Leading growth for start-up Bee Downtown

ABOUT: Bee Downtown, an early-stage startup based in Durham, North Carolina, installs and maintains beehives on businesses' roofs. The founder is a forth generation beekeeper passionate about educating the community about bees and reviving the honey bee population in urban environments. Inspired by the mission, I reached out to Bee Downtown in early 2016 and was given the opportunity to help the company grow through media, marketing and new business opportunities for the next 6 months. Since that time, Bee Downtown has announced its expansion into Atlanta, Georgia. The company was selected to participate in the Engage Venture Fund created by some of the most influential companies in the world, including Chick-Fil-A, The Home Depot, Cox Enterprises and Delta.

PROJECT TYPE: Marketing | Public Relations

ROLE: Growth Marketing Lead | Content Developer | Communications Designer

Research: Empathizing With the Bees

When I signed on with Bee Downtown, I was really excited to show North Carolina businesses how bees can benefit their community and create greater employee engagement around sustainability. In order to communicate these benefits clearly, I needed to learn more about the challenges bees face in urban environments and understand the experience of a modern day beekeeper. I signed up for a full-day beekeeping class at the San Francisco Honey & Pollen Co. to get a sweet taste of their world. I learned about the dynamics of a hive, the fascinating life of a queen, and the essential role bees play in global agriculture. I also got the chance to suit up and handle the hives first-hand. 


Gain Momentum: Telling the company's local growth story

Utilizing my experience as a public relations professional, I wrote Bee Downtown's first press release touting the installation of 19 new beehives across 8 businesses in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill). These installations would add more than 350,000 honey bees to the local community. I pitched the press release to local publications and as a result, Bee Downtown was interviewed by INDY Week, The Daily TarHeel and the local broadcast station WRAL. 


Communicate Value: Developing Marketing Collateral 

The vast majority of Bee Downtown's business to-date was achieved through friends, community relationships and word-of-mouth. When I came on board, I was challenged with helping the company strengthen its value proposition and reach businesses outside of their current network. In addition, Bee Downtown was looking for more compelling collateral to offer current customers in order to re-sign them for another year. As part of this quest, I developed the infographic "Why Corporate Social Responsibility is Essential for the Future of Business", to support the argument for local businesses to install beehives as part of their CSR program. Through my research for this infographic, I learned that sustainably-driven brands have an easier time attracting top talent and grew at a greater pace than companies that did not integrate sustainability into their business practices. This showed that bees not only benefitted the community but also the businesses bottom line. 


Show Impact: Designed Hive Updates 

Once a hive was installed on a business' roof, Bee Downtown beekeepers serviced the hive every two weeks to ensure it was healthy. Bee Downtown's goal was to not only help businesses contribute to healthier communities, but to also educate them and their employees about bees. When I came on board, Justin, the beekeeper, was writing newsletter-style updates and sending them to customers each month. I noticed that they were text-heavy, long and the impacts of the business' hive were buried. To encourage sharing among executives and employees, I created a visually-oriented Hive Update that kept the businesses up-to-date on the health and impact of their hives. 

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Create Newsletter: Engaging Supporters

One thing was apparent: people in North Carolina were really interested in bees! Once people learned about Bee Downtown's mission, they were eager to stay in touch and be apart of the community. To better engage these people, I developed a simple e-newsletter template on Mailchimp and created suggested content, including new customers, local events, educational bee facts and an instagram photo highlight.   


Growth: Pitching Investors

I supported Bee Downtown founder at the VERGECon Conference in Santa Clara, California where we set up a booth and were invited to pitch a social impact investment panel. I also aided in the creation of our pitch deck where we were seeking seed funding of $100k.