News at Mason
Patriot Pollinator Coalition busy as bees
March 22, 2019 / by Damian Cristodero
Perhaps you have noticed Soulin Reyes walking around George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.
The business management major, senior and president of the Patriot Pollinator Coalition is usually leading a small group of student interns and volunteers, all wearing green bee-print Hawaiian shirts and hawking the coalition’s honey-based products.
“It builds you up to be stronger,” Reyes said of the door-to-door sales that take her into many campus buildings and offices. “When you go out to sell, it’s not always easy. People will say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t care’ and will even be rude to you. But you have to learn how to take it. Not everybody wants the same thing.”
That is just one of the lessons learned from participation in the Patriot Pollinator Coalition, a social entrepreneurship program in Mason’s School of Business that is a training ground for potential future business owners and an incubator for new product ideas. It is also devoted to revitalizing bee populations and advancing bee research.
Students, with guidance from Assistant Professor David J. Miller, executive director of Mason’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Program Manager Becky Howick, are responsible for developing products, partnering with local businesses to get those products manufactured, keeping track of the books and coming up with marketing and sales strategies.
“From idea generation to product development, it’s real-world, hands-on experience,” Miller said. “We’ve created an environment where you can enjoy yourself and learn skills and also have a positive impact.”
Products for sale include raw honey, honey-infused K-cups, tea bags, lip balm, baseball caps, seeds that grow flowers to attract bees and—of course—the Hawaiian shirts.
Products in development include a honey-infused energy gel and beeswax wrapping paper for sandwiches.
The honey is sourced from multiple local apiaries. Because the environmental and social impacts of the coalition are such important aspects of this student-managed program, 20 percent of any proceeds goes toward pollinator research, Miller said.
“All the products have the benefit of teaching the students the entrepreneurship skills they need when they are going to build their resumes and show employers they are really great problem solvers,” Howick said. “If they’re going to start their own business, they have a safe space to learn, fail and understand all the different things that go into creating a product.”
That’s a great head start for Reyes, who said she wants to start her own business after graduation—perhaps a coffee shop-like place that will allow her to do some cooking.
“It’s good to know how to build a business and to see how everything grows when you put in the effort and dedication,” she said.
“Getting to see the big picture is a great benefit,” said community health major Paula Cano, a junior who is leading the development of the energy gel, “and seeing how to build something from nothing.”