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Oct

22

2012

Gimme Gimme Some Honey

bill-gamber-honey-stingerHoney Stinger’s Bill Gamber (front) stays on track. Courtesy photoBill Gamber grew up in Pennsylvania, where his grandfather Ralph Gamber started Dutch Gold, the largest family-owned honey business in the U.S. (Interesting aside: Ralph Gamber also invented the honey bear container.) Bill lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he runs Big Agnes (the tent and sleeping bag outfit) and Honey Stinger—a company he founded that makes honey-based energy gels, protein bars, and waffles for athletes. Recently he added a pure honey product to the Honey Stinger line. We caught up with Bill to talk shop:

 

I started working at Dutch Gold when I was in middle school. First, it was cutting the grass around the warehouse. Then cleaning the barrels. I remember family trips from Pennsylvania out West to see all the beekeepers we worked with. That’s how I got involved.

 

I ran from the honey business. I wanted to get out and ski and fish, and all of that is really accessible when you’re living in the West. It was actually a hard decision to leave Pennsylvania. I was groomed for the family business.

 

I’m really small and pretty light. In longer endurance races I would take in a ton of calories. A friend and I would make these smoothies that we’d have at the turnaround at the Hawaiian Ironman. I’d try to get as many calories as I could in there, and I’d always use honey.

 

I gave my dad a packet of energy gel. I said you should make this, only honey-based. He said: We’re sending tank trucks to Kraft. The last thing we need to do is make a new product. Then we started Big Agnes and my dad liked how we were doing that. He said let’s start a company [making energy gels], and you can run it.

 

We use really special honey for Honey Stinger. American West honey from North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.

 

The new, organic honey that Honey Stinger sells is from Brazil. You can never control where your bees are flying, so there’s this argument about what’s truly organic. We’ve been fortunate to work with Dutch Gold. They really know the history of the supply chain and where to get the best product in the world. It’s this island off Brazil that has never used pesticides.

 

Now that we’re introducing a pure honey product, I get razzed about it pretty hard. My dad says, “We finally got you into the honey business!”

 

I’m proud of my family. If I can do anything to keep my grandfather’s and my dad’s story going, great.

 

My grandpa was a hard-working guy, and we’ve all benefited from that. And he gets all the hype, but my grandma was the one that really ran it. My grandpa would have the bees and bring the honey home, and my grandma was the one who would heat it up and strain it through cheesecloth. It was a hands-on operation. She did all the bookwork. Plus she had to deal with my grumpy grandpa.

 

honey-stinger-organic-honeyThe bear was a vehicle to get honey on the table. Everyone had a messy honey jar. So they made a squeezable container. If you knew my grandpa, it’s pretty funny. He wasn’t this marketing genius, just a guy unloading barrels of honey out of the truck.

 

I learned the entrepreneurial spirit from my grandpa and my dad. When I started my own company in college, I never really thought about it. It just seemed like the thing everybody does. And the bottom line is always quality.

 

I get these kids that call me and ask for advice. I always come back to hard work. I don’t think anybody gets that. I don’t think they know what hard work is. You really have to be committed.

 

That’s the lesson. Work hard, make a good product, and it will work. —Olivia Dwyer

Look for Honey Stinger organic honey from wildflowers in Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, and South regions. The honey is True Source Certified; visit truesourcehoney.com to learn more about sourcing standards.

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