The honey industry isn't typically one that a lot of people look to for a career, but for Mudgee's Levi Jackson, a job at Honey Australia has led to opportunities even he didn't expect.
Levi was studying and working as an apprentice of metalwork fabrication engineering but found the mining industry was scaling back rather than up at the time he started looking for work.
"I was a few years into my apprenticeship and there was no work at the time. The mine had just put off a lot of people, this was about five or six years ago. I just couldn't find a job," Mr Jackson said.
Luckily for Levi, he was already friends with the Maiolo family that runs Honey Australia, better known to locals by its retail space, Honey Haven.
We will soon have the largest creaming plant in Australia for Manuka Honey.Levi Jackson
"I already knew them and they were wanting to expand their workforce and capacity at the factory and warehouse, and that's where it all began," Mr Jackson said.
It was a drastic change for Levi, but one he embraced.
"At the time I was keen to continue my engineering apprenticeship but decided to give it a go and --- five years on," Mr Jackson laughed.
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Levi had found success and helped grow the business. He loved his work but wanted to expand.
"I approached Nick and Nathan Maiolo, owners of Honey Australia, and said, 'his has been fun I've enjoyed working for you guys, but I don't want to be stuck in Mudgee all my life,'" he said.
"They asked me what they could do to keep me around, they really valued my work,"
"I said I wouldn't mind gaining some sort of certificates in a course, so that if I leave I have something, but not only that I want to expand my training as well to understand different avenues of the business,"
"They said no worries. They even paid for it."
Levi chose to study a Certificate IV in Business with TAFE Digital - based on what he has learnt, has already implemented a training and induction program for new employees, as well as a new customer service system.
Levi's new expertise came at the perfect time for Honey Australia which has increased its output and exports to foreign countries exponentially thanks to the advent of Manuka Honey.
"When I first started we were packing about 100 tons a year, maybe less. As of last year we hit around 400 tons a year," Mr Jackson said.
"We're in about 12 countries now. We do have good old honey among other products. But we really focus on the Australian Manuka Market,"
"We will soon have the largest creaming plant in Australia for Manuka Honey."
Honey Australia and Levi plan to work together to expand the business into Sydney in the near future and establish a warehouse and office in the city.