Natalie Abbott’s business is creating a buzz statewide, despite a hungry bear taking a swipe out of it last year.
The Chippewa Falls Senior High School student is being honored for her work with The West Hill Honey Company with the Wisconsin Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. It is the first time since the honor began in 2007 that it has been given to a northwest Wisconsin student.
“I was very surprised,” said Abbott, 17, who is the daughter of John and Amy Abbott.
The honor will be given Thursday, April 21 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee as a part of the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame ceremony.
“We’re just very, very happy a youth is being recognized in northwest Wisconsin,” said Susan Peterson, district director of the Northwest District and Coulee Region of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin. Junior Achievement is working with the firm EY and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in presenting the honor to Abbott.
“She is being awarded with a scholarship of $1,000,” Peterson said, adding the scholarship is good at any two-year or four-year learning institution.
The competition is open to students in grades 5-12 who have businesses, either seasonal or yearly.
“She also has a strong customer base with the local beekeepers,” Peterson said of Abbott.
Natalie Abbott became involved in the bee business when she joined 4-H at nine years old.
She started with three hives. Her business eventually needed better equipment to expand. John Abbott came up with the idea of Natalie selling honey door-to-door. Her first day’s sales: $100.
Marleana Rank, a business education teacher at the high school, encouraged Abbott to enter the competition and make a video about her business.
Abbott recorded the video and her dad did the editing. And in that video, Natalie Abbott said she received an assist on raising money to buy equipment for her business from actor Wil Wheaton, best known for his role on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Wheaton noted the girl’s Kickstarter fundraising effort on his Facebook page, and she was able to raise over $9,136.
Last year her beekeeping grew to 20 hives. But a wandering bear came through the area and nearly cleaned her out. She continues in business with two hives, selling her honey at The Garage Salon in Chippewa Falls and at craft fairs.
Abbott said in the spring the bees produce a lighter color honey, which has a stronger flavor in the summer and turns a darker color in the fall.
“Last year I didn’t get stung at all,” she said, adding: “Usually it’s my dad who gets stung.”
He could use his daughter’s line of honey lip balm to sooth those stings.