How a fantastic “bees-ness” idea was born
When Simon Cordingley bought his partner Kath a bee-keeping experience as a birthday gift, he had no idea that the experience would change their lives and careers as they knew them.
Kath discovered her passion for beekeeping, and shared that passion with Simon. Before they knew it, a new business idea was born and The Bee Centre came to life.
Simon’s background in environmental work and ecology education seemed a natural fit to help create The Bee Centre, a honeybee education centre and honey store. Simon, or Head Drone as he ironically refers to himself, runs the Centre alongside Kath and a small team of workers. The team work together to help educate people about honeybees and beekeeping, and run regular, award-winning ‘Bee Experiences’ that have attracted visitors from across the world. The beekeeping courses run from the Centre range from beginner to advanced levels, and even professional courses for would-be bee farmers.
The Bee Centre was not Simon’s first foray into his own business, having moved from a career in the waste industry to developing a business at age 26: “I studied biology and chemistry at university, graduating with joint honours in these subjects. I ended up in the waste industry by accident, and didn’t like what I was seeing. You can either moan about something or do something to change it. I prefer the latter, so I worked with others to create significant change.”
After making an impact in the waste industry Simon decided to go it alone; diversifying to make wider change. “All I had was a car and about £500. I left a good job and decided to do my own thing. Since then, Kath and I have set up and run all sorts of things that we enjoy and I’ve been able to travel and make a difference around the world.”
His passion for sustainability not only provided a driving force behind the development of those businesses, but also fuelled Simon’s involvement in developing environmental and sustainability standards in the UK, EU and internationally. Simon takes an active role at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), having established the North West region, sat on the guiding body as a non-executive director and chaired the institute. It is however the professional development activities that Simon really enjoys and values. He is currently Chief Assessor for full membership and Charted Environmentalist. He loves to see others succeed and help them to achieve their dreams.
The Bee Centre provides its services from a base in Chorley, within the grounds of Brindle Distillery, another well loved local producer. The location is perfect for making use of the travel network around the UK, making it easy for people from across Lancashire, the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales and Wales to visit the centre and take part in the training they offer. Simon moved to the area from Bedfordshire over 30 years ago and praises the lovely people around the area, especially as they help support the local shops and facilities. “There’s something about Lancashire that just feels like home. It always has done.”
With such a successful business and with so many different elements to it, a day off is hard to come by. But Simon doesn’t mind his 7 day work week and long hours, claiming; “the old adage that ‘if you do something you enjoy you will never work a day in your life’, is true”. The Bee Centre has grown so much since Simon and Kath established it in 2016, but when asked what the future holds Simon is keeping an open mind, not focusing on any set plans as his philosophy is that they can get in the way of real opportunities as they arrive naturally.
The Bee Centre and Simon’s work within IEMA were both born from his passion for the environment, and he’s keen to share that passion with others. When asked what his advice to others interested in environmental work would be he says:
“Go for it! But do your own research and don’t believe everything you see or read (especially on popular social or mainstream media). Question everything until you get to the truth. Also, don’t be a drum-beating activist. If you want to make a real difference you need to come up with workable solutions that will add value and engage, enthuse and inspire others, not alienate them. Lead and others will follow”
In 2023, Simon was highlighted in the ENDS Power List as one of the 100 most influential environmental professionals in the UK.
To find out more about The Bee Centre head to https://thebeecentre.org/