Shamus Ogilvy, aka The Honey Guru and our founder
In his own words, Shamus fell into the honey world; he didn’t choose it. But that’s not to say he isn’t 100% committed to and passionate about honey.
After leaving school, he took a year off to work in the wine trade in New Zealand. But his mother wanted him to train as a chef under Prue Leith, even though at the time, this sort of career was very female heavy. Unperturbed, Shamus enrolled and graduated with flying colours.
He then went into the catering trade and worked with the likes of Searcys but he realised that he was entering a career that relied on very antisocial hours. At that time, it was difficult to get a job without some kind of training or experience, so he knew he had a very special opportunity. Soon, life revolved around cooking and working very long hours, especially so in the summer months. Even so, Shamus enjoyed his work and developed a real passion for cooking.
Getting into catering for directors’ lunches and cooking for ten people at a time, Shamus developed a love of being able to be creative and work like he was his own boss.
Soon, he was setting up his own catering company, specialising in English food. His mother at the time was a journalist and helped him by having dinner parties. Shamus got very good at sourcing quality ingredients himself from all over London, and from different distributors and manufacturers around the UK.
Although exciting, after eight years, Shamus decided that travel was a passion he needed to spend more time doing, and this fitted in well with the fact he was already in the City of London Territorial Army. He chose to see active service and undertook operational tours of Northern Ireland and Kosovo.
After returning from Kosovo, Shamus took on a variety of part time jobs, including one selling oysters. He was travelling the world sourcing ingredients and got regular emails from a honey manufacturer in India that wanted him to buy their honey.
At the time, in UK supermarkets the only honey available was sunflower honey and many different types of cheap, blended honey.
Eventually, Shamus found himself on a flying visit to Punjab, and after some initial confusion and language barriers, he became a honey broker for the biggest honey producer in India (made even more impressive by the fact that India is also the third largest honey producer in the world).
This sent Shamus on a journey of discovery, researching, tasting and learning about different types of honey. So much so, that Shamus is now known in the honey world as The Honey Guru. Shamus loves honey so much, that working with honey is the longest part of his entire, and interesting, career!
Nine months after his trip to Punjab, Shamus had settled into his role sourcing contracts for the Indian honey company. He won his biggest contract by ousting one of the most well know honey brands from a large yoghurt manufacturer, supplying them with ten tonnes of honey per month.
Shamus was bringing more and more honey into the UK but then a double blow of an EU ban on certain food goods imported from India and a global recession meant that everything changed.
Still wanting to work with honey, Shamus then set up his own brand of honey after noticing a gap in the market for regional, monofloral honey.
This set Shamus off on another global adventure, discovering unique honeys and importing them from countries such as Serbia, Zambia and India. In fact, Shamus was the first person to bring honey to the UK from Serbia, after enlisting the help of a Serbian speaking friend he’d made whilst serving in Kosovo and having to cross mine fields in order to get to the bee hives.
The road to honey sourcing has been littered with setbacks. One, perhaps a little less frightening than landmines, was Shamus’s determination to produce the first organic heather honey. This endeavour was scuppered by needing to enlist the owners of three neighbouring Scottish heather fields, one of which was the Queen of England…
A pivotal moment however, was a contract to supply Fortnum & Mason with seven different types of his own brand honey.
He did come across a certain Manuka honey in New Zealand, and although it’d been available in the UK for a while, at that time, it hadn’t really taken off. And besides, he was convinced by the quality of all the unique honeys he’d already sourced.
These early days also introduced Shamus to the delights of Australia honey. He discovered one, called Jelly Bush Honey, which was the Gold Coast version of Manuka honey. With such an odd name and a UK market not quite ready for such a premium product, Shamus left it. But it always remained at the back of his mind.
Soon, Shamus became convinced that premium, organic, and therefore, expensive honey was the USP that was going to set him apart. He was advised by many, many people to drop his price or go for a cheaper product, but he insisted he was onto something.
As it turned out, the UK was ready, and the public began buying his premium honeys. Shamus now takes the credit for transforming the honey world and people now regularly pay for high quality, rare honeys.
Shamus’s mind then returned to the wonderfully sweet, nutritious and beneficial Australian honeys. Wanting to concentrate on these alone, Shamus left his company and started another one - and so, Necta & Hive was born, purveyors of high quality, active healing Jarrah and Red Gum Western Australian honeys.
Having come across Jarrah honey previously, he knew it wasn’t being given the right attention and so set about bringing it to the keen UK market. He knew it’s potential and that it could become the new Manuka.
Always having been a person that’s done things differently, he knew he didn’t want to take the easy road and become yet another Manuka honey brand. The UK is the biggest buyer of Manuka in the world, so, he thought, why not Jarrah too?
And indeed, why not? Shamus adores Western Australia, and their antimicrobial Jarrah and Red Gum honeys.
Shamus is someone who has creative solutions to the problems consumers didn’t even know they had, takes risks, believes in his products and ideas, and pulls them off.
Necta & Hive honey is super versatile and we have lots of exciting honey infused products that we’re refining in order to introduce to you soon. Shamus also intends to get back into the kitchen, dust off some of his old honey based recipes and get in front of the camera so that you can recreate them at home.
So watch this space for exciting honey news coming soon!