Thad's Story

  • Created 3 Full-Time Jobs

  • Created 3 Part-Time Jobs

  • Mentored 3 Apprentices & 30 Interns

  • Provided Summer Jobs for 20+ youth (2015-2016)

  • Established new partnerships with Westside Organizations

  • Co-Founder of Chicago's First Beekeeping Store

  • Founder Westside Bee Boyz, LLC. (2017)

  • Head Beekeeper Sweet Beginnings (2015)

  • President U-Turn Permitted (2013)

  • Combat Marine - Gulf War (1990-1991)

  • ISBA - Illinois State Beekeepers Association

  • CDBA - Cook DuPage Beekeepers Association

  • Ag in Progress - 

  • CCFB - Cook County Farm Bureau

  • North Lawndale Game Changer Award

  • Chicago Ideas Week Participant

  • Farm Aid 30 Homegrown Tent Participant


"My life wasn't always on the right track.  In 2010 times were tough, and money was scarce.  I lost my house, became homeless, and made some poor decisions.  I was charged with 2 felonies and briefly incarcerated. 


Upon release at age 46, I found myself in a desperate situation, alone, and homeless.  I hit rock bottom, but the experience inspired me to not only turn my life around but to change my attitude and aspire to something greater.

After my release in 2013, I moved into interim housing in the Pilsen neighborhood, at the San Jose Obrero Mission.  From there I began to piece my life back together, searching for stable employment and housing.  I connected with the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) flagship program, U-TURN Permitted (UTP)

Based on my positive attitude and fresh outlook, I was elected President of my UTP group. I graduated in 2013 and was hired to work at NLEN's transitional jobs program, Sweet Beginnings.  

In Sweet Beginnings I was able to work side-by-side with head Beekeeper, John Hansen, one of Illinois' most revered beekeepers.  It was with John's mentorship, that I made a deep connection with a small, but powerful group of the Lawndale Community - its honeybees.

The first time I opened a hive I just fell in love.  That love has truly motivated me to new heights.  After my apprenticeship with John, I launched my own business, Westside Bee Boyz, LLC. to manage 131 apiaries for Sweet Beginnings across 6 locations in the Chicago Metro area, including the largest airport apiary at O'Hare International Airport, plus I conducted training and workshops for all of Sweet Beginnings employees.

As a "Beetrepreneur", I co-founded The Hive, Chicago's first true beekeeping supply store, and Bee Boy Beverages which manufactures and distributes honey-based waters and teas.     

Seeing a need to serve those forgotten by the "system" my vision is for Westside Bee Boyz to provide training and entrepreneurial opportunities for disadvantaged youth in Chicago's westside."  Stay tuned for our 2021 Makerspace.

And so my love of bees and entrepreneurship continues. 

~ Brother Bee, Thad Smith