How two brothers turned six million bees into a business dream
Everything started with a passion for beekeeping. Nurtured over half a lifetime, brothers Matt and Kit Newell have turned that passion into an innovative family meadery business—with the help of some six million bees and The Prince's Trust.
For the past 45 years, The Prince's Trust has guided more than a million young people towards a better and more positive future. And now, thanks to that guidance, the Newell brothers' Wye Valley Meadery has celebrated its two-year milestone.
The dream of the Wye Valley Meadery, nestled in the Welsh border region for which it's named, became a reality through Enterprise, a programme run by The Prince's Trust. Free to young adults in the UK, it aims to help participants “turn big ideas into a reality.” The young entrepreneurs learn business planning, marketing, budgeting and taxes, as well as understand how to actually launch their business.
More than 86,000 young adults aged 18–30 have accessed the programme in the last four decades.
“I found it very rewarding,” says Matt, 30, who joined Enterprise after finding himself unemployed. He wanted to see if he could turn a vague idea into something entrepreneurial.
Learning business skills for success
The programme not only taught him the basics of running different types of companies, he says, but allowed him to connect with a number of local business operators who offered their own insights and experiences.
“I think one of the best things I did there was talking. I explained what we wanted to do, and had to talk about it for a week,” says Matt, who was initially concerned about his lack of business skills and a niche idea.
Funding your dream business
The start-up funding from The Trust, along with the training and preparation, helped nourish the courage Newell needed to take the plunge.
Participants present their plan to the Enterprise programme's Business Launch Group, whose job is to make sure the business model is both viable and sustainable.
After securing funding, the companies are paired with a business mentor, who serves as a guide and sounding board for the first two years of operations.
This pathway was how the Newells turned the honey from their beehive collection into “the world's oldest form of alcohol, with a modern twist,” and how Wye Valley Meadery was born in Jan. 2019.
In the beginning, the most difficult challenge for the Newells was everything was new all at once.
“There wasn't a formula that was already set for us. We weren't just buying and selling things, we were creating a new product and trying to create new markets with this new product. At the same time, [we were] learning how to run a business,” says Kit. Another challenge was getting used to not having the steady income that comes with working for someone else, he adds.
Financial support through a pandemic
And, like most other small businesses, it's not been easy operating during COVID-19. The Prince's Trust and YouGov put out a report in May 2020 that found young people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic from a career and employment perspective.
The Prince's Trust has continued to provide a lifeline for young start-ups like Wye Valley Meadery throughout the pandemic, providing guidance and funding to help young businesses survive day-to-day operations, easing some of the stress and anxiety of keeping their business alive.
“We managed to access some funding from them this year just to keep our bills paid. We had to close a lot this year,” Matt says.
“We were very grateful indeed. I think we would've had a really tough time keeping everything together this year if we hadn't had that.”
Through its continued support of The Prince's Trust, RBC employees became online mentors for the young entrepreneurs. They offered one-on-one support and inspiration during the pandemic.
“At a time when young people need us more than ever before, we're so proud to continue our partnership with RBC for a third year,” says Ben Marson, director of Partnerships at The Prince's Trust. “Together we're helping young people explore entrepreneurship as a route out of unemployment and give them hope at this critical time. Thank you to the many RBC colleagues who've volunteered or fundraised for The Prince's Trust—we're incredibly grateful for your commitment to young people.”
The Welsh meadery cares for 150 hives—home to some 40 to 60,000 bees each, depending on the season, for an average of 7.5 million bees. They produce honey that forms the base for some half a dozen mead flavours the Newell brothers developed themselves. Their ginger mead is popular for cold winters and the mango mosaic is a hit in warmer weather.
Meanwhile, Matt and Kit have big dreams and want to expand overseas. Closer to home, they hope to become a source of employment for the region.
“We want to kind of create … a real destination for the area; highlight the beauty of the area and what can be produced by us and other people. We want to create a food hub,” Kit says. But however those plans evolve, bees will always be part of their story.
“I'm really happy keeping my bees, so I'm really looking for any excuse to keep that going,” Matt adds.
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