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College Student Turns Passion into Bright Career

Photos: Courtesy Bandwidth @bandwidth, Travis Bordley Photograph

Leigh-Kathryn Bonner grew up in the city, but she had access to her grandfather’s farm just an hour away. It was there that she developed a passion for the family trade of beekeeping. She was fascinated by life on the farm. “I got to see something go from seed to harvest and all the work that goes into that. I fell in love with agriculture and nature.”

Saving our honey bees

Fueled by passion, Bonner launched her one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly business in 2014. The company is called Bee Downtown, and the idea is simple. Bonner approaches major corporations with a proposal: join us in stabilizing honey bee populations by sponsoring our colorful, hand-painted beehives which  are kept and maintained on your company grounds by our expert team.

Her now-profitable business began during her freshman year at North Carolina University when Bonner signed up for a class on bees and beekeeping. Despite having ADD and no particular inclination toward STEM subjects, she soon realized, “science is not just math and analytics. There’s so much more to it than that. I fell in love with it because it can be so hands-on.”

From school project to business

Her science studies made Bonner want to get involved in preservation efforts, but she couldn’t keep a beehive at her apartment complex. She says, “I asked the company I was interning for if I could put a hive there, because studies showed that bees did really well in urban areas.” The company said yes, and word quickly spread. “It was just supposed to be a project while I was in school, but when I graduated more companies wanted beehives.”

Thanks to the support from her internship, her school project grew into a true business. Bee Downtown has placed over 200 hives in North Carolina and Atlanta, and is now working with some of the world’s largest corporations, including AT&T, Delta and IBM.

Bonner’s example is an inspiration to many young people, showing that STEM studies can provide a path in any direction. “Young people who are interested in STEM can make their own jobs out of their passion,” she says. “It’s really exciting to see companies buy into that.”

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