I am a bee fan from way back. My name means honeybee; I collect bees and have a dog named Bee. At my first (and last) ballet dance recital, I was Bumblebee among many other 3-year-old honey catchers running around the stage, making my dad roar with laughter.
So, when I heard about The Keepers Collective from owner Snoqualmie resident Jillian Medford, I had to find out more.
Originally from Snohomish, Jillian and her husband had their kids in the Netherlands moved back to Seattle. After years of spending summers adventuring through the Valley, they finally found and purchased land in the Snoqualmie Valley for their home.
The Medford’s moved here six years ago, lived in an RV for two-plus years while they built their forever home in which she and her husband live with three teens, her mother-in-law, two dogs (Clark & Mac), the lovely ladies in their chicken coop, and of course, all their bees!
Jillian founded Keepers Collective in the fall of 2019. As a lifetime bee (and honey!) enthusiast, she wanted to build a business around her love and passion for bees. However, being a multi-passionate, creative type, the path she took wasn’t straightforward.
Before starting her own business, she worked as a preschool teacher at Little Stars Preschool. During that time, she found a way to combine her passion for bees and beekeeping with the other passions in her life.
Originally pre-covid, she had planned to lean more towards a service-based model for her business and came up with the idea of Bee Camp for kids to help introduce children to the world of pollinators.
However, like many business owners during the pandemic, Medford ended up pivoting her business to sell some of the handmade honeybee skincare she had previously made and sold for her sister’s farm stand in Birch Bay.
Initially, the products were labeled with her sister’s information, but when they took off, she revamped labels to reflect her business name, and things have just grown from there. *As an aside note, I decided to buy & try some of her products, and the body butter smells so yummy I’m tempted to spread it on toast.
One of the first things I noticed on her website was the Bee Camp! I would have loved to go to Bee Camp as a kid.
Says Medford, “Bee Camp started to spread awareness around pollinator stewardship in younger generations. As I mentioned, I was a preschool teacher, but before that, a mom to three, and I’ve spent many years in the elementary school level volunteering and working with children. I’ve found that children care deeply about creating a better future for our planet, and the things we learn in bee camp help empower youth to go home and make a difference in their back yards and communities.”
This summer will be their third season of camps; the first year was very limited due to covid, last year was a great success, and they all had so much fun. They are expanding the hours for camp this year and adding even more fun to the curriculum. More information can be found here.
The Keeper’s Collection also has an outreach program that sadly was also affected by Covid and not initially what Jillian had hoped it would be. However, she taught a few single-day bee classes for Si View Parks last summer and hopes to add a few more pop-up-type classes at some of the markets that she frequents this upcoming season.
Medford says she “always talks to our customers at markets about pollinator stewardship and tries to spread the word as much as possible. Most people know about the plight to save the bees, but they don’t realize that honeybees are not in as much danger as our native and wild populations.”
This local company is a family-run business. Their camps are taught by Jillian and her mother-in-law (a retired elementary school teacher) and all three of her teens, who also help throughout the year with beekeeping, product batching and markets.
It’s her dream to, at some point, move to a facility that has room for the company not only to batch and create their skincare, but that is big enough for them to offer community classes on native pollinators, gardening and beekeeping as well.
Good Luck to The Keeper’s Collective!