Founder of Comvita, Claude Stratford, celebrates his 102nd birthday in TePuke on the 18th August! He is a walking advertisement for natural bee products, with his daily health regimen consisting of bee pollen, manuka honey, olive leaf extract, multi-vitamins and Omega 3 capsules.
Beekeeping has been a constant in Claude's long career. He started keeping bees at 11 years old, when he left school. During his teenage years he ran a small commercial beekeeping business in Richmond, along with a prize-winning poultry farm. He would cross the Cook Strait to sell his honey in Wellington. He then started an apiary businesses in the Waikato and the Peria Valley in Northland. It wasn't until he was 64 years old, when he moved to the Bay of Plenty to be closer to his children, that he saw an opportunity to set up a honey and pollen-inspired health product business, Comvita. It was meant to be his modest retirement venture, but today the NZX-listed business is turning over more than $80 million a year and has 250 staff in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Europe, Asia and the United States. "It was really a hobby that just simply took off. It's gone beyond my expectations."
Mr Stratford retired in 1992, at 82, but continued to run a small pollen processing firm until he was in his mid-90s – when he was a finalist for a Bay of Plenty Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
"I didn't actually know what it was to be well until my mid-30s. Around the ages 24 to 26 I suffered a lot of ill-health – I was just generally run-down – and when I was about 26 I read a book on pollen remedies by Marjorie McCormick called The Golden Pollen. I started producing and consuming bee pollen at that stage and I've been taking it for the last 80 years."
During his long career he has worked on Auckland's waterfront, driving taxis, selling insurance, growing comfrey, milling flour and working for Healtheries. He is a man of amazing great tenacity and determination. He has been married five times and had many personal tragedies. His first wife and fourth baby died during child birth, and has lost two adult daughters. Many of his early business ventures failed and he just walked away and started all over again from scratch.
He says it's been a mix of hard work, dogged determination, optimism and his Christian faith that's seen him through. What an inspiration!
Information for this blog post was sourced from www.newzealand.com