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Zach & Zoë grows a buzzing business with Chase for Business
Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm started as a family wellness project. Now it’s a thriving food brand with room to grow.
Before they were the faces of a vibrant, growing business, Zach and Zoë Johnson were kids growing up in New Jersey with their parents, Kam and Summer. When the family left their home in the suburbs for the lush countryside of Hunterdon County, they loved everything about it except for one thing: All that foliage was worsening Zach’s asthma and allergies. After Summer heard from a friend that a daily dose of local honey might help Zach, the Johnsons decided to use some of their 5.5-acre property to experiment with beekeeping. The treatment worked, and the family soon found themselves with a large surplus of honey.
That first year, they shared the excess honey with family, friends and church members. Somewhere along the way, they decided they wanted to share it with even more people. After careful planning, the family launched Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm the following year. The business started small, but five years later it’s poised for serious growth, thanks to the hard work of the Johnsons, their team at Chase for Business and about 2 million honeybees.
Learning the basics from seasoned beekeepers
The first step in building their business was collaborating with some potentially prickly partners: honeybees. Kam found his way by leaning on the generosity of other members of the beekeeping community. “Beekeeping is one of those things where you really need a mentor,” Kam explains. “You need someone who’s tried and true, understands the nuances of bees and can help anticipate and overcome challenges. And so we’re fortunate there were actually a number of beekeepers in Hunterdon County.”
“I’m going to be really candid. You may think all big banks are the same. They’re just not. I’m 41 years old, and I’m kicking myself for not, frankly, going with Chase earlier, because it is night and day.”
– Kam Johnson, Co-founder and Co-owner, Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm
Kam’s relationship with his mentors has developed into a strong bond, but at first, the beekeepers weren’t sure what to make of the guy from the big city. “They called me a city slicker,” Kam admits. “I think I’ve passed that test. I’m no longer as green as I was.” Kam and Summer learned the basics of beekeeping, a sticky business that involves specialized equipment such as protective gear and a smoker to calm bees while extracting honey so there’s a lower risk of being stung.
A role for everyone in the hive
Everyone in the family pitches in to help the business grow. When they’re not just being kids, Zach and Zöe lend their talents — and adorable faces — to the farm’s marketing and social media. They also help their dad operate the beekeeping equipment during summer harvest. Kam and Summer are equal partners: While he focuses on the book- and beekeeping, she creates all the new honey flavors and infusions and lends her fine arts background to the brand’s packaging and design.
Their secret to collaborating as a couple? “Talking and talking and talking,” Kam says. “It’s everything.” Summer agrees and points out that it’s always a work in progress. “At the point where the business was really growing fast, the communication got broken down because you have to make moves and make decisions more quickly,” she says. The two have opposite personalities, but their complementary sets of skills balance each other out.
The bank where relationships come first
With the beekeeping part of the equation down, Kam and Summer knew they needed the right financial tools to keep their business growing. The first bank they went with didn’t meet their expectations. When they found Chase for Business, they were blown away by the attention to relationships. “It really is like, ‘Hey, how can I help? What do you need? Where are you struggling?’” says Kam, describing his rapport with Michael, his business relationship manager.
That relationship isn’t just about keeping things warm and fuzzy; it makes a big difference for the day-to-day business. “I know that when I text Mike, he understands the context around our business,” Kam explains. “He knows my wife’s name, asks about the kids and really cares about our success.” Summer adds, “If there’s someone that can help us who’s not on his team, he’ll guide us to another team.” The Chase team has proved again and again that it has the Johnson family’s back — earning not just their business but their trust.
Major growth requires some new tools
Now, the Johnsons use a wide variety of Chase for Business products, including Chase Business Complete BankingSM, a business checking account with built-in card acceptance. One of their favorite features of this product is Chase QuickAcceptSM, which allows them to take card payments from customers all over the country and get the money fast. “QuickAccept is huge because that day or two difference really matters,” Kam says. “Knowing that, hey, I’m going to get paid tonight and we’ll have money in the account is really fulfilling.” The speed and convenience of QuickAccept have helped keep the business going during the pandemic and a subsequent surge in online shopping.
The Johnsons also appreciate the convenience and portability of the Chase Mobile® app. “I just love the fact that everything is on one page,” Kam says, as Summer nods enthusiastically at his side. Since they sell a large amount of their merchandise through online retailers like Amazon, having all their transactions and accounts in one place is a lifesaver. They’ve got such a sweet spot for Chase that they’re looking into moving their personal banking over. “We’re opening up savings accounts for the children, and they’ll all be under the same umbrella,” says Summer, who wants to help teach Zach and Zoë about financial literacy. She enjoys “seeing them wanting to have a hand in their own future and being able to see that. The app brings it all to life in a great way.”
Spreading their wings
Currently, the Johnsons operate in their backyard and out of a commercial kitchen where they process the honey. Next up is a new factory on their existing property in Kingsland, New Jersey, to meet the growing demand for their products. They are in the early stages of planning and look forward to having extraction, harvesting, honey production and a warehouse on-site. “That’ll be really cool,” Kam says.
If you’re looking to take the sting out of starting and growing your business, open an account or chat with a business banker today, toll-free at 1-800-935-9935.
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