Julius Schießer has been selling honey at the weekly market since he was a little boy. The bee-friend and eco-entrepreneur is the founder and manager of the unpacked store "Honighalle" in Friedrichsdorf near Frankfurt.
Dear Julius, bees play a very special role in your life. Can one say that you have honey in your blood?
Yes, exactly, you could say that (laughs). My father started beekeeping over 40 years ago, bees and honey have influenced my childhood, were actually omnipresent. I still remember when I was two or three years old, I was at the weekly market in Frankfurt. I even had a small stand and people freaked out and thought it was cool that there was a little boy selling honey. I was also always there when school classes visited us and my father gave lectures. At some point I knew them by heart, so my knowledge about bees was relatively large at a very early age.
So you grew up with bees, what makes them so interesting?
The bee is a fascinating animal. Just the communication among each other, this democracy within a beehive, the work as a whole, that is all very exciting. Bees always find the best solution together. And bees know how to help each other, they can produce everything they need themselves, they also know exactly where to collect what so that they protect the rest of the beehive, they use nature as a pharmacy.
We humans also profit from this...
Absolutely. Bees produce so many products that have added value for us. Royal jelly, for example, which strengthens the immune system, propolis with antibiotic effect or flower pollen. So they don't just create a superfood, they create a whole range of superfood.
Since the end of 2019, you have been selling all this and much more with a team of almost 20 people in the "Honighalle", a very special unpackaged store in Friedrichsdorf near Frankfurt. How did this come about?
After my studies, a semester abroad and many travels, it was clear at some point that I had to make something of my passion for bees and that I could do so with a little skill. Five years ago I started my own business and took over my father's beekeeping little by little, especially the marketing. My brother did his training as a beekeeper, we are a perfect duo, we complement each other very well.
And you had the courage to go your own way?
I have always been convinced of the concept "Cradle to Cradle", i.e. a consistent recycling management, of the idea of not leaving any negative traces and thus doing something good for the environment and for us as a society. The bee is also a role model in this respect. It procures its building material via short distances and can produce directly on site, everything is reused, which is very inspiring. We then started with a new deposit jar for our honey and sustainable labels. This was so well received that we wanted to offer something like this for other foods as well. Then it was clear, an unpacked store, that's it. We have always liked to shop there ourselves, we are fully behind it.
You have developed your father's beekeeping into Honighalle?
I cannot and did not want to change anything about the product honey. That is a Top Premium product, better it does not go, but it modern offer and lastingly, that was the goal, a valuable product into the modern age to bring. With the Honighalle we have created a special place where there is more than honey and candles, where you can also buy muesli, nuts or cosmetics and feel good in our café with a piece of cake.
What makes this special place so special?
You should feel as if you were in a beehive. That's why the look with many hexagons, with lots of wood and then also the large form.bar counter. With its curved form it reminds of a filled honeycomb, that fit together super.
How did you discover form.bar?
Good question. I searched for ages in the internet, then I stumbled upon a picture of you, you are doing a good job of presenting so many nice examples. I think it was a table, the Formitable, that caught me immediately and I thought, okay, you could make exactly the counter we want out of it.
Did you design it yourself in the configurator?
Partially. I started playing around, which is fun and really pretty cool, but at some point I reached my limits, because the counter was supposed to be six meters long. A nice employee of form.bar then helped me a lot and suggested improvements. So I had made the template myself and together we refined and finalized the design.
The perfect way for you?
Yes, the fact that you can even start online made it much easier for me. So you don't have to be afraid that it won't be good at all, that it won't go in the right direction because your counterpart doesn't know what you want at all. At form.bar it was clear: I want to do it this way, just a little longer here and a little rounder there, and you know it can't be completely wrong. That gives you a good feeling.
How is the counter received by your customers?
In any case very good. Right from the start. We all like to think back to the day of the opening of the Honighalle, it was incredibly busy. The fact that even in the village our idea could appeal to so many people is a great motivation for us.
What else motivates you every day?
Meanwhile it is also a big team with whom you can do something together. Apart from that, it is the conviction to make a step forward with what you do, to make things better. If that works, it makes you proud. I think as an entrepreneur you have a certain responsibility, it's not only about making money, but also about making sure that less waste or less exhaust fumes are produced.
Have you always seen yourself as an entrepreneur?
In a way. Like I said, I've been selling honey since I can remember. I studied International Business in Maastricht, among other places, and I started a company there, we sold and repaired bicycles. That wasn't very successful, but it was fun and educational.
Do you have role models as an entrepreneur?
Who always thought in the right direction for me was the founder of Esprit and North Face, Doug Tompkins. He was always very committed to the environment and later bought a lot of land in Patagonia with his money to create national parks.
What do you think it takes to form your life according to your wishes?
What you do, you have to do with passion, so that you have enough energy to realize your ideas. That's why I appreciate entrepreneurial freedom so much, because you can realize everything immediately. So you like to get up every day and enjoy your work, because there is a sense behind it and this sense connects with your passion.
To conclude: How is the bee doing?
There you have to differentiate. The honeybee itself is not doing so badly, there are many beekeepers and they do a lot, they attract a lot of attention. But the wild bee and many other insects are not doing well, because so much mowing is done, because more chemicals are used, because nature is destroyed. It is estimated that 70 percent of the more than 500 wild bee species are threatened with extinction. And even if Albert Einstein probably never said the sentence, contrary to what is claimed, the statement remains shocking: If the bee disappears once from the earth, humans have only four years to live. So we should all do everything, really everything, so that it never comes to that.