Mindy Waite: Living the Sweet Life
For over nine years, Mindy Waite handled regional logistics for the world’s largest retailer, Wal-mart, but when her family members’ venture into backyard beekeeping turned into a growing business, she decided to leave retail for something a little sweeter. Now as CEO of Harvest Lane Honey, Waite oversees the expansion of a family-owned company that began in the garden and has become the nation’s No. 1 retail supplier of backyard beekeeping equipment.
What drew you and your family to beekeeping?
My great-grandfather did beekeeping back in World War II, when people did it to offset sugar rations. We always gardened—my mom and husband were the really avid gardeners. Back in 2008, we noticed a decline in our garden’s production. My mom [Harvest Lane CFO Rhonda Wells], and husband [Harvest Lane COO Jason Waite] decided to get back to family roots and try backyard beekeeping to help with garden pollination. They made their own beekeeping equipment, and not long after we began selling it online.
What has been the key to Harvest Lane’s growth?
We learned when we began beekeeping that there was a lot of information out there, a lot of terminology that goes around it, which can be overwhelming. So we’ve really focused on making getting into beekeeping simpler. We’ve also done things like re-engineering the main designs for the Langstroth hive—the traditional white boxes that most people think of, invented by Lorenzo Langstroth back in the 1800s. After a few years of online-only sales, Mike Wells [Harvest Lane president and Mindy’s father] decided to take Harvest Lane to farm and ranch. Our first account was CalRanch, and since then we’ve taken on national accounts across the country, like Tractor Supply and True Value. In 2013 there were just four of us here—now we have 25 employees, and we’re still growing.
Why is backyard beekeeping becoming more popular?
Backyard beekeeping appeals to two main groups of people: the environmentally conscious and the do-it-yourselfers. The environmentally conscious are worried about the decline of bees, the decline in our food sources. Everything from alfalfa the cows eat to the cotton we wear is pollinated by bees—there’s a lot of food we wouldn’t have without bees. As for the do-it-yourselfers, those are the people keeping chickens in their backyard, wanting to go back to that urban homesteading, to a way of life where they can sustain themselves. And you can’t beat raw honey; it’s the best. We joke that once everyone knows you have honey, you end up getting text messages, “Leave a pint on the porch for me—I’ll put money under the mat.”
What do you enjoy about what you do?
I love that we get to make everyday decisions that benefit the environment and people’s lives, that we can deliver something people take a lot of time and effort getting into. We enjoy providing education, and just seeing people understand it and be excited about the hobby—it renews the same excitement we had when we were first getting into it. I’m also glad we can grow the company here in Tooele, where our family is from. We wanted to bring jobs to the county we’re in.