This is a talk we gave at the 2015 Heartland Apiculture Society Conference at Albion College, MI. The goal was to provide attendees with some practical advice on how to sell the honey their bees produce online.
Jonathan R. Engelsma, Ph.D.
Why Sell Honey Online?
Alternative Ways to Sell Honey Online
Photographing Your Products
Promoting your online store.
We are a family of nine from Nunica, MI
Jonathan and Mieke both grew up on farms.
Jonathan works as a prof in GVSU’s School of Computing and starting keeping
bees in 1984.
Mieke markets our honey crops at farmers markets, expos, home sales, online, etc
Family runs a sideline bee operation:
run 40-60 colonies mainly for honey production
retail the annual honey crop
sell nucs when available.
Why Sell Honey Online?
Expand the reach of your
market at low cost.
Less time consuming than
farmers markets, physical
Target niche market
Customer convenience (even
craigslist, eBay, Etsy.
Platforms: Shopify, Yahoo,
Roll your own custom
Examples: craigslist.org, Etsy, eBay
easy to setup
leverage large existing user base
Loss of brand visibility - e.g., consumers are going to etsy.com,
Fees often based on transaction volumes/amounts
Lack of portability, customization
Equivalent to an old fashioned local
Free and super simple to setup.
Very popular platform
transaction consummated out-of-band
scammers and weirdos
Popular eCommerce site for selling
handmade and vintage goods
most sellers/buyers seem to be
female… niche opportunity.
Advantages: easy to use, integrates
with PayPal account.
Disadvantages: lots of nickel/dime
fees that add up fast. Breeding
ground for “idea stealing”
Examples: Shopify, BigCommerce
Easy to setup.
Hosted on your own domain (promote your brand)
Fees are generally less onerous
Not as conﬁgurable as a fully custom site.
“Roll your own”
You have complete control, e.g. most ﬂexible, move site
between cloud providers, etc.
Hosted on your own domain - extend your brand identity.
Requires more technical expertise to establish
Main website: hudsonvillehoney.com
Use Craigslist to promote local sales.
Use Etsy for niche marketing (wedding favors,
holidays, etc): https://www.etsy.com/shop/
Running Wordpress for content management
Uses WP eCommerce plugin for store front.
Integrates with USPS shipping calculator API to
compute shipping charges based on weight/
Integrates with PayPal for credit card payments.
High quality photos of your products is an important
component of your online store.
Hire a professional.
Befriend or marry a photographer.
Do it yourself.
DIY Product Images
Stuff you will need:
DSLR Camera & Tripod
Light diffusing box/tent
Select a shipping method that
is effective for yourself as well
as your customer
Conveniently located drop
offs or ability to schedule
Ability to integrate with your
Rates will vary with package
You will need to weight /
estimate shipping charges in
Use a postal Scale
with shipping providers
(USPS, Fedex, UPS) to
give accurate estimates.
We use USPS most
frequently as rates are
competitive and post
ofﬁce is nearby.
Added convenience &
savings if buy postage
online and print
integrates with most
Make sure those lids
are on tight!
Include a packing slip
with a reference #.
Pack for worst case
You can ship glass but
make sure you pack
Consumers expect to be able to track their order, so
email them a tracking number when it ships.
Set expectations in your product description: e.g.,
“Product ships within 1-3 business days”
Always give the customer the beneﬁt of the doubt
when something goes wrong.
Promoting your online
Social media is not an
are very persuasive!
Double edged sword -
learn how it works and
use it right!
Social Media Integration
integration is a
great way to
drive trafﬁc to
Very good way to drive repeat
Don’t be spammy or people
will sign off.
Make sure your newsletters
are informative and not just
Jonathan Engelsma’s Contact Info:
Like us! /hudsonvillehoney
Slides available on