The newly married man was just looking for a hobby he and his wife could share, and beekeeping is what he found.
Today, Sheets runs the successful Nature Nate’s Honey company and is also the co-founder of the globally recognized I Am Second campaign.
But Sheets does not give himself the credit for the successes of the company or the campaign.
“When you look at my business card, it says president and chief steward. It doesn’t say CEO,” he said. “I’ve always said that God is our CEO, and I am merely the steward to what he’s entrusted us to run. I attribute all of our success to God.”
Nature Nate’s Honey was originally called North Dallas Honey Co. when it was launched in 1972.
When Sheets’ wife suggested the couple find a hobby together in 1996, Sheets thought of a TV commercial he saw where a woman wore a beekeeping suit.
He researched beekeeping, found the North Dallas Honey Co and contacted then-owner Fred Richardson to ask if he could buy a beehive.
By the summer of 1997, Sheets began helping Richardson keep up with all of his beehives.
One day after buying a barrel of honey, Richardson took Sheets out to a restaurant and proposed that Sheets buy the honey company. Sheets worked full-time at a design agency, but he still decided to buy the company in September 1997.
Shortly after buying the company, Sheets went to work for e3 Partners, an international missions corporation. While there, Sheets met Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller.
Miller called Sheets after he had an idea to start an advertising campaign to direct people to local churches. Sheets said Miller was not sure what he wanted the campaign to be, but said, “We just need to make Jesus as famous as Tony Romo.”
“As soon as he said that, God dropped this billboard in my mind,” Sheets said.
Sheets said he imagined a billboard with a celebrity, like Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is at the top of his profession. Underneath the celebrity’s photo were the words “I Am Second.”
Sheets said Miller loved the idea and invested $3 million into the campaign after Sheets and a friend formally proposed the project. I Am Second launched in December 2008, and actor Stephen Baldwin was one of the first celebrities to participate.
“Within like two months, we had viewings from every country in the world except North Korea and one other one,” he said. “All we had done was advertise in Dallas-Fort Worth, and it started this global explosion.”
Meanwhile, Nature Nate’s Honey was also experiencing success. A buyer from Wal-Mart asked Sheets to supply the honey for the stores.
The first order total came to $107,000.
Nature Nate’s Honey is now sold in grocery stores across the country.
But Sheets said of all of his successes, he is most proud of raising his four children.
“Being a father is 10 times harder than anything else I do,” he said. “That is working from an eternal perspective in trying to shape their hearts and minds to get them ready to become valuable members of the community and also for the kingdom.”