COUNTLESS HOBBYISTS HAVE WHILED AWAY AFTERNOONS doing things they love while wondering if their passion could ever turn into a bonified career. As a culinary school graduate of Johnson & Wales—Miami, Adam Hickman had earned the enviable position of cooking and working with food for a good part of his career, developing recipes for Cooking Light and Food & Wine. But after he got his first beehive in 2012, his afternoons and weekends were spent beekeeping. A few years later, he began to work on monetizing the hobby, first selling honey and then becoming a trusted local resource for beekeeping and related equipment. As the bee business began humming, Adam found himself burning the (beeswax) candle at both ends as he tried to balance his daytime career with his honey venture. Enter one global pandemic and a forced work-from- home status, and Fox Hound Bee Company became Adam’s full-time gig.
“If you had asked me a couple years ago where my business would be, I would have never thought I’d be right in the middle of downtown. My downtown bees actually do better than any of the bees that I have in more agricultural areas around Birmingham.”
Fox Hound Bee Company offers more than just honey—what else do you do?
We take care of our bees, we take care of other people’s bees, and we get honey production from those as well. We also teach beekeepers and supply them with equipment. I have hives all over town, but this is where we can sell to the public and meet with people to talk bees.
It sounds like the pandemic was a boon to your business.
It definitely was. When I first started Fox Hound years ago, I did so with a blog where we just answered questions for beekeepers to help them learn the skills. During the pandemic, I had more time at home to grow the business. Beekeeping was one of those hobbies that a lot of people took up at that time while they were kind of stuck at home. I was already a resource for beekeepers, so it grew from there.
Talk about that growth. As a small- batch entrepreneur, how do handle it?
This may sound strange, but I actually did my best to slow the growth as much as possible. I am a firm believer in too much growth too quickly leads to a lot of mistakes and possibly failure. I didn’t want to expand too fast and make big mistakes with big costs. People think that as a small business, you just sell this product and that’s it. But you also have to be an accountant. You have to be a marketing person. You have to be a logistics manager and offer customer support. You’ve got to be a web designer. There are all these things that you end up having to do that you didn’t really anticipate needing to do.
The best use of the honey is to eat it raw just like the bees made it. Of course, it is pretty great on waffles and biscuits too.
Talk sweet to us. Tell us more.
We actually sell some of the honey by zip code, and customers love that. It might sound crazy but you can look at a jar of honey from Bessemer and it looks different than one from Avondale or Hoover hives. A lot of customers use the honey to combat allergies, so knowing the location of the honey is a real plus. We also make a bourbon honey by filling spent bourbon barrels, still wet with whiskey, with honey and letting it take on the flavors of the charred oak and bourbon. Every bottle comes with a piece of the barrel added. Customer love that. The same goes with our Korean chili hot honey; you can see the chili flakes in the jar.
Working downtown & sticking together.
After years of working out of my home garage, I finally have a brick-and-mortar warehouse and retail location at Hardware Park in downtown Birmingham. The entrepreneurial world is a little bit lonely sometimes, so it’s nice to work alongside all these other entrepreneurs. We’re all going through the same kinds of successes and failures together, and we can kind of relate to each other.
When you start cooking and applying heat to honey (anything over 105°), it diminishes a lot of the properties that make honey nuanced and special. So I really like to treat our honey as I would finishing salts, basically drizzling it over things.