If there is a positive side to the COVID-19 era, it would be how it has brought out the creativity and the entrepreneurial ingenuity of many people across the globe during the lockdown. The era has seen many people turn their side hustles and hobbies into flourishing businesses.
Christopher O’Neill, who has been living in Germany for the past 20 years, had no prior knowledge of beekeeping. When Germany imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, he went into beekeeping using his backyard.
Originally from Sierra Leone, O’Neill’s honey has become the talk of the town in Bad Belzig, where he lives with his family. The idea to start making honey came about when he wanted a substitute for sugar for his coffee.
“I stopped drinking coffee with sugar and looked for an alternative — it was honey,” he told DW. “Because I have a very nice backyard, I had another idea: Produce the honey yourself!”
O’Neill started producing more honey than he needed and was encouraged by his daughter to sell the extra honey for money. “I saw that I had too much honey, and my daughter said to me: ‘Well Daddy, why don’t you sell it?’ And that’s how it all started,” he said.
Some of O’Neill’s customers include Cameroonian Madelle Ngnintedem. She told DW, “Being from Africa, I know what real honey is. So when I came to Germany, I found it difficult to find good quality, honey.” Until she tasted a jar of honey from O’Neills’ bees.
A local chef, Waldemar Dawid, believes O’Neill has what it takes to be a “bee master,” describing him as energetic. “Whatever he does, he does it to perfection and that’s exactly how it is with the honey. I find it beautiful how he manages to capture a part of the sun and the bees. That’s why my first choice for honey will always be Christopher, because I am 100% convinced [of its quality],” he said.
Aside from the beehives in his backyard, O’Neil now has five beehives and plans to acquire five more. Erika Moritz, who runs a local honey business, believes O’Neill has what it takes to become a professional bee master.
“It takes a couple of years to learn the specific details of bee-keeping,” she said. “Every year is different, but if you work on it, you can make it. And I have no doubts he could become a professional bee master.”