Let’s Talk About Start Ups

The last few months I have been occupied by consulting, often with people in startup mode for operations. Nothing groundbreaking in these ideas, but this is where I hear a lot of conversations going.

Legal issues
Hire a lawyer, someone who specializes in beer law. Get your trademarks established if you have a unique name. Every week I hear a story about someone who intended to open with one name but had to change due to it existing elsewhere. Checking Google, Untappd, and trademark filings takes all of 5 minutes, save yourself the hassle later. I know of a brewery that currently is over 6 months of it’s processing of it’s TTB application because the person hired isn’t used to do the filings. I have done one, they are a pain in the butt so hire someone who knows what they are doing.

Have a Plan
Write a business plan and have someone knowledgable review it. Do your assumptions make sense? Do you understand the market? Your place within it?  With over 5,000 breweries in the United States and lots still trying to open you need to find your niche. Bring something unique to the table. There are over 13,000 wineries in the United States so I won’t say the market is oversaturated, but just because your friends all love your homebrew you can’t just expect to open and the world to beat a path to your door.

Have a taproom and make it a reflection of your identity. I wrote why it matters for your brand a while back. It is also your most profitable sales location, if I told you you can make $5 per sale or $1 per sale which would you prefer? Yes there are extra headaches, but as an old mentor said to me taproom sales keep steady income that can fuel growth until your brand is large enough to distribute effectively. There are breweries operating for decades without a taproom going back and building one now because they realized they were leaving money on the table.

Brew it Right
Quality matters. Make it your #2 priority (after SAFETY)! I saw a social media post recently a brewery proudly displaying their new Kolsch which was as murky as a San Francisco night. Not getting into the cloudy beer issue, but if you are having a style that is known for brilliant clarity give it the time to happen. Too much sulphur, don’t sell it. In the end bad beer hurts the industry as a whole. And remember if you have enough money to go to GABF, you have enough money to build a lab.

People think beer is easy and especially on a homebrew scale it is, but if you want to make a living at it is hard work. You won’t get rich overnight, if at all. And if you aren’t doing the above succeeding will be all the more difficult.

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