BY TERESA HAMMOND
Some might say it just takes a little passion and a lot of drive to run a successful business. Two qualities Ryan Howard, along with his wife Daniella, have channeled to create success with Sunrise Feed and Supply.
Now entering its fourth year of business, the bee supply and service company has found its niche and is benefitting farmers and beekeepers as well as the hobbyists in the Central Valley area.
Howard, however, did not grow up with an ag background or a prior love for beekeeping or the bee business before starting the Ackley Circle business location in Oakdale.
Simple conversation with travelers in the business while visiting his wife as she worked the bar at the local Ryderz restaurant is where the couple’s business story begins.
“I was looking for something I could start on my own,” Howard said. “Talking to some of the guys I decided to start selling corn syrup, which is a bee feed.”
A simple purchase of a tank to hold the syrup and securing a space was all that was needed in the early start-up of the business. Education by way of everything bees, from feeding, to hive creation, to pollination was something Howard learned from the tradesmen themselves.
“Those same guys would take me out in their yards to work with them,” Howard said of the migratory beekeepers. “I fell in love with it right away, within the year I started my business. After I opened the business, I started really getting into a lot of commercial stuff with one of my mentors (Chuck Arnold). He taught me some stuff here in town.”
According to Howard, the migrant beekeepers shared the benefits of having a local feed and supply to meet their needs while pollinating area orchards, beginning with the corn syrup.
“Now I get tanker loads, fill the tank up and sell to beekeepers, as well as (selling) dry patties,” he said, noting his clientele as commercial beekeepers as well as the hobbyist backyard beekeeper.
“It’s been growing every year,” Howard said of the hobbyist portion of the business. “They’re into making the honey; they’re really into the bees. Some just want to save their own bees.”
Howard shared his busy months tend to be from January to March, with business slowly starting up in October as brokers begin bringing their bees and boxes into the area.
“They’re bringing them out here because there’s snow in their land,” he explained of the brokers traveling from areas such as Montana, Michigan, Nebraska and Texas experiencing colder climates.
Once the bees are delivered the brokers travel back and forth until blossom begins around early February.
“Once that’s happening, we’ve got a few short weeks,” he said of blossom. “This year we had a lot of rain, so there wasn’t a lot of flight hours but they got it all pollinated pretty much.”
When not busy working with the big outfits of the bee business, Howard enjoys helping out and supplying the hobbyist with their needs.
“They all have a lot of questions and that’s what I’m here for,” he shared, “to help all my customers out with anything they have. I mentor them throughout the year, as much as I can.”
The small business and its unique clientele are solely served by Howard and his wife, who was recently able to quit her “day job” to help with the company. Her primary responsibility is running the storefront, as well as the office so her husband can work out in the field.
“I like the customer service side,” Howard said. “I like helping someone out that walks in and says I want to learn about bees. I want some bees for my backyard. What can you tell me? And I can help them out from A to Z.”
For additional information on Sunrise Feed Company, call 209-627-8114.