Starting a business is no easy task, especially one as complex as a brewery. Many times, only a handful of people (often one or two) are handling every single aspect of the business. This is definitely the case for Twin Lights. For those of you unfamiliar with our corporate structure, there are only two of us (Will and Mike). Like other entrepreneurs before us, both of us are still working full time as we embark on this journey to open our brewery, which further adds to the weekly load of work. I would like to highlight some of the most important aspects that business owners need to focus on when starting a business, as well as point out some of the challenges and expectations you will face, whether is be opening your own brewery or any other business.
I have already written an entirely separate article on how to write a business plan (you should read it!), but I want to stress again how important this is. Your business plan is not a static piece of paper. It will evolve numerous times as your business takes new twists and turns.
For us, we have had to evolve it entirely to include the possible addition of a retail liquor license, which would allow us to not only manufacture and sell our beer in our tasting room, but to also sell food as well as other spirits. For those unfamiliar with how breweries work, you cannot sell food, have live entertainment, or serve any other alcohol other than your beer in a brewery (in the state of NJ). If you are able to obtain a regular liquor license, you are now able to operate a brewpub. As some of the locations we are looking at come with liquor licenses, we have had to completely rework our business plan to include not only revenue projections for food and spirits, but also the staffing and build out costs that come with it. Whether we go that way or not, it is important that we include it in our plan. What ever business you are in, make sure you think of every possibility and plan for it. Even the smallest overlooked detail in your business plan could mean the difference of a bank approving your loan or not, or of an investor looking the other way.
I planned on writing an entire article devoted to this subject alone, as there are numerous ways to fund a business. However, when starting a business, it is important to make sure you leave all options on the table when it comes to financing a business. Some businesses require very little capital to get started (consider yourself lucky). A brewery is the exact opposite. We intend to manufacture and distribute beer, which means hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, not including the additional cost of outfitting the tasting room.
Many people will use money from their savings, which I highly recommend. Any investor or bank is going to want to see that you have some skin in the game. Would you loan money to someone who had no money of their own on the table? Probably not. Neither will a bank or an investor.
Many people, ourselves included, will be bringing on investors as well as banks to obtain all the capital required to open the brewery. This comes with it’s own challenges. Banks are not always easy to work with. Because financing a brewery is such a unique business, many banks do not understand how they work, or how to properly assess the risks associated with them. It is important to find a bank or someone who specializes in your industry, that way the loan process will be smoother. Investors are an entirely different story. Do you take a loan? Do you give them an equity stake in the business? These are questions that should not be taken lightly. Generally speaking, you do not want to give pieces of your business away freely, especially if they are not going to be doing anything else in the business other than providing you with capital. In addition, bringing on partners is not always the best thing to do. In my experience, the more people in the room, the harder it is to come to decisions in a timely manner (look at Congress if you want a real life example). Either way, you as the business owner will have to do your due diligence. I highly recommend consulting tax advisors as well as financial advisors, in addition to doing your own homework, to help you determine what is the best course of action.
Is one of the most important parts of your business. If people don’t know what you do or how to get to your product or service, you are not really providing much value. As a small business owner, you will likely be juggling this yourself. For us, this includes managing our social media and website ourselves, as well as this blog.
Regarding social media, you will want to post something almost every day, that way you are always on peoples minds. For us, since we do not have a location and cannot legally sell beer yet, we have had trouble finding enough content to post on a daily basis. Try to be creative with your posts. Think about what you would want to see. If you are posting on Facebook or Instagram, you will likely only have a second to catch someones attention as they scroll through their feed.
Boosting posts to garner new followers or views is an extremely cost effective and efficient way to advertise. I recommend boosting a post or two to see how it works for you. You can choose your budget and your target audience, as well as how long it runs for. We did our first post for 15 dollars and it ran 3 days. We got over 50 new followers (people who will now see our future posts for free), as well as 150 new profile views.
Back Office Work
There are very few people who enjoy doing paperwork. We are not those people either. However, it is extremely important that you keep up with everything. From preparing your corporate and tax documents to responding to customer messages, you must make sure you submit things in a timely manner. Trust me, the IRS does not want to hear your excuses as to why you didn’t file your taxes on time. Your customers don’t want to hear that you were too busy to answer their messages. Pay your bills on time. File you taxes on time. Keep copies of everything.
Selling Your Product or Service
Often times in a small business or startup, the owners are on the ground floor promoting and selling their product. Once we open our doors, we will be doing just that. Until you have enough capital or resources to hire a sales force, you must put the feet to the pavement and get out there. Go to networking events. Knock on doors. Call people. Ask for introductions. If you are not putting yourself in uncomfortable situations on a daily basis, you probably are not trying hard enough. People are doing to tell you no, but people are also going to tell you yes!
Keep Your Head Up
It is easy to get lost or discouraged when opening a startup, especially if you are doing it by yourself. At times it can seem overwhelming. All I can say is that there are going to be ups and downs, but you need to be persistent. Surround yourself with other successful people. People that will bring you up and make you better. Keep your eye on the prize. Make a to do list and check it every day. Don’t allow yourself to get off track. Many people use business or life coaches to keep them motivated. Since there are 2 of us, we keep each other on track by holding each other accountable.
Any Questions or Comments? Want me to write about something specific? We would love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org