It was in 2012 that Shaun Gell started noticing a lot of publicity about the decline of Jersey Bees. Fast forward 8 years and his products, made with Jersey Honey are winning awards. Here he gives us a snapshot of start of the story.
I was sitting at home reading the news when, yet again, there was another piece about the loss of our bees. I said to my wife and daughter, “It seems like they are crying out for help, but is anyone listening?” My daughter Hannah looked up and said “we should try and help”. This sounds easy but if the experts are struggling, what can I bring to the table that would be of any good? I’m no expert, what do I know about bees. But then I thought about my daughter’s future and, if I sit back and do nothing, what does that say about me? Maybe I might see something that others too close to the problem couldn’t. And so the story started.
My first thought was to talk to the experts, namely The Jersey BeeKeepers Association. They were very kind in supplying me with information about Jersey Honey, and to my surprise Jersey Honey is seen as some of the finest honey you can buy. I thought “really? I mean aren’t all honeys the same?” The answer is clearly not. I needed scientific proof. I got in contact with an independent lab who conducted tests and found that Jersey Honey has seven times more Potassium than four leading brands, with 17% Anti Microbial properties and with Jersey honey leading on all minerals.
So the idea grew that maybe we could take some Jersey honey and infuse it with a shampoo. Talking with the labs in the UK we agreed to make a test run and see how this would work. My thoughts on this product were based on common sense.
15 Months later and we still had nothing I could use, I mean nothing, not even close. One of the directors called me and asked what was happening and I said “forget it, this just isn’t working”. It wasn’t until 18 months later that I had a product I could be proud to promote. So it was back to the Jersey Beekeepers Association to see what they thought. The feedback was very positive.
If Bees are a good indicator to the quality of our environment, when they start dying something is wrong and we need to listen. On a global scale bees are in a poor state, in some areas in the USA for example they have lost as many at 70% of their bees! So I emailed the Jersey Beekeepers Association, I mentioned the fact that we had started talks with the States of Jersey and any points you wish to be heard at these meetings I will make sure they are put across.
At every meeting I had in the back of my head the name Jersey Honey, it’s the only way forward. Time ticked on and life has a way of getting in the way. When I spoke to people about the project you could hear in their voice “you’re still working on it?!” Was it time to pause, get my bearings? Am I wasting my time? After all, no one else has done this, is it a bridge too far? Each time I went into the office there was the shampoo looking at me and so with the support from my wife and daughter, I decided to try again.
I should mention that this has never been a one man venture, I used to work at Gelaires Hair Salon in St Ouen and have only been able to put 100% into Jersey Honey because the team have been so amazing and supportive. They are a group of friends who work together like a close-knit family and if they were not there I would not be in this position to move forward with the project.
We need to promote the hard work that our Bee Keepers are doing, it doesn’t matter if you have a window box, an allotment or large garden, Jersey Bees are there while you’re at work, pollinating and helping to make the garden look good. Peter Quimby and Jamie Hogan, whom we work with, are bee experts with over 15 years of experience and are very hard working.
In May of 2017 we had our breakthrough. The States of Jersey agreed that we needed the name Jersey Honey Limited. Less than two weeks later we had approval for our logo from the Bailiff’s Office and investors came forward. I had my first decent nights sleep; we were going to make it happen! I decided that the best way forward would be to reduce the range down to just five products, to make sure that we didn’t get lost in the design. That way I can concentrate on the ingredients, final bottle pump and so on.
I planned a trip to the UK to finalise the range, travelling over a thousand miles across England was amazing, each company we visited we came away more enthusiastic. I only wanted to work with top professionals in their field and they didn’t disappoint. Ideas started to flow and before long we had the final design, at last. I couldn’t believe it. All this time away, only to find the bottle we’ve chosen doesn’t recycle very well. Back to the suppliers, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but we were that close to pushing the “GO” button only to find we need to retrace our steps. Changing the bottle means changing the label, the box and pump. Not good.
Extra time was taken to look into the bottle production, the pump and even the tube which connects to the pump. The box needed to be made from sustainable forests so we needed the FSC certificate and we went as far as working with the Carbon Neutral Company to better understand what our carbon foot print would be and to be able to tackle those issues through re-forestation and supporting other bee hive projects in Great Britain to help make our product carbon free.
We launched these amazing products, the first of their type, infused with Jersey Honey in May 2018. Beginning with the Naturals Range: Luxury Hand Wash, Intensive Hand Cream, Natural shampoo (for normal to fine hair), Luxury conditioner and Hand and Body Lotion. The rest, they say, is history.
Over the last two years, Shaun’s products have grown in popularity and this year gained industry recognition;
Your recent accolades at the Global Green Awards is the result of years of hard work establishing the business. What do they mean to you?
It is a true honour to receive 6 global awards this year with such esteemed recognition, and one that has truly been years in the making.
I got criticised the other day for having soft desk-job hands, would this product work for my manual labouring friends?
Absolutely, the key to our range is the infusion of natural elements. They need to find out what makes our product a global winner!
You’ve already developed the range quite a bit, what’s next?
We have spent the last year looking for the right company to produce a Honey truffle chocolate and it is to die for, we hope to have them ready before Christmas!!
When you’re not softening people’s hands, how do you like to spend your time?
Spending time with friends is paramount and a good glass of wine always goes down well.