Courtney Stone Fullerton, Montana beekeeper
Q: What made you decide to go into beekeeping with your husband?
I was practicing family law in Missoula when we met and he was keeping bees in Babb with his dad. We decided to start our own beekeeping company and so I moved to Babb when we got married and opened my own law firm in Cut Bank. The idea was that we'd have an income not tied to the vagaries of weather and bees, but it turned out that our growing company needed every moment of time I had to give. And I was fascinated by the bees, so a few years later, I shuttered the law firm and began working for Glacier County Honey full time. Technically, I'm the VP, but my job description encompasses everything from beekeeping to blogging.
Q: Your husband grew up with bees, did you have much experience with them before you met him? How did you feel about bees/beekeeping at first? (I'm pretty sure I'd be super nervous around that many bees!)
I knew nothing about bees, except that as the daughter/granddaughter/niece of farmers, I knew they were essential to our food supply. I wasn't afraid of them and Greg made sure that my first experiences were all good ones. I only wish I had time to do more hands on bee work with him. When our kids are older, I look forward to that time.
Q: You spent summers in Montana, but did you ever imagine you'd end up living here full time?
Yes, I loved the South and my family so very much, but my intention to stay in Montana formed in my early 20s when I was working near Babb, and my mid 20s were devoted to making that dream a reality. I went to law school during that time and researched where in Montana I would begin my legal career. By my late 20s, I had accomplished my goal, though I was also about to meet Greg and make new goals.
Q: As a fellow Virginia girl, tell me what it was like adjusting to Montana from your home in Virginia and college in Georgia.
I'm a small town Virginia girl and Montana has always felt like one small town to me, so the "culture" here hasn't been much of an adjustment. I do have a very hard time each and every spring when the Southern girl in me is ready for shorts and sandals and it's still dumping snow in Babb. April and May are my favorite times to get away from Montana and visit my homeland.
Q: What's it like running your own company and working with your husband?
It's tough. I don't know that I would recommend running a business as an equal shareholder to your spouse. It's really, really, really hard at times, to get through a day when you argue as business partners and then have to sit down at dinner together and act like you're happy to see each other at the end of the day. Because sometimes you're not. That's been harder for Greg and I as our daughter grows up. We don't to bring our disagreements as business owners to the family dinner table, but it happens sometimes. She definitely won't grow up with a romantic view of small business/farming! On the other hand, when something good happens to the business, it is an indescribably feeling to know that your spouse/best friend understands 100 percent just how good that good thing is and how hard you've working for it and the sharing of that accomplishment and joy pulls us through the rough times. Also, due to the nature of beekeeping, Greg goes with our bees to California for several months in the winter/spring, and though we might be absolutely sick of making decisions together in January, when he leaves, by the time he returns home in April or May, we've missed the daily drudgery of togetherness so much that it gets us through another honey season.
Q: From your blog, it seems like you have fun while working, but how do you manage running a business, raising a toddler and having a little bit of down time?
I don't know that we're doing a very good job at the balance, because we both believe that work comes first, and that the toddler and her siblings will grow up knowing that. Greg and I believe that a strong work ethic will take you anywhere in life and that there is nothing more important to model for our kids. That said, there is an opportunity to play. We play so very hard and we can't wait to include our kids in all the fun that Montana offers. I love to hike, Greg loves to hunt, and there's more to do outside in Montana than we could ever fit into a lifetime.
Q: What are your favorite things about living and working in Montana?
It's easy enough to say that my favorite thing is having Glacier National Park as my backyard because I absolutely relish those stolen summer days that I sneak away to climb a new peak or take a hike I've hiked a thousand times before with old friends. But really, it's the people that make me so happy to live and work in Montana. I've rarely met a stranger in Montana and even more rarely, a fellow small business owner who wasn't trying to support other small Montana businesses with his/her own. My youthful impression of Montana as one large small town I could fit right into was right on the money and I'm proud to say I have friends statewide.
Q: Looking back 10 years, did you think you'd be where you are now?
Gosh, no. Ten years ago, I was 23 and working as a waitress/pastry chef for the Depot in Missoula. My summer/fall days centered on the Blackfoot River and trips to Glacier National Park, my first love. My winter/spring days centered on downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. My biggest responsibility was making the monthly rent and my biggest concern was never missing an outdoor concert in Missoula. I never dreamed that in 10 years, I'd be married and have borrowed a pile of money from a bank on the back of a dream and honeybee wings and run a company that employees five people near Babb! To say nothing of a blonde haired, blue eyed little girl that I wasn't sure, back then, I wanted to have and the one on the way.
Q: What something everyone should know about you and Glacier County Honey?
Everyone should know that the way to my heart is via fresh produce, or strange ice cream offerings from the Big Dipper in Missoula and Sweet Peaks in Whitefish -- both hard to come by in Babb, but guaranteed to get you an invitation to couch surf in the Warehome.
Everyone should know that Glacier County Honey Company opens its doors to the public one day per year (Aug. 10 this year) to meet the bees and see how honey is produced. We get thousands of emails and phone calls every year filled with questions about bees, beekeeping, honey, wax and the like and it's impossible to answer them fully, but we do a darn good job of responding in person on this one day per year.
It's so much fun, please join us!