Find out why they’re called pioneers in the booming industry
College of Charleston grads and business partners Liam Becker and John Berdux.
Behind the warehouse doors of Apis Mercantile, you’ll find two bright entrepreneurs, John Berdux and Liam Becker, with a warm spirit and solid values that seem to fit well with their favorite phrase: “All ships rise at high tide.”
The James Island-based company—known for products that range from raw honey to hemp tinctures, as well as body care, pet care, and health supplements—was founded three years ago by College of Charleston alumni and former roommates, Becker (class of 2016) and Berdux (2014), during the infancy of South Carolina’s hemp industry.
They became interested in honey while they were still in school when Berdux, an amateur apiarist, set up two beehives in their backyard at St. Philip and Line streets. But after graduation, Becker dove into working with surfboards while Berdux worked in corporate retail training. During a trip home to Richmond, Virginia, for Christmas, one of their former college roommates encouraged them to consider going into the hemp business. “Our buddy Matt Rowe, who lives in Colorado and works in cannabis, started to tell us about the developing industry and how it was going insane,” recalls Becker. “We started talking about an opportunity of doing this on the East Coast, where it wasn’t as active as in Colorado.” Blending hemp with honey seemed like a natural fit. “I thought, ‘stick to what you know,’ and I knew honey,” Berdux adds.
(Left) Apis Mercantile sources honey directly from beekeepers in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire; (Right) In addition to honey, the company sells full-spectrum hemp tinctures and skin care products.
First, rather than going through a large food conglomerate and commodity brokers, the business partners sought out small, sustainable beekeepers, allowing the beekeepers to keep more money and Apis to source the best honey available. “We have an intimate understanding of where our honey comes from,” says Berdux.
When they tried to add full-spectrum hemp extract, which contains CBD, to their honey products, the pair found they were among the first to seek guidelines from the state Department of Agriculture. In the beginning, they infused the honey with the hemp oil in Colorado, where there were existing policies, before shipping it to South Carolina. In 2019, clearer state guidelines made it easier to produce their hemp-infused honey locally. “Many people call us ‘pioneers’ because we launched our products before the big boom in the hemp industry,” explains Becker.
After almost three years, Apis Mercantile has more than 300 products in stores across the country and continues to grow, collaborating with other local businesses, including Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and Firefly Distillery. Becker, head of sales, and Berdux, the product developer, say they’re focused on building a company with values, from their careful support of small beekeepers to their sustainable packaging and employee perks. “Sustainability and transparency play important roles in what we do,” says Berdux.
The business partners are finding that the sweet spot for success thrives when strong ethics meet adaptability and courage.
Land of Honey - Customers can find Apis Mercantile honey and hemp oil on their website, as well as in the following local products: