GVSU students create apparel company to promote bee conservation

By Ty Konell | 3/1/18 1:12am

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GVL / Courtesy - Happy Bee Outfitters

To make a difference, initiative is a necessity. With this in mind, a few Grand Valley State University students have banded together to create Happy Bee Outfitters, a startup apparel brand that benefits the conservation of bee life and efforts to increase bee populations.

Happy Bee Outfitters was founded in the summer of 2017 by a group of GVSU students who wanted to make a difference and make a positive impact on the environment.

“Although we do sell clothing, our main products are actually nylon camping hammocks,” said Nelson Schrader, co-founder of the startup company. “We wanted to develop a product that would be used by people who had a passion for the environment and enjoyed being outdoors.” 

Before starting Happy Bee Outfitters, the people behind the company were not as informed about the movement to save the bees and only found out about the issue on the internet. 

“To be honest, before this company, we weren’t really involved in the ‘bee scene’ at all," said Ricky Gonzalez, co-founder of Happy Bee Outfitters. "Before we founded the company, we were actually made aware of the issue due to the surge of ‘the bees are dying at an alarming rate’ memes online. After delving more into the issue, we discovered this is a more niche area of the environment that we could make a positive impact in.”

To help make that impact, the team behind Happy Bee Outfitters paired up with the GVSU Beekeepers club and helped them obtain necessary materials for the continuation of the club’s success.

“My first year as an RA on campus, the president of the GVSU Beekeepers club was my resident, who I became close friends with," said Christian Yap, who also co-founded the company. "When I started the company, I reached out to her to see how we could help their cause. She gave us the GVSU Beekeepers’ wishlist of the equipment the club needed to ensure the success of the next generation of beekeepers. 

"Recently, we were able to fulfill their entire wishlist with a $540 donation to their club, which we are very proud of.”

Presently, the company is searching for Michigan manufacturers and creating a brand to bring focus to a handful of environmental issues.

“We are currently looking for Michigan manufacturers to make our products in state,” Gonzalez said. “We are also looking into making other affiliate brands that focus on raising awareness for additional environmental issues, such as water pollution, national park conservation and invasive species.”

All three founders agreed that their favorite Happy Bee moment was making the donation to the GVSU Beekeepers.

“A close second favorite experience was selling hammocks in Ann Arbor at a summer festival,” Schrader said. “Christian (Yap) dressed up in a honeybee costume to help gather interest into what we were selling. It made a lot of people come ask us for more information.”

As for their upcoming projects, the founders of Happy Bee Outfitters have high hopes.

“Drone photography! We are looking into buying a drone to take aerial shots of various West Michigan landmarks and landscapes,” Schrader said. “We think it would be a fun experience to travel around West Michigan while taking photos we could sell alongside our Happy Bee products at summer festivals.” 

To find out more about the company and its products, visit www.happybeeoutfitters.com or their Instagram page @HappyBeeOutfitters. 

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