Name: Molly Conley
Company: Miss Molly's Honey
Tell Me About You. I moved to New York City in 2005 from a small town in southwest Iowa called Aliba to pursue my dream of becoming a graphic designer. After a couple of years, I got married and since my husband worked out west in New Jersey, Jersey City was the perfect middle ground for us. This is our ninth year here.
What inspired you to start beekeeping? I was working for several years at an advertising agency and wanted to take some time off to volunteer overseas. I wanted to learn a different skill set and was really interested in biodynamic agriculture. I happened to take a beekeeping class in New York City and completely fell in love with it. After, I went to Finland for a summer to intern on an organic bee farm. I got a lot of hands on experience there so when I returned to the states, I started to keep my own bees.
Do you keep bees in Jersey City? Yes, I do. I have bees at a community garden in the Bergen Lafayette area of Jersey City and I am expanding to another location this spring. I have a couple of other locations as well — one in Hoboken on rooftop of a restaurant and another on the rooftop of a historic church in the west village of New York City.
Wouldn’t it be easier to keep your bees in one location? Yes, I’ve been thinking about consolidating. One of the hardest parts about being an urban beekeeper is finding a location. However, I’m interested in urban honey from different locations. I love that I can produce New York City honey and Jersey City honey. Jersey City is where my business is based and I’m really going to be focusing here in this coming season. It’s been a lot of fun but it takes a lot of time so consolidation is a good strategy. I’m working out the details.
What inspired you to start Miss Molly’s Honey? I decided to start selling my honey last year because my love of working with bees was causing me to want to keep more bees and develop more apiaries. Then I realized that I was just going to have a lot of honey. I had no idea what kind of response I would get. I asked myself if I would want to do this even if no one buys my honey and the answer was yes. The response has been positive. I’ve been really pleased. I feel like Jersey City is a great place for entrepreneurs. The community has been so supportive. They really appreciate small businesses. In this last year, I have connected with more people and I felt part of the community in a way that I hadn’t before. It’s a great place to be.
Why did you choose this particular bottle? What inspired your label design? Since I am a small producer, I market my honey as small batch honey. I really like these jars because they have an artisanal quality to them. They have a cork on the top and that’s something that mass honey producers are not going to mess with. There are challenges to this, it’s not a perfect solution and requires more work. However, I feel like it communicates that I am a smaller beekeeper. Its also a really beautiful, vintage jar from the 1800s that is still being produced. I am a huge fan of vintage everything which also inspired my label design.
Tell me about your plans for the future. I’m exploring all of my options. I will most likely continue selling at farmer’s markets. I love how they enable me to connect with local people and talk to them and answer their questions. That’s really enjoyable. I am exploring retail but it depends on how much honey I produce. We’ll see where we go.
Is there a chance that you will collaborate with other food makers? I have had some collaborations. In Jersey City, Taproot Organics has used my honey in one of their soaps and Uncle Bud Sauces has used Miss Molly’s Honey in their honey barbecue sauce. I also had an interesting collaboration with a company called Rooftop Salt, a sea salt producer based in NYC. I always had this idea to make a sea salt infused honey. My fall variety of honey naturally has a carmely, cinammony taste and I thought the sea salt would complement it. I have a creative personality and I like finding ways to make my honey more interesting and new culinary uses for honey. I’m open to more collaboration.
How do you keep up with trends? Does beekeeping technology change? The art of beekeeping has been around since the ancient Egyptians. There is a definite need to keep abreast of what’s going on in the beekeeping world. There are some changes in technology but more so sadly it's about changes in the environment — new pests, diseases and pesticides that are killing bees. It's a whole new world for beekeepers. A generation ago they didn’t have many of the problems that we have today. We have a daunting task to keep our bees healthy. Because of the globalization of the world, we are bringing in diseases from other countries. Parasites are feeding on bees, weakening them and passing on diseases that we don’t even understand yet. There is a constant need to keep researching.
I am also an organizing volunteer and beekeeping mentor with the New York Beekeepers Association. Its great way to share ideas and meet and collaborate with other beekeepers. We host speakers each month including leading scientists from around the country. Last November, we hosted Tom Seely, one of the world’s most respected bee scientists and author the Honeybee Democracy.
Is there any advice that you would give to someone that is just starting their business? I don’t know if I am the best person to give business advice but I do know that I’m doing what’s interesting to me. I love it and I’m doing it even if it fails miserably. I feel I am honestly doing something that I’m so passionate about that I hope that it's enough of an indication that I am on the right path. Of course you have to make money, you have to support yourself. But if you are really truly passionate about what you are doing, you will make it work.
For more information on Miss Molly's Honey and to find out her farmers market schedule, visit missmollyshoney.com.