celebrating women series : ann

Introducing … Ann Ross

Name :                                         Ann Ross

Role :                                            Founder and Managing Director, Hive Haven

Hive Haven specialises in producing award winning products from both Australian stingless bees and European honey bees. Since its establishment in 2011, Hive Haven has gone from strength to strength. Ann has been recognised as being in the ‘Top 50 Australian Business Leaders of 2018’ by the Australian Small Business Magazine. The company has won several awards since inception including a Queensland Regional Award for ‘Trade & Career’ and a Sunshine Coast Business Award for ‘Smart Product & Service’.

Brief role description : 

I’m a bee keeper who specialises in the farming of the Australian stingless bee.  I’m responsible for the day to day operations of the company and everything in between. Like all start-ups, I’ve had to learn lots of new skills including governance, marketing, project management and sales. I do enjoy getting out in the ‘paddock’ with the bees. They remind me ‘why’ I do what I do.

What is it about your role you enjoy?

I enjoy the variety. Every day is different. I’m creating my own destiny and hopefully doing some good along the way. I enjoy the social enterprise aspect of the company.  I love the impact stingless native bees have on an office block of workers, a school or retirement village. The people start interacting with bees. This creates a positive reaction. People start talking about the bees; they plant flowers for the bees. They think they are helping the bees but they actually improve their own environment along the way.

How did you get into your trade/industry/role?  What did you study or how did you learn your skills? :

Jeff & I never intended to become bee keepers. A few years back a colony of European honey bees landed in the wall of our mechanical workshop at Beerburrum. People told us to poison the bees but we couldn’t do that, so instead we put the bees in a box, put the box in the backyard .. from that day on we became urban beekeepers.  While this was all happening, I was studying a Bachelor of Business (accounting) at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I started hearing about the antibacterial properties of stingless native honey. Research indicates it’s equal if not better, than Manuka honey.  I saw a ‘window of opportunity’ and invested in a few stingless native bee hives. It was not long before I realised I could harvest native honey on a commercial scale, but I’d have to manufacture a native bee box that would keep bees alive in our increasing heatwaves.

Have you won any awards or have you earned any specific recognition or been involved in something “out of the box”? :

I’ve had the opportunity to do some really fun things through Hive Haven! The latest ‘out of the box’ project was installing a hive of stingless bees at Australian Parliament House. The Hive Haven V9 stingless hive was chosen because of its technology and innovation. This kind of recognition makes all those long and often dark hours of research and development worthwhile. This is the first time Australian Parliament House has homed a hive of stingless bees. Knowing the bees are buzzing around the beautiful gardens is hard to describe. My goal was to raise the profile of the agri-sector and highlight the importance of new and innovative agri-business opportunities for Australia. The hive is temp tested daily to ensure the bees are kept comfortable and happy. It’s a great feeling to know ‘I have a hive at the capital’.  This experience was extremely humbling. I still get emotional every time I think about it. It certainly is ‘one for the bucket list’.

What advice would you give to other women wanting a role similar to yours, a woman wanting to get into your industry or a woman wanting to start her own business :

A woman wanting to get into my industry (stingless native bee farming) :  I’d say go for it! There are so many aspects of the apiarist industry waiting to be explored.  Keep looking until you find what’s right for you. I love the fact I can load up my ute with stingless bee hives without having to rely on anyone to help me with heavy lifting. I harvest small quantities of native honey that I sell commercially. In my opinion Australian stingless bee farming is moving from a ‘cottage’ to a ‘commercial’ industry. Native bees are the future of pollination here in Australia and our future depends on them. Women have a very important role to play in this process.

A woman wanting to start her own business : The advice I’d give is to educate yourself as best possible and then ‘go out and do it’. Learn from your mistakes and be open to advice. I completed a Bachelor of Business in 2015. What I learnt has helped enormously and saved me thousands of dollars in services and tasks I would have had to pay someone to do. Networking is equally as important. Social capital is gold. Never underestimate the value ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.  When you’re starting out it’s important to have two teams of people to support you. The first team are called the ‘dream team’ they are a group of people who will support you no matter what. These are the people who tell you that one day you will be hugely successful. On the other team you need skilled mentors. These are the people who offer guidance and advice. At the end of the day, you have to have a ‘why’.

Do you have a favourite saying or quote?

I will steal one from the former Qld Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby .. ‘innovation is not all about tech’.

Tell us a funny story about your role or an amusing experience you’ve had.

I took an empty stingless hive to Brisbane on the train for a presentation. I wore the Hive Haven branded shirt. On the way home I managed to sell the box to a fellow passenger.  He had looked at our website the previous night!!!

Any feedback or comments about your she wear boots.

I love my ‘she wear’ boots. This is the first pair I’ve owned.  Over the years I’ve worn lots of work boots and these are the most comfortable and durable by far.  I wear them in the mechanical workshop and when working the bees. When I put them on I sometimes think of Dorothy (wizard of oz) and her red shoes.  The other day I had to shift a square of concrete 25 metres .. I balanced it on the steel cap. Worked like a breeze! I’m proud to wear ‘she wear’ boots!

Any other comments you’d like to share.

Going forward, I’m keen to adopt SMART farming practises that will improve efficiency and scale the business whilst remaining respectful of these amazing little creatures.

To find out more about Hive Haven, check out ..

https://www.facebook.com/HiveHavenCo

https://www.instagram.com/hivehaven/

https://twitter.com/HiveHaven

I first had the opportunity to meet Ann in 2017 when we were both Ambassadors for Qld Small Business Week.  Ann is a fabulous example of a local business doing amazing things in the eco and sustainable industries and I have loved watching her grow Hive Haven to include the production of her own branded hives to showcasing internationally. Go Ann! ~ Stacey

Leave a Reply