The Buzz About Summer’s Gold Honey Company
Chatham-Kent and the little town of Merlin is buzzing, thanks to Summer’s Gold Honey Company, proudly owned and operated by Mike and Pam Davidson and family.
Summer’s Gold Honey was born in 2017, when Mike, the patriarch of the family, had a yearning to get back to his family’s agricultural roots and his passion of beekeeping. The family rallied round to support, but the fledgling company needed a financial boost as well. That’s where the local CFDC came into play.
Chatham-Kent Community Futures was integral to the initial start up and success of this new local business. With the help of Chatham-Kent Community Futures, Mike was able to purchase 7 hives in 2017 and expand to 27 hives by the end of that year. As he says, “And I haven’t stopped expanding since.”
As Mike explains, “Our business isn’t exactly your standard run-of-the-mill agricultural pursuit. Many traditional lenders shy away from unconventional business models. The CFDC was an ideal lending partner because their system of approval has room to embrace ideas that don’t necessarily fit within standard ideas of business. Besides accessing operating capital at a reasonable rate, we were also able to access training in standard bookkeeping practices.”
Summer’s Gold is a Canadian Food Inspection Agency licensed producer and packer of Ontario honey products. It provides direct store delivery to Sobeys and Loblaws, as well as many independent retailers. It also supplies triple-refined beeswax to numerous cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and candle industries.
In addition, Mike and co. have recently expanded their offerings to include e-commerce, thanks to the Digital Mainstreet program. Summer’s Gold Honey and related products, including gourmet flavoured honey and floral-specific honeys, can now be purchased through the website, https://www.summersgoldhoney.ca/.
Without the support of Community Futures Chatham-Kent, as Mike puts it, “Quite frankly, I do not believe that we would have been able to access the capital necessary to build the business that we have today. We were a new start up without any track record. The big banks were not interested in providing the necessary funding. We would either have given up entirely or we would have struggled to achieve a fraction of what we have ultimately accomplished.”
In addition to meeting the ever-increasing demand for honey and related products, Summer’s Gold has been able to help put its hometown of Merlin, Ontario, on the map as its reputation has grown. This has helped other local businesses, both in Merlin and in the broader Chatham-Kent community. In addition, Summer’s Gold has been able to hire an employee from the area and plans on hiring another one this year.
Mike has also given back to his neighbourhood by providing education about bees, honey production and pollinators. He has done numerous speaking engagements throughout Chatham-Kent to advocate for the health and stewardship of not just honeybees but native pollinators as well. As Mike says, “One bite in three is because of a bee!”
Covid-19 has impacted Summer’s Gold in both expected and unexpected ways. Of course, there was the additional cost of PPE, sanitizing, and other pandemic protocols. But unexpectedly, as Mike explains, “It seems that honey is associated with health and as such we have seen an uptick in sales. Initially this presented as somewhat of a boon to our business but as the pandemic has persisted and we have gone into a new crop year we are seeing shortages of bulk honey available to purchase which has resulted in a 25% increase in wholesale cost.”
This has brought about another potential change and innovation in Summer’s Gold. Mike muses, “We are currently exploring the possibility of expanding the production side of our business. The increase in wholesale prices has exposed a vulnerability in our business model and we have determined that it would be prudent to take further control of the product that we sell. We are exploring the possibility of a dramatic increase in the number of hives that we manage.”
If Summer’s Gold Honey decides to go that route, there is no doubt that Community Futures Chatham-Kent will be there to lend a helping hand, again. In the meantime, business plans, honey…and bees… are buzzing, at Summer’s Gold Honey.