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'We Can Lift As We Climb': Akron Honey Expands Business and Community Engagement | News

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You don’t need a big space to make a big impact in your community. That is the spirit of Akron Honey. A small business that started in 2013 in a vacant lot producing honey in the city. Last month they made a big investment in their hometown.

“There are hibiscus flowers in the filter bag and we just soak them in water,” said Brent Wesley, standing over a large container of honey.

Brent is the founder and owner of Akron Honey, but everyone calls him Wesley the Keeper. He moved a filter bag inside a large container of honey with a giant potato masher, and the sweet scent of honey filled the room.

“The way we make flavor is the integrity and quality of how we make flavor,” says Wesley. Combining two different things creates a flavor. ”

Akron Honey has opened its first production room in Highland Square. It’s across the street from the original apiary and small farm where Wesley keeps his bees, and it’s also down the street from where he and his family live.

“But our old space was all over the place, like really tiny. And we made it work…of that. Here and Whole Foods in Louisville, Kentucky, Mustard Seeds, all tiny From space. You don’t need a lot of space.”

Wesley was featured in 2016 on the show Cleveland Hustle, which is a local version of the popular show Shark Tank. He was offered a large investment to open a store in his Gordon Square, but he declined the money.

“We feel that Akron is the city that made us famous,” Wesley said.

Six years later, Wesley has no regrets about his choice. And he’s still looking for ways to build his community while expanding his brand.

“We are here,” said Wesley. “We are the Acronites”

Wesley believes that community roots are one of the reasons why the business is so successful. He focuses most of his decision-making on his consumers, whom he calls “Honey Labs.”

“They were like, ‘Hey, you’re Akron Honey! And they’re like, ‘I love that bourbon barrel! We’re like, ‘Thank you! Thank you! What do you want more from Social? What more do you want?”

Wesley went all-in on Akron Honey last year. His mindset was not to worry about the challenges caused by the pandemic.

“We started with one vacant lot, but we don’t need many vacant lots to make a big impact on the community.”

“If our sales aren’t what I think, it’s not because of the pandemic,” Wesley said. we need to do something different. ”

Surprisingly, even during the pandemic, going into the business full-time led to the biggest growth. Last year, Akron Honey made him 10 times more than he made in his biggest year when Wesley was part-time.

“I didn’t realize it exploded when I went full-time,” Wesley said. It really was. ”

The new production room is what Wesley calls the first phase of brand expansion. Phase 2 branches into the food space.

“My desired outcome with this space is to solidify local brands, foods here, coordinate it more closely, and put out some foods.

And that also applies to the companies Akron Honey partners with. For example, Wesley said he doesn’t aim to have his products on Walmart shelves.

“It’s part of the strategy, associated and aligned with a really good dining experience. It’s not just ‘here are some recipes’, it’s the dining experience. What’s your feeling when you see Akron Honey? ?” Wesley said. “We have control when we are face to face, but our food partners have to have a great experience, and that is what we look for when we consider partnering with food brands. ”

The new production space is so close that Wesley can harvest honey from the apiary and walk a few feet to produce it. rice field.

“It’s important for people to do little things like that,” Wesley said. “That’s the experience. It’s something that can’t be duplicated to lean into it.”

At the apiary gate, Wesley pointed to the border of the tree where the bees entered and exited the hive.

“As you can see, cars are driving down the street, and trucks are approaching. People are going from the road to where they need to go,” Wesley said. “Look up, that’s the bee path. Can you see the bees coming? Do they come and go? That’s the bee highway.”

Micro farms, apiaries, production spaces, and culinary combinations are all part of the unique experiences Wesley seeks to curate in Akron, he says, not available anywhere else in the country.

“What I’m trying to say is we can build a multi-million dollar brand out of here and rise as we rise.

Wesley envisions his space in Highland Square not just as a hub for dining experiences, but as a way to elevate the community through education and engagement.

He feels responsible not only for educating children about food and nutrition, but also for being role models for black children in the community.

“Considering today, it’s important for kids to see other people doing great things like them, not just to be like that, but to be able to shoot their own shots.” to make it work,” said Wesley. Not knowing there is a blow to strike, you will not strike it. ”

For years, Wesley has partnered with local schools to talk kids about honey.

“It’s kind of our responsibility to show them that and share it,” Wesley said.

Wesley also hopes to use his role in the community to bridge racial gaps and tell black stories, especially to his predominantly white customer base.

“When I share my experiences, they love us and they love me, so they’re more receptive to it.”Most of our stories aren’t told to white people. It is told to other black people.I see many white people shudder when we talk about things that concern ourselves.They often say “you.” “No, I’m just talking about my experience.”

With a little space, Wesley the Keeper dreams big.

“We started with one vacant lot, but we don’t need many vacant lots to make a big impact on the community,” says Wesley.

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