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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The buzz about Melissa Kelly

Kelly stands among her bee colonies at her Lansdale home. PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA KELLY ’13 M.A.

Melissa Kelly ’13 M.A. has been a part of the St. Joe’s community since 2008, buzzing around campus as a photographer for the university, first full-time and then as a freelancer. 

“Part of my job meant I met everybody, and everybody knew who I was,” Kelly said. “I really felt like a part of campus.” 

In 2015, two years after receiving her master’s degree in writing studies, Kelly created her own photography business, Melissa Kelly Photography. Now a contracted photographer for the university, Kelly still knows her way around campus, doing marketing shoots, snapping headshots and routinely photographing events such as graduation. 

A business woman at heart–and something of a worker bee–Kelly operates by the approach: “Do good work, be good to work with and the rest will follow.” That motto has buoyed her success as a photographer and inspired other career paths: most recently a real estate agent for Keller Williams. She’s also a beekeeper. 

“Once you are self-employed and running businesses, a lot of the skills are the same,” Kelly said. “So sales is sales, whether I’m selling honey or photos or houses.” 

Kelly has always had a fascination for bees, but beekeeping was jump started with the help of her husband Greg Lobko, who gifted her a class on beekeeping for Christmas after she expressed interest. In 2019, the couple got their first hive at their home in Lansdale. 

A project manager for a construction company and a member of the Army, Lobko said he quickly got on board too. 

“She was kind of pressing the issue, and I started doing a lot of research, and I was like that’s kind of neat, I think I could get behind that,” Lobko said. “Once I kind of got my hands into it and actually got a couple of colonies of our own, it kind of took off in the scientific aspect of things. I really took a liking to it.” 

Lobko has continued to act as the primary beekeeper while Kelly serves as queen bee of the business, Lansdale Honey. 

While the couple was not able to harvest any honey their first year, they harvested 250 pounds the next, in 2020. They more than doubled that in 2021 with 630 pounds. They are planning to add seven more hives to their colonies in 2022. 

“If we got 630 pounds this year with 13 [hives], I’m anticipating 800 or 900 pounds,” Kelly said. 

On their website,, they sell one-pound bottles of regular honey for $10, as well as their new Hot Honey, honey infused with their home-grown peppers. While they sell through the website, a large portion of their sales are through the network that Kelly has built through her photography business. 

Kelly’s bottles of honey that she sells.

“Between college campuses, faculty, staff, doing weddings, meeting couples, their families, their friends, my network is humongous,” Kelly said. 

Beth Hagovsky, Ed.D, director of Student Leadership & Activities, who has known Kelly since she first started working at the university, was an early customer and is now on her fourth or fifth bottle. 

“I was afraid that first time around,” Hagovsky said. “She sold out so fast that I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to get any. But I got some that first time around, and have been buying it ever since.” 

While Kelly has a whole hive of loyal customers, one downside to the honey business is a lack of demand for the product. Kelly said since honey is something people buy infrequently, she and Lobko are looking for a solution to expand their sales. 

“When I sell to my initial network, it’s great, but then they’re good for a while,” Kelly said. “So I need to find other people. In the meantime, we’re just making more and more honey, so it’s kind of an exponential problem.” 

The couple is looking into expanding their network through farmer’s markets, bee festivals and Etsy. They are also looking to sell in bulk to businesses such as bakers, mead makers and distillers who use honey for beer. 

However, the one solution that is off the table is cutting back on the endeavor. 

“I love the honey because it doesn’t matter if we sell it or not,” Kelly said. “There’s no stress. The worst thing that happens is there’s extra honey around.” 

With the business now swarming, Kelly said she doesn’t think of beekeeping the same way she does her other jobs. It’s more of a “passion project.” 

“I don’t think of the honey as much of a business at the moment,” Kelly said. “I may down the road, but right now, it’s very much a hobby that happens to make some money and happens to run like a business. I still love photography, but it’s stress, and the bees are just not stress. Working with them is really fun.”

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