings with others in the industry, Julie has observed that men and women tend to have different roles.
“Most of the honey meisters/blenders/processors seem to be male, but most of the export/marketing/admin [workers] tend to be female,” she said. “Definitely on the logistics side of things there tends to be more of a female dominated role in the industry.”
“It would be great to see more females represented at association board level. It seems to me to be quite male dominated,” she said. “I think that will happen as more females are entering more senior management roles within the apiculture industry.”
Under Julie’s leadership, BeeNZ has flourished, winning several accolades over the last few years, including ranking in Deloitte’s 50 fastest growing businesses in New Zealand and ExportNZ’s Bay of Plenty Best Emerging Business in 2018.
Despite having no previous experience in international marketing, Julie quickly upskilled and took a leap. “I’ve had to dive in the deep end to get our brand out there,” she said.
She credits the success of her business with the brand’s unique story of controlling the supply chain “from the paddock to plate, from the hive to the jar”.
“We’re not a big corporation so when people come to visit, they actually get to spend time with David and myself,” she said.