Meet Sue Rowe, one half of the founding pair that created the Honibe® brand and products. Together with her husband John, they founded the Honibe® brand that would grow to be one of the favourite health and wellness brands in Canada.
Honibe® (pronounced honey-bee) was started from a single product, the Honeydrop®, the world’s first solid honey products with no additives, ideal for sweetening hot drinks, or enjoying as a honey candy. Sue and John started the business in their basement – after many years of research and product development - they began selling their product online in 2007. They received 20,000 online orders with their initial launch. Since 2007 the product line has diversified, they have expanded their factory 4 times, and they have grown the team to over 100 employees.
The Honibe® brand has grown and grown, now residing in a purpose-built factory with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, still in PEI. It boasts a broad range of honey products that all start with honey as their number one ingredient.
Among these broad range of honey products are the Honey Lozenges™, which come in seven different flavors and help people fight winter colds and illnesses.
There are also a wide range of gummy vitamins and supplements, known as Gummie Bees®, which all have honey as their number one ingredient. With 15 different Gummie Bees® to chose from, there are gummies for kids and adults, gummies to help you sleep, boost your immunity, support your brain health and more! Sue was an avid athlete growing up and wanted to provide customers with tools to assist with, and help maintain, a healthy lifestyle.
Q&A with Susan Rowe:
Both John and I love honey because of its purity. It is 100% natural and it has amazing health benefits. Honey contains antioxidants and has antibacterial properties that can help protect you from illnesses, and it is the perfect starting point for our Honibe® product range. It is healthier than granulated sugar, and the huge bonus is that it tastes delicious too!
Was it an easy decision to decide to become an entrepreneur and build the Honibe® band?
It certainly was not in my plans! I had a very diverse background – I travelled to over 23 countries, I taught English abroad, I worked in Finance, HR, Sales, Marketing, and Office Management for a variety of different companies in various industries before making the move to run our own business. It was definitely a decision I didn’t take lightly. We trialled the market for Honibe® and the results showed that our products had potential - so I made the leap to stop working for others and put 110% focus on growing our own company.
Both John and I went all in to build and grow the Honibe® business. Growing a business is extremely hard work, requiring dedication, discipline, and resourcefulness. In the very beginning, we did all the work that needed to be done -- production, packaging, logistics, sales, accounting. We recruited friends and family to help us get things off the ground. As soon as the business began to achieve sales and start growing we were able to build a team to help us, and we settled into more traditional leadership roles. My strength was predominantly finance and managing operations.
What are you most proud of in your time leading the Honibe® brand?
We have had so many highs! We pitched our products to the Canadian Dragons’ Den, our products have won numerous awards including the prestigious Global Sial d’Or award which named us as the best new food product in the world in 2010. We met astronauts and our Honeydrop® even went to space! I’m also very proud of our products in general. We have managed to provide consumers with healthy vitamins that taste amazing. Being able to give back to the community and sponsor local performers, artists, and sports teams also makes me very proud.
A few of the more satisfying moments were when we were able to move our business out of our house/basement and into an actual factory. And when we started to implement automation, so we didn’t have to process or package by hand.
What was the biggest challenge in your experience as founder of Honibe®?
I won’t “honey coat it” being an entrepreneur and running a business is tough work! There are your day-to-day challenges which include finding opportunities, relying on customer forecasts, keeping up with opportunities, implementing automation and growth at the right time, building out our team at the right time, ensuring processes were in place for the next stage, finding the right partners to work with, and ensuring the company was secure financially. Then there are unforeseen challenges such as pandemics and recessions that are completely out of your control which affect business.
Advice for woman entrepreneurs?
Do your research before you make financial decisions. Don’t put all your investments/savings in one place, try to maintain some financial security. Surround yourself with people you trust who can advise you on things outside of your expertise which might include legal advice, financial advice, or finding specific industry experts. Be prepared for hard work, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, and when the opportunity presents itself – build your team! Find someone who understands your stress level so that you can talk it out when you need to. Work hard, but also make sure you play hard too!
If you can build a business out of something you are passionate about, then it won’t always feel like work. Even after all these years since founding the Honibe brand, both John and I still love honey!