Im writing to you 41 weeks pregnant, willing a baby to show up so we can get down to business. Which has generated a lot of extra time to think about the last two years.
What a whirlwind of a 20 months. I want to use words like "most challenging" and "uncertain". But honestly, doesn't that define most years of entrepreneurship and small business ownership? Though I'm not always the best optimist, once we make it over an obstacle I tend to quickly forget the obstacle even existed, much less how difficult it was. But a quick trip down memory lane can reveal that each year has always been really difficult in its own unique way. The first year was full of cobbling together part time gig work while trying to create a business that produced income. I've (twice now) had to contend with a very large and locally headquartered "competitor", who chooses to bully me and others in unimaginable ways, lie, disparage and try to break his competition in the space, rather than put his energy into making the best product for his customers. (The stories are even more absurd that this slightly annoying and vague allusion. Someday Ill share that story with you.) I've had my most productive and profitable apiary catch on fire, and saved by air support from helicopters dropping water. I've lost relationships, friendships, and personal opportunities because of the time I've chosen to invest in this business instead of in those relationships.
But overall, I'm unbelievably net positive in the world of starting and running a business. Through it all--the early acceptance on my part that I chose to run a business that would be my substitute for a husband and family, the realization that I turned in an 'easy' work life for one that requires an insane number of hours, many under some of the least favorable working conditions you can find--was all worth it to me. This business is literally stained with my blood, sweat, and tears, and I've rarely seriously questioned the sacrifices because I love the upsides so much.
But the last 20 months...wow. What a time. It started with the shut down, and us having to give up a new lease in the heart of South Austin that we had searched/negotiated for a year as a result. Aidan lost his employment. I lost 30 percent of my hives in a freak storm, and then proceeded to see the poorest honey flow I've seen since I started keeping bees. I received the shock of my life in the form of a pregnancy, and the next 20+ weeks filled with sickness, ailments, and a constant battle to stay and feel healthy. (Nothing threatening baby of course, just my own sanity and comfort). And during the course of those 18 months, my super experienced beekeeping team turned completely over. I invested heavily in a second team, 2/3 of which turned over again at the worst possible time. Just when my good health started to return, this left me 30+ weeks pregnant and back in the bee yards to pick up the slack.
The last 3 months have brought about questioning feelings in ways I never imagined possible. Though I have had my moments of being overwhelmed over the years and I joke that I'm gonna 'burn it all to the ground', it's never been a serious threat. But there have been more than a handful of moments since the shutdown began that I have really questioned the sacrifices I've made and continue to make.
If you own a business, your word of the year for 2020 (and sadly also probably for 2021) has been 'pivot'. We've pivoted to survive, we've pivoted to stay relevant. We've stretched our creative limits to make sure we can keep our doors open while also protecting our customers from a disease we still seem to not totally understand. The rules of the game have changed many times over--the rules set and enforced (or often times, the lack thereof) by our government, the rules of perception, the rules of what our customers and clients expect of us. Add to that our own personal struggles and it's been a doozy.
Tara of 4 years ago would have weathered the last 20 months differently. I was single, and certainly not pregnant. This business was and has always been my baby. But things changed in an instant during a freak storm. While 30% of my hives were succumbing and dying in freak late season temperatures, I was sitting in a house with no utilities, learning that I was pregnant with a child I wasn't planning for. My greatest fear was that everything would be different--nothing would ever be the same again. And my greatest fear has turned into an anticipation like no other. As I sit here, more than a week overdue with a baby that I'm almost convinced is never gonna show---in a few days, everything will be different and nothing will ever be the same again.
Don't worry, this email isn't culminating in a mic drop and telling you we are shutting down Two Hives. Things are going to look different in 2022, but in ways that will only allow us to do so much more of what we love most. This is also not meant to be an email to make you feel sorry for me and mine. As much of a literal shit show the last 20 months have been, I've somehow still come out super net positive. And there is one single decision that is responsible for that fact....
After losing our lease, and in a moment of what I worried was temporary insanity, I emptied out my personal and business bank account for a down payment and bought 5.25 acres outside of the city. Gave it a name: the Honey Ranch. Hung up a sign. Turned a rickety horse barn full of guinea foul into a beautiful classroom and honey bar. Turned a literal crumbling shelter structure into an outdoor general store. Battled approximately 4 katrillion crazy Argentine ants along the way. Continue to work diligently to fight a never ending battle of obnoxious and invasive King Ranch grass to make space for a rainbow of bee friendly flowers. We continue to work daily to make it a more beautiful and interesting place to visit.
There's still much to be done (and I'm convinced that will always be the case), but when we bought this property we had a vision. And that vision was a space that was super close to the city that could act as an escape. A place for you to bring your little ones to run, play, get dirty, and pick up bugs and observe bees. A place for star gazing, and dancing under the stars next to a bonfire. A place to share in the fruits of the labors of all the farmers that surround us.
And though much still remains to be done, just over one year after we moved in, we are getting to live that vision as a trial run this November I want you and yours to join us for the best star gazing you will find 15 minutes from the city. Teach your kids how to make a s'more. Dance to the sounds of a Texas swing band on a makeshift stage. Enjoy a picnic under the stars. Forget the troubles of the last 20 months with us, for just one night. For me and mine it will be a celebration of new beginnings. Living our Honey Ranch vision with a new baby and preparing for all the anticipation that a new year brings.
If you've made it this far, I want you to know what you, and this space you allow me each month, means to me. Especially in the last 20 months. A space to share all my metal bee facts to the most receptive and caring audience, but also a space to share my feelings in a way that I don't share in any other forum. Yes, I am often an over sharer on Instagram and receive the immediate feedback that platform allows, but this platform, albeit quieter, is where I share my best and my worst, usually written between 3 and 5am. Your responses each month I stash away in a folder, as a reminder of why I do what I do. I read, and respond, to every one. And I can't thank you enough for continuing to to invest in what we are doing here.
And with that, I want to give something back to you. If you are local, and you can join us in the debut of the Honey Ranch vision, please use code FRIENDS to save $10 off every tix to join us for our Twilight Picnic. Kiddos under 12 come and dance for free. :) You can find your tickets here. And if you aren't local, or you simply can't make it, please stay tuned. I promise I've got something up my sleeve for all of you as well.
For the bees (and a new baby!!) Talk to you on the other side!