Sharing Lessons from The Hive

Bee Downtown founder Leigh-Kathryn Bonner says starting the company was a way for her to honor her family's history in agriculture. "Some of my favorite memories growing up were on our farm," she says. "My grandpa taught us what it means to put in the work to take something from seed to harvest.”

Every spring, Bee Downtown’s hives buzz with activity. It’s the busy season for honey-making bees, and usually the same goes for the staff at the Triangle company.

But there’s nothing normal about this spring. Instead of leading hive tours and honey-tastings for its corporate partners, Bee Downtown beekeepers and staff are spreading the joy of bees through a free online platform called The Hive.

“While our team could have looked at this time as time for unplanned rest,” wrote founder and CEO Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, “we chose to keep this our busy season. We chose to put on our work boots and got to work creating an entirely digital version of Bee Downtown.”

The site features virtual hive tours, honey-centric recipes, and bee-related activities for children and families. It also includes lots of professional development resources – podcasts, webinars and videos – inspired by the industrious insects.

The newest effort of Bee Downtown, the BDT Leadership Institute “focuses on kinetic biomimicry to lead the way in leadership development,” according to the website. Available on The Hive are lessons around communication, trust, sustainability, building effective teams and responding to change.

During one webinar on “Long-term Focus Under Short-term Pressure,” Bonner used the seasonal activities of the hive as an analogy – addressing immediate needs during a crisis, but always working toward the goals of the group.

“Bees basically survive and advance. That’s their mentality: survive, build, grow, get strong, and then advance to winter, and successfully move back into next spring. The bees have this beautiful ability to do that. They grow and they collapse when they need to and grow again,” she said.

“The bees are able to adapt in this volatile and uncertain world with clarity around the end goal, clarity always around survive and advance.”

That balance can be challenging as leaders and businesses cope in a post-pandemic world, says Joseph LeBoeuf, Bee Downtown’s chief learning officer. Key to success in challenging times are creativity, innovation and teamwork.

Taking time to assess the situation calmly is also vital. When most of Bee Downtown’s spring activities were canceled and the stress was getting her down, Bonner took time to sit with the bees. That time of reflection helped inspire The Hive, she writes.

“Once you fall in love with the bees and your interest is piqued with bees, it will be for the rest of your life, because you will always be able to learn something from the bees,” said Bonner.


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