From Bee School to B-School

From Bee School to B-School

Dawn Musil is a current 2020-21 Skoll Scholar and Oxford MBA. She is the co-founder of HiveLend and mentor for ApisSmart, a beekeeping social venture in Bebuso, Ghana. Read more about her path to Oxford.

I got a call from the post office, from a rather flustered employee informing me that “my five packages had arrived and they’re BUZZING”. His voice was anxious and concerned and I couldn’t help but laugh: my first packages of honeybees had arrived and I was elated!

At 14 years old, I had just finished the three-month-long bee school training that led up to the day of installing new packages of bees in their hives. With everything from learning about hive diseases, to the life cycle of the honeybee, how to requeen, and extract honey; bee school was a chance to be a student of one of the most critical and incredible insects on our planet: the honeybee.

Installing the beehives resulted in the first of many bee stings but taught me so much patience and I soon began to learn from observing and caring for the bees. As with any new practice, particularly one with a dynamic system of 50,000 living beings, I made mistakes and learned from them. I learned about the resilience of these bees despite the shifts in weather, the dearth- lack of nectar flow and food, and their ability to adapt quickly when an early spring would quickly turn cold.

field shot hive checks for hive health research

It was during this time that I began to understand the commercial pollination industry. In the United States, millions of beehives are moved around the country to meet the pollination needs of farmers. Without these critical creatures and their pollenpants- to spread flower pollen- the almond and apple flowers and ⅓ of our food products would not turn into fruit, but would wither and die.

You see, European honeybees, Apis mellifera, are not native to the United States, they aren’t accustomed to the variations in temperatures across all growing zones, the food sources that we provide for them or the movement of their homes across thousands of miles to meet the pollination needs of our food system.

beekeepers inspecting bees by hive

But while they are facing challenges, they are also resilient and adaptable creatures, with bees earliest ancestors being estimated to have been around nearly 74 million years ago, long before the most recent ice age around 2.6 millions years ago. And while this isn’t a reason to not heed the warnings of this canary in a coal mine, this is a reason to learn from them in a time of global change.

The resilience of these creatures came with me in my entrepreneurial endeavors over the past few years of building HiveLend: an online platform to connect beekeepers and farmers to facilitate pollination, and it echoes even more strongly into the lessons here at Saïd Business School and the Covid-19 world that we are all experiencing together.

The hives of bees are colonies of at least 50,000 hard-working creatures, each with a critical role, and each with the bigger picture of the health of the colony in mind. This perspective is critical to our present world.

Dawn pointing at bees

We cannot anticipate what the next few years will look like, within my courses at Saïd Business School the speculation of the future of business is varied from one person and professor to another, but it is the lessons of resilience that I learned from my first bee school and the time spent with these incredible creatures over the past 13 years that come with me into B-school today.

The cohort of business school this year echoes the community resilience of a hive: it is one of 312 students who chose to undertake a move across a country, ocean or continent in order to learn to be leaders in a changing world. It was one of the hardest transitions that we are still experiencing, but it is one that we are facing together. From diplomats, professional equestrian athletes, and consultants to founders, teachers, and wildlife film directors, each diverse experience brings a lens to building a better future. Just like the hive, we each have a role, and a vision for the greater community, and are here to “bee the change” we want to see in the world.

The Skoll Scholarship is a fully funded competitive scholarship for incoming MBA students to Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, who pursue entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges. Find out more and apply for the next Oxford MBA cohort today.