Not many adults can say they remember specific episodes of Sesame Street they watched as children, let alone those that led them toward a career they love. But Carey Marago, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, does. As a child, she distinctly remembers an episode about a beekeeper that shed light on the process of making honey. That episode stuck with her, and 15 years ago, she turned her interest in beekeeping into a backyard passion project, producing honey for friends and family. Pretty soon, the demand grew, and this special education assistant teacher started From the Hive Honey Shop, a side hustle that evolved from a roadside stand to a storefront with her raw honey and many more bee-related products in Somerville. We caught up with this busy Raritan mom of 4 to talk about that transformative Sesame Street episode, how honey is crucial to our future, and the nearby spot where she and her family go to escape.
Please share a bit about your family and career background. My husband, Pat, and I live in Raritan with our four daughters, Analisa, 19, Victoria,17, Olivia, 17, and Liliana, 16. I grew up in the nearby Bradley Gardens section of Bridgewater, and the best thing about living here is the closeness of the community. People know me at the bank and post office, giving me a great sense of belonging. My children have grown up with the kids of my childhood friends, and I love that. Along with my business, I still work full-time as a special education assistant at Bridgewater Raritan High School, which has excellent benefits and has made it possible for me to be a stay-at-home mom since I’ve always had the same hours and vacation time as my children. And, because my hours are not the typical 9-5, it allows me to run my business, too.
Where did your interest in bees come from, and how did you know you could make this a business? When I was young, I watched Sesame Street, and on one episode, they showed a short of a mom beekeeper. She’d go into a field, get honeycomb, press it, and give it to her children for breakfast. I was fascinated by that, and for whatever reason, it stayed with me throughout the years. About 15 years ago, I decided I wanted to try beekeeping. I spent about a year researching to see if it would be possible to do it in my backyard, and I soon bought the equipment and the bees that I needed for a starter hive. After a season or two, I started to get honey and had a little stand at the end of the driveway. People loved it, and soon, more and more people wanted my honey. I switched to selling on my front porch for specific hours, soon grew to flea markets and crafts shows, and realized I could turn it into something bigger. I found the perfect spot for a brick-and-mortar in Somerville, and everything fell together so perfectly that it felt like it was meant to be. Here I am, eight years later, with a thriving business, and I couldn’t be happier.
What do you wish everyone knew about the business of honey? All honey is not created equal. Raw, unfiltered honey contains bee pollen, one of nature’s most nourishing foods. Often, “honey” found in many supermarkets is filtered or pasteurized, which removes the pollen, antioxidants, and other ingredients with health benefits, or it might have added ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, which can contribute to many adverse health issues. Also, I wish everyone knew the importance of honeybees for our general survival. They’re our most prolific pollinator—without them, we’d have about half of our food supply. The state of NJ plants wildflowers along the roadways each year, which looks beautiful and helps our pollinators (and other wildlife) survive and thrive. It is a good start, but we also need the young generation to realize the importance of this matter and take it further. Also, though I’m not a medical doctor, many medical studies show that fresh, raw honey helps with almost any ailment—I firmly believe in its many health benefits.
Do you have any plans to expand? For many years, I’ve been offering informational beekeeping classes in January and February, and I have a free-of-charge mentoring service to start a hive. In the store, I sell starter kits for beginning beekeepers–they contain almost everything you’ll need to create your own honeybee hive—and beekeeping is possibly a way to expand my business in the future. I love my space in Somerville, but a bigger storefront would allow for more beekeeping products like suits, hives, and equipment, which take up a lot of space. I’d also love to carry a line of custom-painted hives for beekeepers.
What have you learned about yourself since launching your business? I’ve learned how important it is to do what I’m passionate about. When I started beekeeping, my kids were still little, and I knew I wouldn’t want to or be able to devote all my time to this, but I recognized that if I didn’t do it, I would feel like something was missing. If you’re passionate enough about something, figure out how to make it fit into your life.
Does your family ever get involved? My husband, Pat, couldn’t be more supportive. We’ve been beekeeping together since the beginning. He’ll put on a suit and get in the hives, too, and when I have a conflict, he’ll handle the shop. When my kids were little, they liked to put on protective suits and be in the hives, too, and my oldest is still really into it—when she turned 18, she got a gorgeous bee tattoo. Though our children are busy with their lives now, they’ve always helped out in many ways throughout the years, whether at specific events or putting on a bee costume and having their photos taken with kids.
What are some of your go-to Garden State businesses and spots that you and your family enjoy? Duke Farms and Duke Island Park are incredible. We’ve been going there since the girls were young and would participate in many family programs. Now, we love to walk the trails, enjoy the quiet, and just be immersed in nature.
What’s your best practical advice for a mompreneur just starting? Don’t stop “living” just because you have children—if you feel passionate about doing something, just do it, whether it takes 5 or 10 years to make it happen. Think about your time and how you can spend it while giving your children enough quality time. Don’t listen to the naysayers. If I had stopped because someone said I couldn’t do it, I would always regret not following my passion. Know that you can take advice from others, but realize that your experience as a mompreneur will be unique and different than everyone else’s experience.