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Hilary Kearney is introducing people to the wonderful world of honey bees
Running a business

Hilary Kearney is introducing people to the wonderful world of honey bees

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias. 

Name: Hilary Kearney

Location: San Diego, CA

Business: Girl Next Door Honey

What do you do? 

We educate about bees and beekeeping through beekeeping classes (both online and in person), beehive tours, kid’s programming, books and games. Plus, we manage beehives for homeowners and organizations and also offer live bee removal. 

Hilary Kearney is introducing people to the wonderful world of honey bees

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

When I met my now husband, he had beekeeping on his bucket list. I bought him a book for fun, but I ended up reading it and became fascinated with bees. When people found out I was keeping bees they kept asking me for things. “Can you put bees in my backyard?” “Can you teach a class to my garden group?” and these requests organically grew into revenue streams for my business. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

I learned that if you don’t charge for your work, people don’t value you, your time, or your skills. When I first started teaching beekeeping classes I did it for free. We had a space with limited seating and so the classes would fill up and there would be a waiting list of people who wanted to come, but on the day of the class only a fraction of the people actually showed up. Once I started charging money for my classes people started actually showing up!

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

I was surprised by how much sexism I experienced at the hands of my own customers. People don’t seem to understand that I am the owner of my own business. Whenever I have a male employee present, they assume he is in charge even when it has been made clear that I am the boss. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

I had to learn how to be strategic about how I spend my time and how to price things appropriately. I actually used QuickBooks to help me categorize my revenue streams so I could look at what parts of my business were making the most money. This helped me decide what parts weren’t working and where to focus my time and energy. 

How does running your own business make you feel?

I feel proud of what I do and how far I have come. I also feel free. I love being my own boss because it lets me be as creative as I want. I’m always dreaming up new ideas.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

I am working on my work/life balance. When I first started my business, I was working so hard. Now I am trying to work smarter, not harder. 

What are your proudest moments? 

My proudest moment is definitely the release of my first book, “Queenspotting.” Although I love writing, I never imagined I would become an author. I had the idea for the book and decided to go for it and send it out to some publishers. I heard back from an editor really quickly and it’s been wonderful ever since. I am now working on my third book. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

My biggest dream is to have my own land so I can create a stable bee sanctuary and educational space. I have partnered with landowners in the past, but nothing has lasted and I never had the freedom to develop the space in the way I wanted. I’d love to create a place where people can come learn about bees on a deeper level. Where they can see real examples of what they can do in their own backyards to help bees and other pollinators.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

I think my artistic and creative talents have been a huge plus for me. I do all my own writing, photography, design, and marketing. It just makes my business really unique.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

We have to deal with a lot of microaggressions that imply we are not capable of the work we do. It’s very frustrating to deal with even when you know the intent isn’t always malicious. I constantly feel like I have to prove myself. 

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

A woman once hired me to remove bees from the wall of her shed. To access the bees, I have to use power tools to open up the wall. The customer worried I was not capable of using the saw that I own and brought with me for this purpose and she tried to have her husband do it for me. This is the kind of thing that happens to me. I really do not think this would have happened if I were a man. The customer was only trying to be helpful. She had no ill intent, but she saw me as not being fully capable of doing the job she hired me to do!

quote image
People will doubt you. People will make wrong assumptions. Don’t let them get away with it.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry?

Remember that you are the expert. Don’t let anyone, not even customers, tell you how to do your job. People will doubt you. People will make wrong assumptions. Don’t let them get away with it. Gently remind them that you are the expert and that you know what you are doing. 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

Some of the skills you need as a business owner may never have been taught to you because you are a woman. For example, women tend to undervalue themselves. You might feel uncomfortable setting your prices and standing by them. I still struggle with setting my prices high enough. It helps to write things out. Make a formal document that states your prices and send it up front. That way it’s less likely to become a discussion or negotiation. Having it written down will also give you confidence to stand by your prices if someone tries to talk you down. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My husband, Tim. He always believes in me and is always encouraging me. 

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

Look for ways to collaborate with other women-owned businesses. Is there a way you can team up that might benefit you both? Another way is through mentoring…maybe you can mentor someone or maybe there’s someone who can mentor you.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“Bossy” by Kelis. I was often told that I was bossy when I was growing up. It was meant in a negative way to discourage me, but now that I am a boss it feels like a pretty great skill to have! 

To learn more about Girl Next Door Honey and support the business, visit their website or check out Hilary’s adventures on Instagram.

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