Savannah Bee Co. Founder Kicks Off BiS Forum Series

October 28, 2010

By Arlinda Smith Broady

For the Savannah Morning News

After a successful year of providing business news to the community, the weekly periodical Business in Savannah has started a new chapter. The inaugural Business in Savannah Forum Series kicked off Wednesday in the Savannah Morning News auditorium.

Co-sponsored by Hancock Askew, HunterMaclean and Abshire Public Relations and Marketing, the event featured Ted Dennard, founder and CEO of the Savannah Bee Co. as keynote speaker.

“It’s great to have that weekly source that pays attention to what’s important to the business community,” said R. Bates Lovett, an attorney with HunterMaclean. “Having the local experts gives something extra.”

He and others agreed the forum was a good way to extend the reach of BiS.

“It’s an opportunity for business owners to talk to other business owners about best practices and new thought patterns,” said J. Harry Haslam Jr., managing partner of Hancock Askew & Co.

That’s the goal of this forum and others to come, said Michael Traynor, Savannah Morning News publisher.

“This forum is for sharing success,” he said. “In return for your attendance, you’ll receive favorable advice. … And maybe some nuggets to help with your own business.”

That’s why the choice of speakers was a no-brainer, said Ann Carroll, director of business development and marketing for Hancock Askew.

“We put together a list of possibilities, and Ted was the top of the list.”

Not just a local success story, Savannah Bee Co. was chosen in 2009 and 2010 for the Inc. 5000: a program through Inc. Magazine that honors the fastest growing privately owned companies in the United States.

The company recently opened a third retail location on River Street under the Hyatt Regency, next door to the Visitors Center. This is the second store for the company to open this year, continuing their strategy of expanding their retail presence despite the difficult economy.

Dennard said he doesn’t consider himself a businessman but someone who’s passionate about his craft and turned it into a business.

As a child growing up on St. Simons Island, he learned the art of beekeeping and preparing honey. His interest grew and he decided to give it a go as a business.

“I said I’d give it a year to fail or succeed,” he said.

That was nine years ago.

Although he credits luck with a great deal of his success, Dennard encouraged forum attendees to employ three other strategies: tenacity, flexibility and optimism.

Dennard said even when the odds were against him, he kept at it.

“Someone would ask for a large supply of honey, and I’d say yes,” he said. “I didn’t know we’d do it, but somehow we always did. … That’s tenacity.”

He said flexibility comes from realizing one take a million paths that are never a straight line.

“We started out with a 500-square-foot space on Broughton and were edged out,” he said. “We ended up with a 2,500-square-foot space and didn’t know what to do with all the room.”

The design took on a general store theme, complete with squeaky screen door, a play area and educational space about bees.

“It’s really caught on,” he said. “We do 20 percent of our business out of that store.”

As far as optimism goes, Dennard said he doesn’t let the business keep him awake at night.

“I truly believe everything will work out in the end, and it helps not to get yourself down in the dumps,” he said.

Savannah Bee Co. sells wholesale across the country in speciality stores such as Williams Sonoma and on the Internet.

“In the end a lot of our success is about packaging,” said Dennard, referring to the French wine bottles that hold the signature Tupelo honey. But he also referred to the easy atmosphere he projects.

“It looks good on the outside, but inside it’s crazy and stressful,” he said.

But at the end of the day, Dennard said, he probably wouldn’t be doing anything else.