John and I are happy to report that we now have actual serious equity in the company and not just a massive amount of sweat equity. We recently purchased nearly 200 plastic kegs from Plastic Kegs of America. This amount was split somewhat evenly between 1/2 BBL (15 gal) and 1/6 BBL (5 gal) kegs. This piece of the puzzle by itself was extraordinarily expensive, and my car is now being held ransom by the USC Credit Union. These are the sorts of decisions you have to make when starting a business. In this instance, the reward, new kegs, far outweighs the risk, losing my car. We have also poured our hard-earned money into some marketing tchotchke including coasters, stickers, t-shirts, keg collars, and keg tape. The collars are required by the state (a sort of bottle label equivalent for a keg), and the keg tape is for inventory and identification. Alone, these things weren’t incredibly expensive, but together the price is a little more than we wanted to spend so we decided to veto other items such as bottle openers, hats, and glassware. Check out the pics in the Gallery! Original artwork by Ken Barnes.
We are also continuously working on our business plan. If you are interested in starting a brewery up yourself, I would suggest reading The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery by Ray Daniels. It’s a collection of essays by industry professionals and is a great resource for everything that goes into the process. It’s not the end all be all, but it’ll get you going in the right direction. One theme that gets repeated is that you can focus too much on the business plan. It’s something that you need to have, and it needs to be tight, but you also have to make sure you are moving forward with the rest of the project. John and I have been working on our business plan for the past 3 years, and we continuously modify it as changes occur within the beer industry, LA’s business climate, investment opportunities, and our general ideas about the project. When we first started out, we were going to go full bore into starting by opening a brewery, but as we look at it now, we feel that building our brand awareness through a contract brewery is the better way to start. This book reiterates that your plan will consistently change as time goes on and to update it frequently.
I would also suggest picking up other books related to business start-up, including books that deal with legal issues, project management, and partnerships (if you have one). Here’s the thing, and this is where I think many people get hung up: you are starting a business. Yes, you can home brew. Yes, you can make great beer. But when you want to open a brewery, you have to think of it in terms of running a business, not as brewing beer. Obviously, you have to know what your are doing in the beer department, so make sure you are prepared–but hey, if you can’t sell it, you won’t be able to stay open. I’ve become much more business-minded as this project has gone on. Which expenses will get us closer to our goal, and which ones can wait? We have to make educated money decisions daily. I can’t overstate this: you need to go into your business with a solid plan. If you are seeking investment, this fact is even more imperative. If you can’t show people that you mean business or convince them that you know what you are doing, why would they trust you with their money?
I’m oversimplifying this whole subject here, but these are the general concepts. This being said, the point that Ray Daniels is trying to make is that you need to look at the big picture. Your plan isn’t just a document you’ve written to show to people to pique interest in your company; your plan is you, your partners, your ideas, your sales pitch, and your vision.