On a school field trip to a natural history museum, 8-year-old Bill Walters discovered his life’s passion: beekeeping.
“I wandered away from the class and got in trouble for it,” he recalls. “But I remember to this day seeing an observation hive. … It was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my entire life.”
On that ordinary journey, his extraordinary fascination with bees was born. Over time, his childhood wonderment evolved into a thriving professional enterprise. Walters today is the proud owner of Guerilla Beekeepers, a honeybee rescue and relocation business in Santa Ana, Calif.
“If people have an unwanted bee colony in their attic or garage, they usually call an exterminator,” Walters explains. “Well, instead of calling an exterminator, they can call us — and, basically, for the same price we are going to come out and do a live removal of the colony.”
Guerilla Beekeepers relocates the honeybees to a place where they’re wanted, such as a certified organic farm or a backyard garden — someplace where the insects will do some good. Beyond assisting distraught homeowners, the company aims to help reverse the dramatic decline in honeybee populations and restore their vitality, he says.
“The overall reason [for the decline] is the way our agriculture system is set up,” Walters explains. “It requires that we move bees from places responsible for pollinating. So the bees that we remove are called ‘survivor bees.’ They’re the bees that are adapting to all of the stronger diseases and mites coming out of our agriculture system. So, when we get colonies that are good honey producers, [colonies] that are healthy and robust and of good disposition, we propagate those genetics.”
However, the important work being done by Walters and Guerilla Beekeepers isn’t cheap. In fact, the price of leading these critical rescue and relocation efforts can really … sting. Storing, transporting, and maintaining the health of bees quickly erodes any revenue derived from removing hives and selling honey. As a result, Walters has worked on a shoestring budget for years, consistently reinvesting all earnings into the company.
He says he was elated to learn from his wife, Nicole Herold, about Intuit’s Small Business Growing Strong campaign. “Our wish is to continue to rescue and relocate the honeybees,” he wrote in his grant application. “To do this, the colonies need homes. A hive consists of three to four boxes, 30 frames, a stand, and a top and bottom; $5,000 will provide us with 25 new hives for the bees, which will provide us with honey that through its sale enables us to continue to rescue the bees.”
Today, Guerilla Beekeepers is buzzing with excitement, because Intuit is granting its wish in order to help the business continue its important work. “You have no idea what this means to me,” Walters says. “Thank you so much!”
Intuit’s Small Business Growing Strong campaign is announcing one winner a day through May 24, 2013. Check out the list of current winners, and find out if yours is one of the wishes we’ve granted!
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