Garrett Harris 12:36 a.m., June 19
Entrepreneur; One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risk of a business or enterprise. (Merriam Webster)
Seems like every time we seek a craft beer we find a new brewery on the block. In my neighborhood, off Sycamore Avenue in Vista California, there are three; Mother Earth and Iron Fist at the opposite ends of the street and Aztec in the middle. On the other side of town, Prohibition brewery opened their doors last year, and not to the greatest of reviews. However, with the recent addition of a Siebel graduate who has just finished an internship at Aztec, expect this to change. Just because our stove top IPA is the rage of our Uncle Charlie and his neighbors, does not necessarily make us ready for entrepreneurship. The jump from proud home brewer to commercial brewing is a humbling one, especially if we do not know what every successful business person knows; the fundamentals of practicing business itself. Compound this lack of knowledge with the misguided attitude of competition instead of co-operation and we are doomed for failure.
The rude awakening of trying to scale a five gallon batch to a ten barrel system pales in comparison to the trials and tribulations of running a company. Many of the brew masters come from regular 9 to5 jobs, or were unemployed, and start with little information about the complexities of the business world. Most have a vague idea and a little start up cash, and some do not even have the latter. Small business owners have a tendency to listen to bad advise, throw money towards fixing problems that could have had other solutions, and most importantly, do not bring the correct help on board quick enough. Installing our son’s unshaven, scowling college buddy behind the bar instead of a professional, is painful to watch. With the budding entrepreneur spending too much time and energy working in their business instead of in their start up, stagnation will set in.
Any Successful company will attest to this fact; what they lock up in their vaults is not money, but information. Our most valued asset is the database, the new customer is wonderful but customer retention is pay dirt. Marketing and advertising starts at least 6 months prior to any event, and it is no different in a brewery. Letting patrons know a week before the Cinco de Mayo party, and then wondering why nobody showed up is not a surprise, established venues captured them a long time ago. Small business, those of whom gross under $10,000,000 a year as defined by the SBA, does not sell the widget or a glass of beer, we sell service, and when we serve our customer, they will reward us. Knowing some basic marketing and advertising techniques, or finding someone who does, pays off.
The beer market is a large one, most people I know drink beer, and its been proved we cannot make the beer fast enough to satisfy this market. Focusing on competing with the brewery across town or street, is futile and unproductive, negativity and bad mouthing gets out, as we share the same customer. Why not make use of this gigantic data base? Co-operating and helping each other finding solutions streamlines the start up, eases the pain instead of prolonging it. We must remember, competition is best left for the large corporations and not the small guys. Our towns and villages will thank us.
Its a sad and sobering fact, 90% of new start ups will fail within the first 5 years of operation. The road from home brewer to entrepreneur can be an arduous one, however, it does not have to be. Make it imperative to learn the fundamentals of business, just as it is to master the professional side of manufacturing a tasty IPA. Prior to jumping into the deep end of a commercial brewery, apply the servitude attitude, and surround our selves with the correct help, this the recipe for success. The customer will raise a glass to that. ~Guru