2013 NC Small Business Persons of the Year

Stephen T. Forrest
Sandra F. Forrest
Shane R. Gebauer
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Moravian Falls NC

SBA-sponsored counseling helps North Carolina Bee Farm generate more “Buzz”

In the pristine mountains in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Steve and Sandy Forrest turned a passion into a business - Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.

The company has grown from a two person operation in 1977 to over 70 employees today. They currently carry an inventory of over 1,000 supply items for the beekeeping enthusiast.   Hives, tools, medications, jars, and protective clothing are just a few of their many products.  From its operational sites in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm distributes products to both national and international markets.  Sales for 2013 are projected to be 81% higher than 2007 figures.   A new production facility opened in North Wilkesboro in 2013.   Brushy Mountain has taken advantage of SBA-sponsored counseling which contributed to some of the bee farm’s “buzz.”

Over the past two and half years, North Carolina’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) has supported the efforts of Steve, Sandy and general manager Shane Gebauer.   This relationship has produced extraordinary results.  Sales, margins, productivity and employment numbers have all improved since collaborating with the SBTDC.  Steve needed help with a specific problem: assistance in evaluating the warehousing systems needed to reduce the time from order to delivery.  SBTDC’s support has since expanded to financial analysis, strategic organization analysis, tactical and strategic planning, import/export training, and web analysis.  The business model jointly developed and now in place has strengthened Brush Mountain Bee Farm’s confidence and financial resources.

Brushy Mountain Bee Farm has also turned to state agencies for technical and financial guidance.  Recently they reached out to NC State School of Textiles for aid in developing a better beekeeper’s suit.  The School of Textiles provided them with a non-woven fabric solution. Not only does the solution provide performance and cost benefits, it will allow Brush Mountain Bee Farm to modify their supply chain.  They will now be able to source both fabric and fabrication in the State of North Carolina instead of overseas.  Through training and planning, the company is positioned to grown its international base. 

Using other partners such as the NC Department of Labor, EPA, and the NC Industrial Extension have helped them be better employers, provide a safer work environment, plan for the future, increase profits and hire more people.  Sales have doubled since adding general manager Shane in 2007.  They’ve increased their web presence and opened a branch in Pennsylvania in 2009.  All this assistance and effort has led to the expansion to a new 31,000 facility to house future growth, new product development and hiring more employees.