After 10 years, multiple career moves, and dozens of job titles, Nicole Buergers has finally found her dream job as an entrepreneurial beekeeper and cheesemonger. Have you ever heard of such a combination?
Read on to learn how her previous positions helped her in her current business.
Here’s her story:
While I have my dream job now, it’s taken quite a peculiar journey to get here. Throughout my life I’ve juggled multiple jobs at once and been “the queen of the side hustle.” Normally, I would have a 9-5 job to pay the bills and at least one part-time passion job on the side.
I started working at age 16 as an associate for Eckerd Drugs in a Houston, TX suburb. From there the list of jobs got a bit stranger. Just to name the ones that came with titles, I was a Fair Housing Auditor, Customer Service Representative, Trivia Hostess, Trivia Writer, Poker Pit Boss, Secret Shopper, SEO Specialist, Speed Dating Hostess, Customer Support Supervisor, and Marketing Manager.
I also sold perfume on eBay, took surveys for money, played jurors in mock trials, taught conversational English, cleaned houses, mowed lawns, babysat, and did temp work. Oh, and I would often volunteer on the side.
NPR and Cheese
I met my parents’ financial planner while volunteering for my local public radio station. I asked him to help me roll over the various 401ks I had and soon we were meeting regularly for lunch to discuss business ideas. One day he asked me what I was passionate about. I told him he would laugh but finally admitted that the thing I was most passionate about was cheese. I had daydreamed about becoming a maitrêsse de fromage for years.
He didn’t laugh. Instead, he asked what I was doing towards my career in cheese. Nothing.
What did I want to do? Well, the first step would probably be to start a blog. He gave me $20 and told me to get started. Thus, TheQuesoQueen.com was born with the stated mission: to live in a big city with goats and a beehive, make chevre, honey, and honey chevre, and write about it.
Cheese + Beer = Job Offer
I turned 30 had decided to throw a big party combining two of my favorite things: cheese and beer. I wrote about the party on my new blog afterwards, singing the praises of the cheese from Houston Dairymaids, ending with: “I would really like to work for the Houston Dairymaids one day. I’ve been daydreaming about it since I’ve learned of them.” On that post, I received two comments, which unbeknownst to me at the time, would change the course of my life.
The first was from the Godmother of Texas Cheese and creator of my favorite cheese, Hoja Santa. I was blown away that my post caught the attention of someone of that caliber in the cheese world. This encouraged me to learn more about my favorite food!
The second comment was from the owner of the Houston Dairymaids: “Great post, Nicole! And, if you’re serious, we are in search of Dairymaids. Sounds like you’d fit right in with our cheese-loving team!” I almost fainted. She was offering me a dream job.
At the time I was living 200 miles away, and couldn’t afford to move to Houston, but I wanted to make it a reality. With a little luck and the right experience, I soon got a job as an SEO Specialist in Houston. So I called up the owner of the Houston Dairymaids, not even sure if she would remember me. She did! And in fact, her Saturday cheesemonger had resigned earlier that day for a full-time gig—so she asked if I could come in soon. I started the very next Saturday.
I finally felt like I found my perfect balance of full-time and part-time work!
Adding in the honey
Fast forward to 2015 and the mission of The Queso Queen was still in the back of my mind. I had been taking beekeeping courses since 2012. Along with my work at the cheese shop, the classes were fueling an idea growing in my head about being a honey distributor. I researched similar businesses across the country, and was surprised to learn that while almost every major city had multiple businesses providing beekeeping services, Houston did not. My obsession continued.
At the cheese shop I had seen customers turn up their nose at honey varietals made in Texas that just weren’t local enough. I also knew local beekeepers that were giving their honey away because they didn’t know how to market it. I wanted to build a website where they could sell their honey online. The business would combine everything I had ever done: online marketing, marketing a business, food marketing, food distribution, education, and public speaking.
The more I began to work on the beekeeping business, the more I came to resent my SEO Specialist day job. I was stressed, exhausted and each day was filled with doing things I didn’t want to do. I wanted more from my life. I wanted out of the rat race. I wanted to be happy… so I put in my notice the next week.
In February 2016 I established my LLC and launched my Bee2Bee website. I now manage 22 hives in the Houston area, have 6 beekeeping clients and I am working on my wholesale honey business. Plus, I’m still a cheesemonger and get to run the cheese and beer pairings at a local brewery!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting around eating cheese and honey all day. There is legal paperwork, accounting, answering inquiries and getting stung by bees while sweating in a bee suit.
Yet the positives far outweigh the negatives. I love being able to go outside each day and do something for the environment while creating opportunities for new beekeepers and raising interest in protecting our local honeybee population. It’s all part of being a beekeeper!