Life is pretty sweet for outback Australian bush honey producer, Jo Knobel and her family. A born and bred Clermont girl, Jo left her small country town in outback Queensland for the big smoke of Townsville to study law at James Cook University. Spreading her wings proved particularly fruitful as she met the love of her life, Mark. It would be some 17 years before the then seventeen year old would return to her old stomping ground, her beloved bush, joined by her husband Mark and two boys, Cameron and Harrison. As wife of an Australian serviceman who completed a few hairy tours overseas, and mother to two young children, the tree change made perfect sense. The Knobel family were more than happy to swap the hustle and bustle for the quiet life and forge a future in Clermont.
What started as a hobby and Mark paying homage to a family bee-keeping tradition originating from his father and grandfather, quickly created a buzz throughout the local community. Word of mouth was initially their most powerful tool with family, friends and neighbours spruiking Knobel’s mouth-watering honey. Officially launched in 2012, Knobel Honey has gone from strength to strength with honey regularly shipped across our wide brown land.
While Jo has successfully expanded their product range to include a 100% natural lip balm and wonderfully soft honey and goats milk soap, their premium organic honey remains the real hero in their portfolio. The key to their fresh tasting honey is the Knobel’s vacant bush block aptly named “The Bee Ranch.” A wide variety of native trees, from Narrow Leaf Ironbark, Box Tree and Blue Gum, to name a few, ensure a unique tasting seasonal harvest every time.
Although Mark dons the bee suit, no hive can survive without its Queen. Jo is the brains trust, competently balancing the books and bolstering her brand. Like any community-minded gal, Jo actively seeks opportunities to give back and actively lends her assistance to Clermont Artslink, the Historical Centre and local markets. This is certainly a woman with many jewels in her crown.
Fortunately, Jo found the time to sit down and answer a few questions for us. Read about her business journey below:
What led you down this career path?
Mark was looking for a hobby and loved raising bees as a kid with his dad. We started with just one hive of bees and currently have about 40 hives. Each hive has a single queen, hundreds of male drones and 20,000 to 50,000 female worker bees. So we have potentially about 2 million bees.
What might a typical day look like for you?
Very busy - kids to school, work at my part-time job in admin at a local building certifier, fill honey orders and do the bookwork for the business, marketing, picking up kids, kids sport activities.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That time is the most important thing you have and knowledge is power.
What do you think really helped you to grow your small business?
Social media and the internet have allowed us to extend our reach beyond our local town.
What are you most proud of?
Our products! They are something that I would want to buy; the honey is pure and natural, as is our lip balm
What defines business success for you?
Having a product/brand that people know and trust.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Name three inspirational women you admire. Why?
My mother is my inspirations; I spent my childhood growing up on remote cattle stations where my mother had to deal with the many hardships that being remote and raising children brings. She dealt with everything with grace and resilience.
What’s the best thing about being a mum?
The love of my children
What is your favourite way to entertain family and friends?
Nothing beats a good old Aussie BBQ with kids running around the yard.
Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?
Still doing the same thing but with a lot more bees.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Do something you enjoy and believe in and it won’t feel like work.
*Photography credit: Family photos by Four Eva Photography and the remainder are Jo's own handiwork.