Kiah crowley has been in the business of bees practically since birth.
The daughter of beekeepers, the Spearfish native grew up working the hives with her parents and became interested in bees at a young age.
Now Crowley and her husband Carl own and operate Sunrise Hives out of Spearfish, Carl taking care of the bulk of the beekeeping, while Kiah creates products from the honey and beeswax that the couple sell locally.
“I grew up in a house where my mom was self-employed making products,” said Kiah. “I always wanted that freedom to set my schedule and create something new every day.”
The couple started Sunrise Hives in 2010, the same year their son Rowan was born. From day one, Kiah says the duo have 100 percent run the bees themselves—including breeding and raising them in hives in St. Onge, and traveling to California for two to three months every winter for pollination.
“WE’RE THE PERFECT TEAM BECAUSE WE EACH HAVE OUR OWN AREA TO BE IN CHARGE OF. WE CAN EACH MAKE OUR OWN DECISIONS THAT BENEFIT THE BUSINESS.” – KIAH
It’s in that committed, hands-on care that Kiah says Sunrise Hives has found its secret to success.
“We’re continuing to do what makes our business work well for us and our customers,” she said. “It’s that much more important to care about your business when it’s your livelihood, and because of that we really haven’t had any problems with our bees.”
While Carl focuses on keeping the bees healthy and happy, the honey they produce is Kiah’s area of expertise.
Just scrolling through Sunrise Hives’ Facebook page, it’s easy to see that the Crowley’s honey has made it far from the hive. From food products like Honey Lavender Almond Pecan Butter, Ice Cream, and Lattes to Pure Beeswax Candles, Soaps, and Lip Balms, Sunrise Hives does a little of everything.
“Our products are all natural, with no colors and no additives,” said Kiah. “I stay with local ingredients as much as I can.”
Crowley’s commitment to staying local is two-fold, beginning with ingredients (for some of Sunrise Hives’ floral salves she picks dandelions and other flowers herself at the couple’s cabin), and extending to the businesses she chooses to partner with throughout the area.
One of Sunrise Hives’ main sources of outreach is through farmers’ markets, which the couple frequent each May through October. Health food stores, greenhouses, co-ops, restaurants, and other small businesses also play a key role in the retail side of Sunrise Hives.
Kiah says she builds strong partnerships with other businesses by keeping things old school.
“I’m not afraid to speak to people face-to-face,” she said. “I’ll go up to someone and introduce myself and just say ‘I think we would work well together.’ That seems kind of old school today, but that’s how we’ve always run our business.”
And eight years in, there’s not much Kiah says she would change about how she and Carl operate Sunrise Hives. But there are still areas she would love to explore when it comes to the retail side of things, namely expanding into the area of women’s beauty products.
“The more that I read and explore, the more I come up with to create. Mostly we’re looking into doing more salves, creams, lotions, facials, that kind of thing, but I also want to get into infused honey.”
The constant at Sunrise Hives? The Crowleys themselves.
“There’s so many different products you can come up with, it really never ends,” said Kiah. “We’re the perfect team to do what we do every day.”
For more info on sunrise hives, visit facebook.com.
Where to find Sunrise Hives products:
BREADROOT NATURAL FOODS COMPANY, RAPID CITY
BLACK HILLS FARMERS MARKET, RAPID CITY
BEE’S KNEES NATURAL FOODS, SPEARFISH
GREEN BEAN COFFEEHOUSE, SPEARFISH & BELLE FOURCHE
LEONES’ CREAMERY, SPEARFISH
PUMP HOUSE AT MIND BLOWN STUDIO, DEADWOOD
REVEL COFFEE HOUSE, RAPID CITY
SHE’S NUTS!, RAPID CITY
THINGS THAT ROCK, HILL CITY