Duhajé Jennings makes a beeline for the beehiveTuesday, September 27, 2016
BY JAVENE SKYERS Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Some people run away at the mere sight of a bee. But Duhajé Jennings, on the other hand, ran straight towards the beehive.
The 28-year-old entrepreneur, who has a passion for apiculture, started his beekeeping business with just five boxes of bees and now boasts close to 300 boxes of the flying insects.
Jennings, who is the founder of the Dada B’s line of products, completed his first degree in molecular biology and botany and said that his inspiration for bee-keeping came from his grandfather.
“So I started in my second year of UWI (University of the West Indies), and it has a little story behind it,” he said. “My grandfather was a beekeeper – really small scale. Some people used to call him Mr Bee and we as grandkids would call him Dada, so that’s how Dada B’s came about. The whole brand is centred around him, his principles as well. He was honest and always tried to ensure quality.”
Jennings stated that his background in the sciences also afforded him a certain appreciation for apiculture and helped to boost him into the industry.
The bee farmer, who produces different varieties of honey, bottled bee pollen, among other offerings, shared that “honey is the cheapest thing you can get from the hive”.
“So I sell equipment, I sell bees as well. The least profitable thing is from honey, and you can tell that people [are] making money from honey, so you can imagine the other products. A couple years ago, there was the craze about honey and cinnamon… when combined. What they can do is like lower cholesterol, so persons would come and buy honey and then go and buy cinnamon,” Jennings stated.
“What I realised [was] that, even in the stores, there are different types and varieties, but the true cinnamon with the properties, we don’t really stock it as much as we think. I realised that people want honey and people want cinnamon, so why not just combine it so they don’t have to go hunting for one or the other,” he argued.
The bee-keeper said that, while there’s space on the market to sell honey in bulk, he doesn’t need to, as he already has a market. And even though he is currently operating out of a small one-bedroom house, plans are in place for expansion.
Currently, the St James native has two full-time employees, and explained that most of his honey goes to middlemen who, in turn, sell it to hotels. He added that he tried supplying supermarkets, but it didn’t work out as well as he liked.
The former mathematics, physics and integrated science teacher at Mount Alvernia High School in Montego Bay stated that he doesn’t regret leaving the teaching profession to pursue a full-time career in apiculture.
“As a teacher, I was getting a 100 and odd thousand [dollars] per month fixed. I had extra classes and I walked away from that totally, so I am getting more than that, and now I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. I’m free to experiment, make mistakes; I’m passionate about it,“ he said.
“Even if I were to multiply my production by 10, I still wouldn’t have enough to supply even St James alone. We can’t even think of export because we can’t fill the local demand yet,” he stated.
Jennings has, however, found himself back inside the classroom, but this time at HEART as a part-time lecturer in the institution’s apiculture programme.
Jennings, who completed his master’s degree in business administration at the University of Technology, Jamaica, stated that he doesn’t know of any other business with the potential that apiculture offers, especially for a young entrepreneur.
“The bees go out, they carry in nectar, convert it to pollen, they don’t need a lot of lawn. If I was converting this to cows and wanted a thousand cows, I would have [a] couple thousand acres of land. A small room can hold 50 hives easily, so to start up is not so bad. Sometimes I go in and I go to the back of my house and I hear them humming and I’m like, ‘Wow, hear mi likkle factory’, and mi just smile,” he said.
Jennings, who was the 2015 Rural Agricultural Development Authority Young Champion Farmer of the Year for St James, explained that in order to be a successful bee farmer, one has to master the learning curve. He added that, as a result, he has made it his duty to assist people who are new to the field. So far this year he has helped 27 individuals.
“What I would love, five years from now… I want a stronger brand, because I have the products, I have the presence out there. I also want to do other products that tie in with honey — coconut oil, coconut water and spring water — so I want to keep it diverse, but still kinda related, and eventually grow from there,” he said.