By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN At the age of 16, Dassel-Cokato High School sophomore Keegan Rufer is already an entrepreneur, learning what it takes to produce and market a product.
On an end cap between isles one and two of the Cokato Marketplace sits Sweet Bea honey, produced by Rufer’s very own colony of bees.
Starting at age 9, Rufer began extracting honey, the process of removing honey from frames that act as combs, with his grandfather, Darrel Rufer, who owns Rufer’s Apiaries in Waverly.
After four years of extracting, his grandfather gave both him and his brother, Gavin, four colonies of bees to raise. The following year, the brothers split the cost of purchasing four more colonies.
Last year, Keegan began bottling and selling the honey produced by his bees in an effort to earn a Boy Scout merit badge in entrepreneurship.
In his first year, he extracted 750 pounds of honey in 1- to 62-pound bottles.
This year, 880 pounds of honey were extracted.
The challenge for Rufer wasn’t handling the bees or the extracting process. The challenge, rather, was how to market his product and where to sell it.
Eventually, as he sold his honey to friends and family, word got around. “Now I know more people who want to buy it,” he said, and it’s becoming an easier sell.
This year, Keegan took his product to a whole new level. This, unfortunately, meant more expense for him, as well.
With the help of a graphic designer, he came up with a logo and a label for his honey. He also purchased plastic bottles.
As of late, The Marketplace is the only retail store to have started selling Keegan’s Sweet Bea honey. Bulk honey must be purchased through him. He can be contacted via e-mail: email@example.com or call (320) 286-6157.
What’s so special about Keegan’s honey? Because it’s local honey, made from bees that collect pollen from local plants, it can actually help with allergies.
“The bees collect pollen from the same plant you’re reacting to, which helps build immunity,” explained his mother, Sara Keskey-Rufer.
When asked what he likes most about what he does aside from making a profit, he said “Ultimately, it’s interesting.”
“It’s something that very few people do,” he said, which makes it an interesting topic of conversation.
“People are surprised,” when Rufer tells them his job is beekeeping.
As far as his future plans, Rufer’s goal is to continue beekeeping as a hobby and go to college for specialized welding.