Henrietta Boateng's earliest memories of honey weren’t that sweet. Nothing about the thick, dark liquid her grandmother coaxed her into drinking or applying on skin irritations and minor ailments, was appealing. She would rather have sugar or candy - not honey.
The relationship, however, seemed inevitable. When she was old enough, her father introduced her to bee farming; every school break, she and her siblings helped tend the farms.
“Growing up in a farming family, it was almost impossible not to get involved - I had no choice,” said Henrietta. “Eventually, I grew to accept honey as a part of my life, and I use it for pretty much everything.”
However, when Henrietta moved to school, away from the farms in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana where her home was, she realized it was difficult getting access to quality locally produced honey.
“Living in Brong-Ahafo, which some consider as Ghana’s bee-farming hub, I had as much local honey as I wanted; however, in Accra and Cape Coast, people seemed to generally purchase imported brands,” she said. “So whenever I had the chance to go back to the farms, I would bring some back with me so people could have a taste for good Ghanaian honey.”
In 2010, Henrietta got accepted into Ashesi, where she studied Business Administration. At Ashesi, she continued to share her love for local honey. Eventually, what began as friendly gestures for classmates, began to awaken Henrietta to the fact that there was strong business opportunity for local honey supply.
On graduating from Ashesi, she decided to explore bee farming, addressing the wide value chain of the industry, from breeding of the bees to turning the honey combs into wax for other household products and cosmetics. Two years later, bemyhoneygh was born.
“I started bemyhoneygh to supply quality and pure honey to the Ghanaian market,” Henrietta explained. “Soon, however, I realised that I could also produce a range of honey-based products. You don’t have to waste anything with bee keeping. After harvesting the honey, the honeycombs also can also give you a wide range of products people use everyday.”
In Ghana, apiculture is a slowly growing industry. While about 3000 farmers are registered to the Ghana Bee Farmer’s Association, only a handful operate on an industrial level or are able to exploit the entire value chain of the industry.
Currently, bemyhoneygh’s farm is spread along five acres, and produced nearly 80 litres of honey in its first year. The company also works with other bee farmers to help meet growing demand, with a strong focus on building a recognised local brand.
“Packaging in Ghana, especially for honey, leaves much to be desired,” she said. “Even when a Coca Cola bottle doesn’t have a label, it still is recognizable globally. So my goal is also to rebrand the look of commercial honey in Ghana.”
Looking back to her days at Ashesi, Henrietta credits her business ethic to some of the lessons she learnt in the classroom. “Our marketing class made a strong impression on me,” she explained. “Learning the importance of building a strong and trusted brand is the reason I am very particular about how my products are presented. Ashesi also taught me to seek opportunities. It could have been just producing honey, but now, I’m seeking ways to contribute to the entire bee and honey producing industry in Ghana. Ashesi teaches you to use the little resources you have to do more for yourself and others. I am trying to put that into practice.”