Aja Horsley began Drizzle Honey Company in 2015. Founded out of a love for the environment, sustainability and bees, Horsley decided to open her company after realizing that of honey sold commercially in grocery stores was not local.
It all started after getting her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Lethbridge. Horsley began doing research at SAIT in 2013, where one of the projects that inspired Horsley was examining rooftop beehives. This project integrated beekeeping and the importance of pollination into the culinary school’s curriculum. She was able to study the hives while students learned about the ‘farm to fork’ concept and how using fresh honey in their recipes affects their cooking and baking.
At the same time, Horsley noticed that much of the honey sold in Canada is imported from other countries. Since this honey is purchased from sources that use cheap labour, it can be sold for less, making business more difficult for Canadian beekeepers some of whom are threatened by bankruptcy.
It was this realization that sparked Horesly’s interest in supporting local producers, helping her to decide to start her own company while pursuing her passion.
“I think that people are caring more about where their food is coming from and with the current economy, they are looking to support everyone within Calgary,” Horsley says. “I think maybe it’s a subconscious thing for people, knowing that it would be difficult to start a small business in this time, everyone has been really supportive.”
While Horsley harvested all the honey herself during the beginning stages of Drizzle, she was soon outsourcing honey production to other farmers. She felt that she could be working with and supporting others in the Calgary area.
However, from beekeeping to drying, harvesting, and selling, the labour intensive work was too much to handle alone when demand increased. This was partly because the boxes on hives are heavy and can weigh up to 45 kg, depending on how much honey is inside. Doing this alone on a daily basis on top of harvesting the honey was a huge process.
Today, the local beekeepers she works with are from a honey farm in Northern Alberta, but she couldn’t give up beekeeping completely. In her spare time, she still cares for her own backyard bee farms.
Since sending her production up north, Horsley’s company has continued to thrive despite the current economic climate. It can be difficult to start a company in the middle of a recession, but Horsley finds it a blessing in disguise.
Ultimately, having an environmental science background led Horsley to think about the sustainability of her business. In order to make her business as sustainable as possible, she uses recyclable glass jars and fully recyclable packaging. She also tries to do small things like keeping the lights off when possible and avoiding printing more than necessary. Even her shipping material is reused when possible.
While it is the honey and the culinary aspect of things that she truly loves, her passion for bees is manifest.
“They’re such a smart insect and they’re cute,” Horsley laughs, “they’re so fuzzy!”
Horsley spoke about how intelligent the insect is. Horlsey says every bee has a job and understands what it is, whether that be gathering nectar, cleaning out cells for the queen to lay eggs in, teaching the baby bees to fly, or communicating with the bee dance, there is no shortage of amazing work within the hive.
What is even more fascinating is that the average worker bee only produces a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. This means that in order to get a single jar of honey, it takes hundreds of bees’ lives. Because of the amount of work that bees put into producing honey, Horsley strongly believes that it is a delicacy that should be shared. She’s proud she took risks to bring local honey to Albertans.
“I feel really good about what I’m doing,” Horsley says.
“People need to be not afraid to take a plunge to do something they feel passionate about because everything will just fall into place around them.”
Horsley primarily sells her honey online at drizzlehoney.com and through little markets and pop up shops. She will be attending holiday markets this year across Alberta such as the Banff Christmas Market, and Little Modern Market (Holiday Edition) in Calgary. For a full list of upcoming markets and events, visit @drizzlehoneyproducts on Facebook.
- By Robyn Welsh