Flow Hive: Using the power of social entrepreneurship to inspire change
Business is most often associated with profit, but there are brands out there that are working towards driving positive change. Mission driven businesses and social impact entrepreneurship are expanding trends, as innovative individuals choose to use their talents for the greater good rather than just the bottom line.
Driven by a desire to push the world forward, solve current problems in society, and make a difference, these entrepreneurs are disrupting the status quo. They pursue innovation with the bigger picture in mind, and they measure success on social impact rather than just financial performance. With the mission of changing the world for the better, these businesses and entrepreneurs are capable of shaping our future.
To dive deeper into the topic of mission driven businesses, we caught up with Stuart Anderson, the co-inventor of Flow Hive.
A family idea that was a decade in the making
Flow Hive is a custom built beehive, featuring patented technology, that offers an easier and more gentle way to harvest honey from bees. Put simply, it uses “taps” that release honey from specially designed Flow Frames, allowing beekeepers to extract the fresh honey without even opening the hive. It’s the result of recognising that harvesting honey doesn’t have to be stressful to the bees or involve heavy lifting and expensive equipment.
As passionate hobbyist beekeepers, Stuart and Cedar Anderson had become frustrated with the age old problem of extracting honey from the hive, and wanted to develop a method that allowed for efficient harvesting without killing too many bees or getting stung. They got to work trying to figure out a better method, and after a decade of trial and error, the father and son duo had invented the beekeeper’s dream: a solution that makes harvesting honey both easier on the bees and easier on the beekeeper. However, it wasn’t always a given that their innovation would see the light of day.
“For a lot of those 10 years, we weren’t sure that we were going to be able do what we were trying to do. Then, when it became clear that we could, it became an ethical question: Is this a good idea for the world, for bees, and for beekeepers?”
“While we thought our product was going to help people keep bees more easily, even commercially, we weren’t sure if our invention would make much of a difference for the bee population, as there are a lot of factors causing colony collapse disorder. But then we realised that making the harvesting easier meant more people would be able to keep bees.”
“Once you’ve become a beekeeper, you almost automatically become an environmentalist. You start to care about what’s happening in your neighbourhood, particularly in terms of sprays and the health and variety of plants. You start seeing the interdependence of all life. That was more of a reason than any to keep going with this invention and put effort into commercialising it.”
Honey on Tap
Humble aspirations transformed into global success
Like so many other entrepreneurs, the Flow Hive team turned to crowdfunding in 2015 to raise awareness and garner financial support. By the time their Indiegogo campaign was completed, they had broken several crowdfunding records, raising more than US$12.3 million in startup funds.
Their campaign became the most successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign ever, further proving that consumers want to support businesses that care about people and the planet.
“I think there were a lot of factors contributing to our success with crowdfunding. People are longing to feel more connected with nature, and they’re becoming more aware of bees and their importance in our lives. There’s also a growing preference for consuming local food and making more conscious food choices.
“Flow Hive is also a new invention, as well as the first significant thing to happen in beekeeping in over 150 years, so that’s exciting in itself. A lot of our supporters are people who simply love innovation, and a lot of our customers have said that they had always wanted to get involved in beekeeping. The crowdfunding campaign was the pivotal moment when they realised that they could do it.”
Sharing their innovation with the world
Looking back at their startup journey, Stuart describes an exciting yet challenging time. The incredible response they received caused a scramble to fulfil a large number of orders in a short period of time. Stuart and Cedar had to find manufacturers that were able to scale up to a high level of production quickly, while still producing a high-quality product that would meet rigorous ethical and sustainable standards.
“It was hard to know what was going to be the best choice with the myriad of decisions we had to make. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and on those manufacturers to try and meet the deadlines we had set for the people who had supported us. We had no idea how to calculate how long everything would take, and of course those deadlines were unrealistic, but I think we managed it pretty well in the end.”
Three years on, Flow Hive is shipping its revolutionary hives to every corner of the world and more than 50,000 hives are currently in use. Now selling to more than 130 countries, they are using OFX to bring their foreign profit home to reinvest in the business and more bee-friendly initiatives.
New offerings to connect with more people
Accredited by Bcorp, the business strives to work in an eco-friendly way, even right down to how they source their raw materials, and they continue to inspire others and provide consumers with a product that truly makes a difference.
Flow Hive has even found a way to connect with individuals who aren’t beekeepers but still want to make a difference for bees and the environment. Created from repurposed Flow Hive timber, the Pollinator House is like an apartment block for pollinating insects that anyone can place outside of their home. 100% of the profits from the sale of this product are donated to projects that are helping these small environmental champions.
“We wanted to broaden the sense of our commitment to not just honeybees, but all pollinators, as they are all important. And pollinators need homes, so we created smaller houses out of the scraps from our beehives. We sold out much sooner than we thought we would, and raised about $40,000, which will be distributed to a number of different projects that are helping pollinators in one way or another.”
Mission driven businesses attract mission driven consumers
Social impact entrepreneurship allows businesses to create new offerings that transform a market, as well as society. And, by participating in the funding of these brands, or even just purchasing products after a launch, consumers can contribute to the cause.
Because consumer demand dictates what has lasting power and what will ultimately be replaced by something more progressive, impact entrepreneurs and their supporters are indeed driving positive change.
“Profit is meaningless unless there’s a purpose. Businesses with a purpose have a number of advantages over general businesses. Everyone involved is more inspired and engaged, and more motivated to do a great job. And because of how connected people are today, they can tell the difference between a business that’s just a business and one that’s trying to make a difference.”
An important piece of advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs
The number of social impact entrepreneurs is expected to continue growing as more people work towards bringing about positive change in the world, rather than focusing solely on profits. When we asked Stuart if he had any advice for those hoping to become social impact entrepreneurs, here’s what he had to offer:
“Go with the informed passion, and stay with it. Don’t let the desire for money be the driving force, let your passion for whatever your project is be the driving force. With all of the different things that are being made available and being innovated, there is always the possibility to think about what a wonderful difference it makes to our world.”
With the right approach and plenty of motivation, anyone can focus their efforts on finding a solution to a problem and building a business around that solution, just like Flow Hive has done so well.
Photo credit: Flow Hive, BeeInventive Pty Ltd
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