Growing up just outside Christchurch in Rangiora, some of Simon Pulley’s first memories are lying in the grass watching the bees. It’s a passion he’s never strayed far from, and it wasn’t long before it became something more than a passing interest.
Simon was still at primary school when his dad starting making beehives at home.
"He bought around 50 beehives and I’d stay up at night helping him build frames and make boxes, eventually we got up to around 450 hives."
Following a marriage break up and a bout of bad health, Simon’s dad gave away the bee keeping. But while he was in hospital, Simon started re-building their beekeeping empire and it came as something of a surprise, just what his son had managed to create.
"We got up to around 600 hives and I was working full time in Christchurch and dad said why don’t we make a go of it, you and me beekeeping? So we did."
Sick of the hustle and bustle of life in the big smoke, Simon was quick to jump on his new found career, one which would get him back to nature and working with the creatures he was so passionate about.
"I just loved those bees and turning that into a job and an income was fantastic," Simon says.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Simon put himself through a business course so he could do his own books, and in 2001 Bee Buzz Apiaries was founded. Over time, Simon’s dad reduced his involvement in the business but Simon continued to invest in it and grow their hives. In 2005, Simon’s dad was tragically killed in an on-farm accident. The loss of his father spurred Simon on to focus on what was really important to him – his family, and making a success of the business – inspired by his dad - that he’d spent years building.
"It’s grown so much now. I do get frustrated that I don’t get to spend as much time with the bees as I used to. It’s all about the business now and that can be all consuming," says Simon.
With over 2000 beehives scattered around the South Island, Bee Buzz is now producing between 100 and 200 tonnes of honey a year, around 60% of which is manuka. Simon has been able to ride the manuka wave, as the global interest in this honey, native to NZ, continues to soar. He supplies raw product to a distributor based in the North Island, before it is packed and sold for distribution both in New Zealand and overseas.
Simon has a strong relationship with his ANZ bank manager who he refers to as ‘my mate Dave’.
"He has been a great support. He always comes out to visit us and I never have to chase him up. I know I’ve got someone who will get things done and I don’t have to worry about it."
Simon lives on his property Highcroft, in Oxford, North Canterbury with his partner Emma and three children aged five, seven and nine. They are all involved in the business along with his 10 staff. No mean feat, given his humble beginnings.
"I’m proud of starting with absolutely nothing. I’ve gone from two to two thousand beehives and all from nothing, I didn’t have a cent behind me."
And at his heart, he’s still just a guy from North Canterbury, who loves bees.
"The dream is to be mortgage free, and to run my business peacefully with good people so I can spend more time with my family."