In November 2012, Tommy Van Horn stepped down from his position as National Director of Fraternus to become a full-time beekeeper. He had spent many years after his 2007 graduation from Florida State University traveling across the country establishing new chapters for Fraternus, an organization he co-founded for mentors to Catholic boys of all ages. One of his Fraternus volunteers introduced him to beekeeping and Tommy immediately took to the concept and began practicing the craft.
With little agricultural experience to start with, Tommy was a novice trying to learn it all. All he knew was that he loved everything about beekeeping and wanted to keep doing it. He adds, “Now I do it because I love the job and the lifestyle. I find great joy in co-creating something with nature that is not only great tasting but has numerous health benefits.” Tommy says the perks of working with the “salt-of-the-earth” type of people, being outside and working alongside his wife and children are also rewarding.
In 2014, East Hill Honey sought the help of the Florida SBDC at UWF. Tommy created a business plan with Dorian Zwierewicz, a Business Growth Consultant. He notes, “The key (to success) that I’ve found is to make sure that your marketing motivates your production, and not the other way around. Using that tactic has motivated our company to always be working in the deficit side of demand versus supply instead of stockpiling product with no place to sell it. But as our company grows, so too must the arms of the operation that allow that expansion to meet that increasing demand.” He worked with Dorian on a loan application to extend financial help to expand East Hill’s apiary and invest in newer production equipment. East Hill also has future plans to buy new property with more acreage, a house and a warehouse to centralize their entire operation.
Tommy stated that the Florida SBDC at UWF helped him focus his objectives. He said, “Prior to our business planning with FSBDC, our vision and plan was often whimsical and changed from season to season. Since working with Dorian, I have found that razor sharp focus is a key ingredient to success at any business venture. You cannot “do it all” well, especially in small business. Dorian helped us write down our goals, and the steps to get there. This gave us the confidence to seek funding and grow the business. Receiving funding was easy because our plan was bullet proof and we had the numbers to back-up our goals. To date, we are now more efficient, and more profitable than we ever have been in the history of our company.”
To order East Hill’s sweet honey or try one of their other products, visit them at https://easthillhoney.com/.