Gibbs Honey uses social media and digital marketing to promote agri-tourism in Vankleek Hill
A few years ago, Andrea Glenn and her husband, Russell Gibbs, left behind city life to take up the family honey business, Gibbs Honey, in Vankleek Hill. The pair bought the business from Gibbs’ uncle in 2018. “The business has been around since 1934,” explains Glenn. “We’re the third generation to run it.”
They found a 111-acre farm just outside of Vankleek Hill and moved the business there. At that point, the majority of Gibbs Honey’s sales were in bulk orders, being sent to other beekeepers in barrels for their production. But Glenn and Gibb saw a new path forward for the honey business.
“My husband Russell’s background is in graphic design and mine is in marketing, so we thought we’d try the wholesale side of things,” says Glenn. They started selling jars of their honey in bulk to restaurants, bottle shops and fine grocery stores across Canada, building a loyal following.
They’ve also leaned into the agri-tourism aspect of the business, opening a small store attached to the honey production facility. “Honey is one of the three most adulterated foods that you can buy so people really want to know where it’s coming from,” says Glenn. “When people come here they get a chance to talk to either Russell or myself, and see the farm and honey house.”
The architect they worked with took a 100-mile approach using local labour and lumber cut from the farm’s forest. Glenn says it felt fitting, given honey allows people to taste their environment.
“You’re tasting the minerals in the soil, you’re tasting the floral varieties in the area that it’s from – it changes year to year depending on the weather,” she says. “You’re really getting a time capsule of the season in every jar of honey.”
In addition to bringing a more experiential aspect to the third-generation honey business, Glenn says they’ve also invested more heavily in e-commerce.
To support their e-commerce efforts, Gibbs Honey leveraged a $2,500 grant and digital training from Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future.
“It gave us both an education and the opportunity to spend more time thinking about the digital marketing side of things, which has always been haphazard,” she says.
Gibbs has always been active on social media but Digital Main Street helped them reposition their approach to focus on sales. They used the grant to invest in high-quality imagery for the website and social media channels and run some digital marketing campaigns.
They used images of the recently constructed store to pique people's interest surrounding an in-person visit.
“That resulted in more foot traffic, but also more online traffic, which was kind of interesting to see,” says Glenn. They also experimented with their first online sales code, promoting it on Instagram. “Because of Digital Main Street, we felt confident trying it.”
Selling online has opened Gibbs Honey up to a whole new market.
“It's a more intimate experience selling online, which sounds counterintuitive, but you get to know who your customers are directly versus when we send a case of honey to a store… we can tell who’s coming back to buy it again and again,” says Glenn. “It's an opportunity for us to send a little note and say thank you… it’s a closer relationship in some ways.”
It’s also helped raise the profile of the business and give people an incentive to visit the community.
“One of the benefits of having online sales is that they don't just contribute to the business itself, but potentially to the wellbeing of the actual town that business is based in.”
To apply for the Digital Transformation Grant visit sur ce site.
Digital Main Street a été créé par la Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) avec le soutien direct de la Ville de Toronto. DMS est également soutenu par un groupe de partenaires commerciaux stratégiques, dont Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay et Postes Canada.
L'investissement continu de la province de l'Ontario, par l'intermédiaire du Ministère du Développement économique, de la Création d’emplois et du Commerce (MEDJCT), a permis l'expansion continue de la plateforme numérique de la rue principale afin de soutenir davantage d'entreprises qui passent au numérique dans tout l'Ontario.