Beekeeping has been in the family for several generations. Great-grandpa Walters had bees in southwest Wisconsin in the early 1900s. His son, Orville, continued the tradition by harvesting honey from wild bees in Madagascar. In 1976, Mark started beekeeping when he and Sharilyn lived in St. Paul, MN. When they moved to Madagascar in 1982, they took hive bodies and equipment with them and began beekeeping in Southern Madagascar. The Walters were without bees for a period of time after returning to the US, but in 2007, Mark’s son, Zach wanted to start them up again.
Zach was a professional boxer at the time. Looking at the amount of money he spent on honey for his diet got him thinking about the days of beekeeping with his dad as a kid in Madagascar. He gave his dad a call. He was thinking it would be fun to start keeping some bees again. He figured we could keep bees ourselves for the amount he’d spent on honey that year. In the end, he wasn’t off by much. We started out with four bee hives. Later that summer honey started coming in strong and we had a ton of it. We started giving it away and selling it here and there to recoup the start-up costs. Very quickly we found out that other folks liked our honey as much as we did! The next summer, we learned of the Duluth Farmers Market on 3rd Street. Our first day there we sold over 100 bottles honey! The demand was so great we could not keep up. The following year we saved up for more hives so we could have enough honey to keep up with the demand at the market!
See whats happening in the hives!
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Anna and Albert Walters
Viroqua, WI circa 1955
2017 Solar Eclipse
as seen through honeycomb
After the expansion, we found that having 14 hives produced a lot of beeswax. Sharilyn, who is allergic to bee venom, wanted to get involved in the honey business. So we gave her the wax. At first she made wax candles. Then, one of Zach’s boxing trainers brought him an empty bottle of beeswax-based lotion. He asked if we could make the stuff. Zach said, “I’ll ask my mom what she thinks and get back to you.” Wouldn’t you know, she found lots of information on making beeswax-based lotions. She developed her own recipe, and started producing it for sale with the honey at the Duluth Farmer’s Market. This is when Zach’s wife, Shannon, stepped in. She was able to use her graphic design skills to develop a look for the Miel product line, designing the labels and marketing tools that were needed. Sales for lotion took off right away! After a few runs of lotion, Sharilyn found recipes for lip balm made from beeswax and Lanolin. Again, she developed her own recipe. Those sales took off like a brush fire as well! Then, she started researching recipes for beeswax-based soap and soap sales have been adding to the mix ever since. We listen to our customers and if we keep hearing “I wish you had ……” then Sharilyn goes into research mode to test the possibilities! That has resulted in Paw Protector for pets and a wood finish.
With a variety of products now developed, Sharilyn and Shannon popped the idea for gift baskets. They worked together on the packaging ideas for the baskets, making sure to keep the “homemade feel” that is characteristic of Miel products. They both already loved craft-making as a hobby; creating the gift baskets has been a way to use their crafting abilities, as well as to keep the family close.
In late 2010, Nate Radoush approached Zach about getting involved in the Miel business. He and his business partner, Phil Zastrow, saw the potential in Miel and offered their business expertise to help the business grow more quickly. With their help over the next 8-10 years, we began to get our products into store fronts across the Northland of Minnesota. This website is one of the ideas brought forth by Nate and Phil. We hope that our customers will enjoy the inside look at our business as well as easy access to Miel products online! Our orders come in from literally all over the world!
Sales continue to soar! We have jars with cut honeycomb, plastic squeeze bottles, and traditional glass Muth jars. We have gift baskets and gift bags of our honey and beeswax products. Mark mentors many people one on one each year. We are in the process of developing video classes “Miel Beekeeping Fundamentals”, to teach people how to keep bees in an urban setting as we do. This will be available in 2018. The family is doing what we can to help spread the fun of beekeeping. It is an element that has kept us close as a family and, after all, bees are super important to our existence. In the end, it’s amazing to see how a simple hobby has grown into a small family business.
Miel is a long standing family activity
Mark's sister, Phyllis, helps with Festival of the Season
Even the little Walters love to be involved!
Our Minnesota Honey and Natural Beeswax Products
We pride ourselves in our great tasting Minnesota honey and 100% all natural beeswax products. We have specifically selected each ingredient that goes into our products to be free from any man-made chemicals and safe for the whole family. Experience the benefits of beeswax in our lip balms, lotions, candles, and soaps.