In 2012, Cal State Fullerton marketing senior Ahmed Bibi started his local raw honey business, Sheefa Honey.
Bibi traces the beginnings of his concept to the day his father bought a jar of honey from a local beekeeper, who introduced the aspiring businessman to the world of beekeeping and honey production.
“The more I learned, the more I fell in love,” he says. “I am always amazed at the endless benefits this flowy natural sweetener has to offer. So much history, so much mystery, so much gratitude for a pure substance that acts like medicine without the bitter taste.”
In fact, the medicinal value of honey is central to Bibi’s business. The name “Sheefa” means “healing” in Arabic, which is the name honey was given in the Quran, thus inspiring him to brand his business Sheefa, which reflects the health benefits of honey, according to Bibi, including antioxidants, wound healing, immune system boosts, and benefits for those struggling with elevated blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels and muscle spasms.
Bibi’s honey is raw, which means it has not been processed and maintains all the enzymes and antioxidants found in honey. Most widely marketed honey is not raw, in other words it is boiled, sugar is often added, and the end product loses much of its original nutritional value. As Sheefa Honey’s website says, “Raw honey is pure honey.”
From Bee to Business: The Sheefa Honey Journey
Motivated by his long-held desire to start and own a business, the marketing student synthesized his interest in honey with the expertise of his mentor, Associate Professor of Marketing (Allen) Samuel Broyles, who helped guide him through initial crucial business decisions, such as branding and plans for how to manage and employ labor.
A few semesters into his studies as a business student, Bibi enrolled in MKTG 351 – Principles of Marketing, taught by Broyles.
Bibi introduced his business to the professor and was received with great excitement. From that point, Broyles began guiding him through initial crucial business decisions, such as branding and plans for how to manage and employ labor.
“Professor Broyles has always been a great supporter. Other than being an adamant lover of honey himself, he uses Sheefa Honey as a model during presentations in his Marketing 351 class,” says Bibi. “What an honor to have my business used as an example for other students to benefit from. I am truly grateful for the mentor/student relationship that I have with Professor Broyles.”
Bibi has forged relationships with local beekeepers making sure he only collects local raw honey. Bibi then, using traditional methods, packages the honey and markets under his brand Sheefa Honey.
Sheefa Honey is already selling his product across the nation, all the while highlighting the entrepreneurial ingenuity of a millennial and California agriculture.
“Nothing is more rewarding then receiving feedback from our clients. Many times, I’ve received thanks for spreading awareness about pure honey and for providing the best that can be harvested in California,” says Bibi. “We have been blessed to travel several times nationally for Sheefa Honey. Major cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C., have all been great hosts.”
Today, Sheefa Honey is sold at 17 retailers throughout California, including International, Middle Eastern and Halal meat grocery stores and , as well as broader natural food and farmer’s market locations.
Advice to Fellow Food Entrepreneurs
Bibi encourages others seeking to launch food-based businesses – whether traditional restaurant operations or innovative concepts elsewhere in the food supply chain – and to seek a concept that interests you and can benefit others.
“This may seem like a general statement and that’s because each one of us can bring benefit to others in different ways. Whatever venture you involve yourself in, do it with perfection,” he says.