East Village beer-maker Mission Brewery counted 43 investors when it launched a fundraising campaign on crowdfunding website WeFunder.com on Monday, October 2nd. Four days later, Mission had added 130 new investors to its ranks, and counting.
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Mission set up its highly publicized campaign to raise between $300,000 and $1.07 million, soliciting a minimum investment of $200. In its first four days, the brewery had raised $84,000, or an average of $650 per investor. Shares are being issued at $4.32 apiece, against a pre-money valuation of $17 million.
Unlike crowdfunding sites such as KickStarter or GoFundMe, WeFunder has SEC approval to solicit equity shareholders through its web portal. But it means Mission was required to disclose financial details about its business. And it did so, providing a rare glimpse of the financial inner workings of a mid-sized brewery in San Diego, where beer businesses tend to be guarded about their finances.
Mission made public its accounting for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years ending October 31. It reveals the brewery brought in slightly more than $4.5 million in net sales each of the two years. Therefore, on a reported 16,000 barrels of production in 2016, the company showed net revenue of $282 per barrel. Mission projects to make 20,000 barrels in 2017 — the tenth year it’s increased production and its tenth in business.
However, it also reported net losses of roughly $685,000 in 2015, and nearly $2.2 million in 2016, finishing that fiscal year with a $6.1 million debt against assets of $3.3 million and $627,000 cash.
Brewery founder and CEO Dan Selis explains the $1.07 million he hopes to raise through the WeFunder campaign will be used to cover the difference between sales and expenses en route to becoming cash-flow positive by May 2018, and as certain fundraising benchmarks are reached, expansion to the first of as many as six planned, offsite tasting rooms. With an investment of half a million dollars, the company will hire an outside PR agency and expand to Northern California markets. If the full million is secured, additional investments will include new canning equipment, to begin marketing beer in 16-ounce cans.
After early reporting of Mission's finances related these annual losses and long-term debt, Selis says he wants to set the record straight on the circumstances regarding the brewery's recent financial history. "Mission had a profit three years ago," Selis explains, citing a 2014 profit amounting to a quarter of a million dollars. "We could have continued on that path to profitability, but we wanted to accelerate our growth, so we downshifted and stomped on the gas."
By that, he means the company invested heavily in efficiency and growth, which is why Mission's financial disclosures show a $1.1 million increase in assets between 2015 and 2016. During this time, the brewery upgraded to a new bottling line that can fill up to 86,400 bottles per day (up from 14,000); procured a dissolved oxygen meter to produce more consistent beer quality by avoiding oxidation; and added a centrifuge that Selis expects to salvage as many as five gallons per barrel of beer the brewhouse previously lost to filtration. "That machine should pay for itself within six month or so," he points out.
Mission also added more than 5000 square feet of private event space to its brewery in 2016, and upgraded its fermenting capacity with the purchase of ten 90-barrel tanks. Selis says the latter will allow Mission to maximize production capacity as it grows, with limited increase to labor costs. Meanwhile, he's set aside a one-million-dollar annual sales budget. As a result, he says core beer sales have risen 53 percent overall in 2017.
"Right now I could have a profitable company," Selis insists, "if Mission did not have employees and expenses in its sales and marketing departments." But he views those departments as vital to reaching for that projected $17 million valuation and characterizes the WeFunder campaign as the latest in a series of moves he's made to push his business forward. "I want to grow," Selis says, "and that's why we're doing this."