MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When you grow up in a small town in central Minnesota, you sometimes yearn to travel the world.
But despite traveling from Ecuador to Arkansas, one local woman always found herself back on a farm.
After working on Bar Bell Bee Ranch, owned by her aunt and uncle, Kristy Allen decided to combine her two favorite things – bees and biking – to create her own business.
While fighting for healthy bees, her business, the Beez Kneez, delivers locally-made honey to customers around the Twin Cities.
That’s what makes Kristy Allen this week’s Minnesotan to Meet.
The name alone creates buzz.
“The Beez Kneez is a bicycle-based bee keeping business,” Allen said.
While Allen was once a bit lost in life, it’s pretty clear now just based on her socks what she’s all about.
“I’ve been spending the majority of my adult life trying to find what my passion was, and I found it,” she said. “I just knew I wanted to be a bee keeper somehow.”
After receiving a degree in global studies, traveling the world and working in restaurants, she found herself back on the family farm five years ago.
“My aunt and uncle from Bar Bell Bee Ranch are commercial honey producers,” Allen said. “I started schlepping honey to farmer’s markets. I built a bike trailer and was hauling over 100 pounds of honey and dressing like a bee.”
She is a worker bee.
With the help of a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign, she’s since started a honey house in the Seward neighborhood.
“We had over 800 supporters from around the world,” she said. “Hobby bee keepers could come and use our equipment, and extract their honey. We clean up the mess.”
But not using electricity or by hand.
“I was given a broken hand crank extractor and adapted it to a bicycle,” Allen said.
Allen demonstrated how they worked.
“If you rent these out, you bring your honey in, you do your peddling, you put it into your container and you’re good to go,” Allen said.
And the process is easy and efficient.
In two years, more than 80 beekeepers have made 4,500 pounds of honey by these bicycles.
She also peddles classes and educational opportunities.
She’s often asked how often she gets stung by bee. Allen says she’s lost count of the number of times.
“Any occupation has its painful part, right? So, stinging, you get used to it,” she said.
Many people also don’t realize there are so many flavors of honey. And there are a lot of beekeeping sites just in the city of Minneapolis. That’s why they are labeled with zipcodes.
Eight different sites exist, all with different flavors.
Allen is trying to get better about having a personal life.
“When I started this business, my dad was like, ‘Oh we Allens, we work ourselves to death.’ And I said, ‘Oh, perfect so do bees!'” she said.
But she met her boyfriend while delivering her tasty treats and, yes, dressed as a bee.
“It doesn’t turn off everybody I guess,” she said.
Not at all, in fact, she might just be the queen bee of her family.
In September of 2013, the Beez Kneez lost its Blake School teaching hive in Minneapolis to an acute pesticide poisoning.
So they started Healthy Bees–Healthy Lives.
Last year they helped pass two laws in Minnesota. One gives restitution to beekeepers if pesticides kill a colony, another stops nurseries from advertising plants as bee-friendly if they’ve been treated with certain insecticides.