The Story Behind Miel
The story behind Miel begins many years ago. Beekeeping has been in the Walters family for several generations. Great-Great-Grandpa Albert Walters had bees in southwest Wisconsin in the early 1900s. His son, Orville, continued the tradition by harvesting honey from wild bees in Madagascar. Mark, Orville’s son, started beekeeping in 1976. The young family moved to Madagascar in 1982. Of course, the Walters took hive bodies and equipment with them to begin beekeeping in Tolognaro, a coastal city in southern Madagascar. Later, they moved to the capital city and continued beekeeping. All of our experience in beekeeping has been in urban settings.
The Story Moves Into the Fourth Generation
The Walters were without bees for a period of time after returning to the US in 1993. Then in 2007, the story behind Miel expanded. Mark’s son, Zach, the fourth generation, 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 caused him to remember the days of beekeeping with his dad in Madagascar. Zach thought it would be fun to start keeping some bees again. We could keep bees ourselves for the amount he’d spent on honey that year.
At the end of the year, he wasn’t off by much! The season 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.
Evolving into Miel
Very quickly we found out that other folks liked our honey as much as we did! The following summer, the Walters learned of the Duluth Farmers’ Market on 3rd Street and 14th Avenue East. Our first day there we sold over 100 bottles honey! In fact, the demand was so great we could not keep up. We saved up for ten more hives. Now we could have enough honey to keep up with the demand at the market! Since 2013 we have maintained 25-30 hives each year at four locations, all urban!
The Story Behind Miel Continues….
After the expansion, we found that having as many as 30 hives produced a lot of beeswax. Sharilyn, who is allergic to bee venom, wanted to get involved in the honey business. It only seemed logical to give her the beeswax. At first, she simply made beeswax candles. That would soon change.
One day, Zach’s boxing trainer brought him an empty tube of beeswax-based lotion. Jack asked if we could make this kind of lotion. 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.
Sharilyn developed her own formula and tested it on family and friends, started to produce a lavender lotion for sale alongside the honey at the Duluth Farmers’ Market. Now, we consistently have four scents of lotion and a new featured scent each quarter of the year!
Not long after the lotion was launched, Sharilyn found recipes for lip balm made from beeswax and lanolin. Once again, she developed her own all-natural formula. Lip balm sales took off like a brush fire! Responding to customer inquiries, Sharilyn turned her attention to researching recipes for beeswax-based soap. As a result, soap sales were added to the mix.
This is when Zach’s wife, Shannon, stepped in. Shannon was able to use her graphic design skills to develop a look for the Miel product line. She designed coordinating labels and marketing tools that have become our Miel brand.
Miel listens to you…!
We listen to our customers. If we keep hearing “I wish you had ……” then Sharilyn goes into research mode to test the possibilities! As a result, we introduced Paw Protector for pets and a Wood Finish for antiques, butcher block tables and counters or other unfinished furniture.
With a variety of products now developed, Sharilyn and Shannon introduced the idea for gift baskets. Together they worked on the packaging ideas for the baskets, bags and sachets, making sure to keep the “country feel” that is characteristic of Miel products. Both women already loved craft-making as a hobby; creating the gift baskets has been a natural extension of their crafting abilities. No surprise that this works well to keep the family close.
Miel Becomes a Business!
In late 2010, a friend approached Zach about turning our hobby into a business. He and his business partner saw the potential in Miel and offered their business expertise. On November 19, 2010 Miel, LLC was born!
Over the next 4-6 years, we began to get our products into store fronts across the Northland of Minnesota. We developed our first website and e-commerce store. Our customers enjoy the inside look at our business as well as easy access to Miel products online! Orders come in from literally all over the world!
Currently, we have honeycomb, plastic squeeze bottles, and vintage glass Muth jars and honey in various sized glass jars. We make our own honey sticks from our own delicious Duluth honey! Miel has gift baskets, bags and sachets of our honey and beeswax products. Mark mentors many people one on one each year. In 2022, we will be launching our new video education course, “Miel Urban Beekeeping Fundamentals”.
The Miel Family
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! As children, they were fascinated. Now as adults, they are involved! Zach and Shannon have two children who enjoy being a part of the marketing action, making fun ‘commercials. Mark and Sharilyn’s daughter, Vanessa Roers, recently joined the business and became our production manager. Her three children love ‘checking the bees’ with their grandpa.
As a result, Miel is now training the Fifth Generation! 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!
Psalms 19: 9-10
“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.”
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