Minnesota Law

Summer 2021

Minnesota Law Students Help Bee Nonprofit to Get Airborne

As practice scholars at the Business Law Clinic, 3Ls Molly McKinsey and Edmund Pine got a honey of an assignment assisting NPO founders

Corporate Institute executive director Emily Buchholz '10 and 3Ls Molly McKinsey and Edmond Pine examine honeycomb held by Susan Brown, owner of Mademoiselle Miel, on the roof of her shop. (Photo: Tony Nelson)

When 3Ls Molly McKinsey and Edmund Pine signed up to spend last summer as practice scholars through Minnesota Law’s Corporate Institute, they knew they’d be busy helping local small business owners. What they didn’t know was that one of the things keeping them busy would be bees—or that they'd cap off the experience touring rooftop beehives and sampling fresh chocolate and honey at the shop of the chocolatier whom they had helped.

The practice scholars summer program allows students to gain valuable experience working with local businesses on projects that intersect business law practice with business law scholarship. At the same time, the program, like the Business Law Clinic that runs during the school year, benefits the community by providing local businesses owners with free information and guidance. One of the services offered throughout the year is a Brief Advice Session. 

“The Brief Advice Session is a short meeting with a small business owner or entrepreneur,” Pine explained. “These meetings do not establish an attorney-client relationship, but are instead utilized as generalized, issue-spotting first steps for small business owners. Professor [Emily] Buchholz manages the session, ensuring that [students] have opportunities to both participate and observe the fact gathering process. The Brief Advice Sessions illuminate the concerns that small business owners have at various phases in their operations. Through these sessions, we could often alleviate uncertainty and confusion by helping owners understand their own needs and then recommending different legal services based on fit.”

It was during a Brief Advice Session that Pine and McKinsey met Todd Marshall and Nick Wolferman, who, working with St. Paul-Minnesota-based chocolate shop Mademoiselle Miel, were seeking to establish a nonprofit called “Building Bees.” The group would be dedicated to bee-related education and advocacy work.  

While the connection between bees and chocolate may not be intuitive at first blush, it quickly becomes apparent looking at the offerings of Mademoiselle Miel, where honey-infused bonbons are a signature item. The shop maintains beehives on its roof to ensure a ready supply of the golden ingredient fresh at hand.  The shop’s proprietor, Susan Brown, doubles as a beekeeper to keep the hives humming.

Establishing Building Bees as a nonprofit will help separate the bee education and advocacy work from the day-to-day operations of the chocolate shop. The mission of Building Bees includes supporting and training local beekeepers and educating the public on the ecological necessity of honeybees. The group plans to invest in low income and BIPOC communities to better support essential green spaces.

A Land of Chocolate & Honey

After conferring with Buchholz, McKinsey, and Pine about the legalities of spinning off the nonprofit venture, Mademoiselle Miel invited them over to tour the shop. Brown showed them her shop’s rooftop hives, gave them a taste of honeycomb, and provided them samples of her chocolate paired with the fresh honey provided by the bees.

“They were so excited to show us their store and products, and to share their story,” said McKinsey, who wants to practice business law. “It was a privilege to see one of the businesses we worked with in person—a delicious and educational experience. I dream about that chocolate and honey!”  

“I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at a process that I previously knew little about, see the realization of someone's entrepreneurial dream, and eat incredibly high quality chocolate!”
Edmund Pine, 3L

Pine, who is also interested in practicing business law, was still buzzing about the experience as well. “I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at a process that I previously knew little about, see the realization of someone's entrepreneurial dream, and eat incredibly high quality chocolate!”

The Business Law Clinic has taken Building Bees on as a client and will continue to work with the organization over the upcoming semester as it seeks to get established as a nonprofit.

Mademoiselle Miel reports its experience with the Brief Advice Session program and now with the Business Law Clinic “has been in every way spectacular” and that it is grateful for all the support it has gotten.

“Professor Buchholz has guided us along the way with patience, kindness, and genuine interest,” the shop said in a statement. “We have also greatly appreciated the involvement of the students, Molly McKinsey and Edmund Pine, who have been curious, helpful, and engaged throughout this process.”

McKinsey said being a practice scholar gave her an invaluable opportunity to apply her legal education to practical situations in her area of interest. “I would love to continue helping creative thinkers share their passion and vision with the community.”