Cleveland Hustles: The Hustle Continues

Why one entrepreneur turned down a $100,000 investment in his side business

By day, Wesley Bright has a career in technology. After work, he's all about bees.

As founder of the Akron Honey Co., Bright oversees hive production in a vacant lot turned apiary.

"My business began as a way to make our community better," Bright says of the empty plot of land near his house. "My wife let me buy it."

Akron Honey's sales have been steady, but modest. Selling anywhere from 600 to 1,200 jars per year, Bright is taking in about $3,600 to $7,200 annually, which isn't bad for a side business.

To take it to the next level, he hoped to woo Jonathan Sawyer, an investor on CNBC's reality business show "Cleveland Hustles."

Akron Honey Company owner, Wesley Bright
CNBC
Akron Honey Company owner, Wesley Bright

The show, which is executive produced by LeBron James, focuses on revitalizing Cleveland's Gordon Square. It offered Akron Honey an opportunity to branch out into a retail space where Bright also hoped to start a new line of honey-based cosmetics.

Sawyer saw big possibilities with Akron Honey, and he gave Bright a chance to prove the value of his products by challenging him to open a pop-up shop for one day. The goal: $800 in sales.

With only 72 hours to make it happen, Bright worked day and night. But pushing his small business into retail proved to be a little more than he could handle. Struggling to pull the shop together, Bright received encouragement and entrepreneurial advice from James' childhood friend and current business partner, Maverick Carter.

"The thing that you have to fall in love with is the process," Carter said. "That hustle. That every day getting up and going through the process."

Bright kept pushing to open his pop-up shop, and Akron Honey ended up exceeding expectations — almost doubling the goal — by bringing in sales of more than $1,300 in just one day.

It was enough to persuade Sawyer to invest in Akron Honey, and he offered Bright $100,000 for 25 percent equity in the company.

"I want to raise baby bees with you. I want to be your bee mommy!" Sawyer exclaimed.

Ultimately, however, after going through the process of starting a retail storefront, Bright decided not to take Sawyer's investment.

"I'm not ready," Bright said. "Akron Honey is at a point where we're still trying to figure out what to do."

It just wasn't the right timing for him, his family or his business, he said, but Bright plans to keep working to grow the company gradually.