The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

31. Brewing a business with the Sons of Kent

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Chatham local Colin Chrysler, was on his way to the Island of Palau for a few weeks of surfing and brewing beer, when some visa complications left him stranded in British Columbia.

With few days to kill at the epicenter of Canada’s growing craft beer industry, Colin decided to make the most of his time and sought out a meeting with fellow Chatham natives, Alf and Doug Hunter, who had created a formula for building breweries across the Province.

That conversation culminated with the creation of Chatham’s first craft brewery, Sons of Kent.

On this episode, Eric Janssen sits down with half of the co-founders of the Sons of Kent, to discuss beer, business, and the impact a brewery can have on community and culture.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast from the Pierre L Morrisse at Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Ivy Business School. In this series I be entrepreneur and Ivy Faculty member Eric Janssen will anchor the session. All right, sitting down with that to the founders of sons of can't. Colin Doug thanks for coming in. Appreciates you guys making the time. Yeah, thanks there for sure, appreciate it good. Thanks, Robert. So I want to get into a bunch of pieces of the story the brewery, but I want to rewind the tape and maybe let's start with Colin. If you were when you were twenty two years old, where were you up to? What were you doing? I was having a lot of fun. I went to school in Ottawa for a couple of years, mostly because I wanted to have fun out there and kind of get away from chat. I'm a little bit and yeah, I had some had a good time and then I did a lot of traveling. I ended up twenty two, I was living in Australia and I was working for tourism company sailing traditional tall ships around the Great Barrier Reef as a deck hand. I kind of worked my way up and help navigate some big boats around the east coast of Australia, which was fun, and then I end up, yeah, coming home and started a small tourism company in Erie, Oh, which is where I grew up. It's on the lake where we did a lot of water sports and stuff and yeah, we throw some big events, we organized some big events and yeah, it's more traveling after that. But Long Story Short, ice found myself in the beer industry, starting in a small brew pub and getting stoked on beer. Actually my when I was in Australia, I fell in love with beer. Had A small brewery in Byron Bay and that was kind of in two thousand and ten. So to give you context. Yeah, I mean it doesn't seem like that long ago, but in the craft beer world that's like I'm like a veteran almost. But yeah, so it's interesting. But that really got me excited on what a craft bery could be and in what a craft free can do for a community and how much fun you can have kind of with the idea of beer more than the liquid itself, but what the idea of beer is and what I thought it was was super inspiring in that moment and then now I'm here. So, yeah, Byron Bay. Do you ever go to the Byron Bay Blues Fest? Unfortunately I didn't. I missed that one. That wasn't I wasn't living in Byron but I was passing through at the time and yeah, it's suppos to be awesome. I've never been. I had a company in the entertainment business, so we one of our first events in Australia was the Byron Bay Blues Fest. So that's a big one. YEA is yeah, it's worth a trip. It's worth a trip. You should go to should go make these HEE's. So it seems like you. So you grew up in Chatham, Small Town Chatham, Chadam Ontario. People have this when they live in small towns. I grew up in Windsor so relatively small town. Yeah, bigger than Chatham, but winds there's the big city. Locally, I think Chatham kind of rides that edge of being a city. Like sure, it's it is a city on paper, like I mean it's the city of Chatham, Ontario and county, but it definitely has a small vibe, small town vibe it. It's a city but I mean it's small town. Yeah, so did you you wanted to get out and just reset. Like why did you go travel? That's a good question. I mean I I was always kind of driven. My parents weren't like big adventurous people. They'd never really gone any further than Florida in the winter and like when I was a kid, that was our family vacation right same every year. Yeah, I mean being close to the border was easy for us, I guess. But yeah, you know, I don't know what it was. I think for me at the time, in the late two thousands and are yeah, kind of I guess. So over ten years ago now I'm super inspired and you know, I just wanted to go see the world. It was also at an interesting time before smartphones were incredibly accessible and traveling was a little bit harder. You know, booking a flight you had to find a desktop computer and book your flights and then when you were traveling you had to find Internet cafes, and I think about that in today's world and how different traveling was then and how it kind of inspired me to probably look at things little differently and investigate things differently, I guess, in my own world.

But yeah, I just wanted to see the world. I was really big into Water Sports and surfing and then beer after that, which changed my travel inspiration little bit places I would go. But yeah, I just wanted to kind of enjoy the world. But ultimately, I mean the more I traveled, the more I knew that I would always end up back home eventually, and that what that's really what traveling taught me and how I was inspired was. It really reiterated the fact where I knew where I wanted to be. Not necessarily know what I wanted to do yet, but it it gave me perspective on where what was important to me and where I would end up. So you wanted to get out with the idea of getting some perspective, but then eventually thought you'd come back. Yeah, and I mean, with that being said, I'm also on the you know, I've always been involved with Chatham can tourism and Chattam can youth re attension. Them on the board right now for K to the power of why I which is encouraging youth to relocate back to Chatham. Typically people whoo maybe go to school here and maybe someday want to move back to Chatham and we create kind of incentives and ideas of reasons why Chatham could be a cool place to relocate. So, yeah, it's been interesting for me and I think that was because that was my perspective and I was so passionate about my community. Ultimately, and I see all the pros of the reasons why you should move back and obviously Chatham needs young people to we have lost a little bit that. So I think it's really, really important and you know, I know that ultimately, the more young people that are in Chatham, the better quality of life I'm going to have, because it's just more inspiration, more cool businesses, more stuff to do or your people around it. Yeah, I hope so. So why wasn't the default for you to go find a stable job? Because you traveled then, you said, you came back and started your own water sports company. Why weren't you, you know, first step go find a job somewhere works and where stable? Yeah, I mean that's a great question. I love the freedom. I also loved having fun all the time. So being my friends were, you know, because we kind of grew up on the water, we didn't have, you know, mansions and stuff. I mean it was far from that. But I think ultimately we were very passionate about the community we lived in, which wasn't, you know, a big fancy resort town er Oh, if anybody knows about it, is a little tiny fishing village and when we were kids, I mean, you know, we would go down behind the Fire Hall and ride our skateboards off picnic tables. It wasn't, you know, anything overly fancy, but we just love that little community and my friends and I grew up there and we grew up on our skateboards and hanging out on the bay on our little tin boats and stuff, and we were just super passionate about wakeboarding and that just kind of inspired us to throw some events that were, you know, we taketed events and music and bands and played the bands. We did a bunch of stuff and I always saw an opportunity and I had a clothing company for a couple of years where I just I recognize that there was a lifestyle component and how you can market something and you can share your passion and people really want to buy into your story ultimately, but in an honest way, and I think there's I always had that kind of perspective on how to make a cool lifestyle and knowing that you know what I really need. And I mean I worked for businesses as well. It wasn't always just me doing my own thing, but ultimately I always knew that I would end up doing my own things. So got it. And how Doug's been sitting here patiently letting us tell her story and going it's a great story. How how did you guys end up meeting, because I want to get to the founding of sons of can. How did this? How did this? I'll tell us are really quick. This is kind of a crazy story. So I knew Doug. I knew who Doug was. I didn't know him. I didn't. I've never met him. Dougs a little bit older than me and his brother Alf and that's conservative. Yeah, so dug in Alf our brothers are also business partners in this was four of us all together. But the story of Doug in Alf I took a job after I finish brewing school in Germany. I had been back in living in chat I'm kind of looking for something to do, so I took an internship. Internships Brewing jop in my Cronesia, in Pala. So I was like I'm gonna I want to take we skipped over like yeah, brewing,...

...brewing school in Jermany. Mr Went to school, yeah, Microne Nusa. So so I want to hear keep going on the story, but like I want to hear you. We got to fill in the blanks. are a little bit yeah, a little bit. Yeah. So, Long Story Short, I'm on my way to from Toronto to Vancouver and then Vancouver to to Palau, which is a small island in Mycronesia, probably like I think it's about two hundred nautical miles from to the east of the Philippines. So just for context, geographically, most people don't know where Pala is, but not too far from Guam. It's an independent island it's self governed, but but fiftyzero people live on there all the time. Lots of tourism from Asia. So there's a brewery there. They make beer on the island. They import a lot of ingredients from the US, but it was really cool. It's owned by an American guy, really creative, passionate craft brewer. I caught winto this throw through people I went to school with and I was like, you know, this would be awesome and this for a few months and surf and make beer and live my life. But on my way out there my visa was denied in Vancouver. They wouldn't let me on the plane to get to plow so next thing you know I'm hanging out in Vancouver waiting to get all this paperwork storted out and I'm killing time, staying on my friends coach and I'm just visiting breweries because why not? I love beer and I had known that Elf and Doug Brothers were living in Vancouver from Chatham. Originally there are these two brothers that were from Chatham. They're living in Vancouver building really cool brewers out there. And I end up visiting these breweries and I'm on a tour of the breer called red truck and it was one that Elphan Doug wear just finishing building and ALF's up there in the office working on some paperwork and I get introduced all these people on this tour and also like we start talking to thee from Chatham. He's from Chatham. Next thing you know we're having beers, we go out for drinks and start talking about stories who we know. Obviously, Chattam being a small town, everybody knows somebody very few degrees of separation there and and we kind of started this idea of like you think there's a you think you could build a bre and chat and you think it could support a Bri and I'm this young guy being like yeah, I would love to move home some day and have a sweet bree and if these guys are on it, like we can make it happen. Me Being a little young and at the time and obviously a little maybe, over zealous of the whole concept and how easy it must be to build a brewery, having these guys as a reality check was a huge opportunity and I knew having that would would seal the deal. We could get it done and there's a lot of advantages that. So I ended up taking the job. My Caronesian I did it. A couple months in I get an email from Alph and. We had never really liked set the tone and we never said like we're going to build a brewery, but I think Alph and I kind of inspired each other. We let it go for a couple months. I get an email from him. Randomly, somehow we found out how to get ahold of me, because I was like yeah, I'm going to Micronesia. Catch a later, you know, and I get an email from him saying hey, when you come and back, I would love to talk more about this idea. And I was like, well, actually, my job is done in about a month and then I'll be my flight will connect in Vancouver, but I'll just extend it and I'll hang out in van for a couple weeks and we can try to see this is going on. And then, yeah, we all got involved. U was always been part of that too. And then we sat down for about a couple weeks and drank a lot of coffee and me started shooting the idea round and and then we were inspired. That was around two thousand and fifteen, I believe it was right fifteen. And and then, yeah, it took us a solid year at least to get things really moving. But then I flew back to Chatham try and then that started. Got To find a location. We had no direct flight from Micronesia to Chatham. There isn't now now. Yeah, fortunately that's a tricky one. But yeah, so that's kind of how we met. That's how the story started. Ultimately, I think having that small town connection was the inspiration. The fact that we were all in the industry are their partner to him as well. He was from Chatham, but he was he was a brewer for a little while back in his day. And then we all kind of had this brewing experience in the fact that we're all kind of not entirely invested in chat him at the time with our careers or our jobs wherever we were,...

...but we kind of saw this opportunity of Chathaman because we're all grew up there. We all had this vested interest in our hometown that it inspired us some. Yeah, and how did what were you guys doing, Doug, like, why were you guys? You were working on other breweries. Where you guys up to? My brother and off and I have a consulting company out of Vancouver and we install kraft berries across Canada, not just in BC. We've done them all over the place, Toronto, Niagara, Calgary. So we started coming him two thousand and twelve and I think we've worked on over thirty on an engineering capacity and probably fifteen on an installation capacity. Like we're actually going in actually installing the brewers for people. I'm getting contractors, Commin and how did you guys develop that? Expert, like, where did that come from? Well, so it's really so. My story is not as great as Collins. He's got a great story. He's surfing. When I was twenty two, that is kind of when I was twenty two I was in college. By the time I was twenty five, I two kids. I needed a job. I was supposed to be see with my brother. Off didn't happen, obviously, because I had two kids, and so I just got in the Corp World. I was in automotive. I was flaning all over the world in automotive and I just got burned out. So I quit and moved to BC in two thousand and twelve and in thirteen I said I had to go back to work. Two Thousand and thirteen, you need to go back to work. So Alf work for Molson's. He quit at Moleson to went back got his clean masters and clean energy and he was doing some consulting. He met a guy to barbecue and squamish. The needed help, which is the red truck bury column was talking about, and I had some project management experience and some sales and tech. So we said once you come down, check it out and see if you can help these guys out. So he worked on the engineering side and I kind of worked on the project management side and from there just took off and this massive boom hit was like thirteen and three. Yeah, the we're in the timing for these guys. Like craft beer boom has been ongoing. It's an interesting state right now, but at that time, I mean Alf being with Molson Miller Corps ultimately for fourteen years previous. I mean nobody saw this craft beer wave hitting the way it did. But obviously I'll having that background with those guys for so long and then kind of being got out of the industry exactly when the craft beer industry was about to explode and it was just, you know, that was the idea. The idea actually when I first went out there, because I have my I'm Mectech at a college out of St Claarin, Chatham with Energy Management, and we were going to start in energy management coming. That was kind of the idea when I went out there and we were going to talk about it and then this craft boom hit and we were only supposed to work like thirty hours. We could told him, look, I've been working eighty hours a week for ten years I'm done and next thing you know we're instantly three berries at one time. It's just I was crazy. And that went on and on and on. And then in fifteen and when we met call and that's when it that's when it just took off with the with the sons of Kens well and before that, before meeting Colin, you guys must have been tossing around like we're doing this for so many other people. Should we just do it on our own? Were you just love? Also, originally, you know, Alf and I talked about it because we saw business case. Obviously he was a cut us in capital. When he was out. They dealt with a lot of capital projects at Molson's as the engineering manager and he he kind of had all the background. He knew what we needed. He knew everything we needed to build a brewery. There were some pieces he didn't have in which we started figuring out all what all that was. That's when we started on hey, we should, what are we doing? Why don't we open our own brewery? And that was probably just before you came out. Yeah, so, so I'd the reason I knew who elf and Doug were. We're because I heard that these two brothers were fishing around ideas to build a bare and chat, I'm and people started telling me that, hey, somebody told me that these guys were looking at a building maybe, and these guys want to build a brewery, and I'm like, I don't know who these guys are, but I got to figure this out and find out who they are, because whatever was going on, a chat and I got to be part of it. We had actually talked to Kim...

Yeah, before you, because Tim was a brewer back in the day, back and I want to say Jesus, before I met my wife, so when they're early s and he was making homebrew and his house and I wasn't drinking it at the time because I was a cous like that back then. Fair enough, let the secret be known. Yeah, he used to be a converted cus like that. Yeah, they only drank most some products. Well, you know, that was yeah, the connection. Yeah, so interesting, different, different stories, right, like you went and did something totally different. Yeah, obviously had an interest in beer for a while though. Yeah, always understand beer, but but it was just a on a career side. Know, it probably started when I moved to be see, that's really when it started. Happening like okay, this is a really great idea. And in two thousand and twelve, ultimately, in my mind, was the year that craft started to become recognized. It was. It was a lot of stories, a lot of stuff in the media. Ontario was always a little bit behind in terms of when the boom was going to come, and a lot of that was just because, I mean, Ontario's a weird province ultimately, but I mean you look at the West Coast, I mean that's always been the boiling pot for you know, creativity and stuff. So BC was always ahead and obviously quite a bit of that's how we figured. Yeah, and often dug being out there while all the boom was happening out there. I think. You know, I remember Alfoy said he he saw so much potential on Taro. That just hadn't happened yet. Well, I think at the time BC was around seventeen to twenty percent craft sales. Yeah, and on Terry was around four or five. Yeah, so we saw I mean there was a not ton of opportunity early on and there still is, but it's changed. Things are always changing. This is such a weird industry in terms of the speed at which things happen. I think a lot of things are. But yeah, I mean as a whole. I mean we're very fortunate to be in the location we're at and I'm super grateful we're doing what we're doing. But things are changing. You got to be on top of it and it's good to to know what's going on in BC, in the US for that matter, two things were changing fast over there. But Ontario is in kind of it's a beast of its own and its uniqueness in the industry of beer and alcohol in general. There's a ton of opportunity, but there's also a lot of challenges in its territory, I guess. So okay, so you guys meet up. Who knows? Luck, fate, grace, I don't know what happened. You had really meeting up. You guys saw an opportunity. All from Chatham. You move back, decide that you're going to open up and chat him. So walk me through, even briefly, like how did you figure out what to do first? So I think that's, I'm not gonna say, stumps a lot of people. But like you wanted to be back in Chatham, you had an interest in beer, you had a background and beer. Your brother worked on capital projects. You knew the technical side, like I see how all the ingredients are coming together. Yeah, but then then what? How do you get things going? And Chatham? Well, I think I think first what happens? We had to do a bit. We did a business case Ot and BC. We hired a guy, or actually hire guy, because it's the craft beer world. We talked to a guy out and BC that it just opened up a brewery. He's a marketing guy. He created a market case like or a business case fors and. I didn't even think sons of Kent was our number one choice to start with. Wasn't honeyway threw some names around and this guy kind of just he was. He's a marketing guru who opened a brewery in Avasford and and he was really inspiring and he was kind of like well, this is what I'm going to kind of start with on a smaller scale and kind of how we're going to try to raise capital and whatever. I think ultimately breweries are very capital intensive projects. You've got it. I mean if you walk into a brewery, sure the tap room you got some nice bars and you know, tables and chairs whatever, but when you really look behind the window. There there's a window. We're looking the back door. I mean there's a ton of stainless steel, ton of infrastructure that's to go into it in terms of waste water and natural gas and energy, raw energy, just turning it into stuff. And then you've got concrete. And the bonus on that end was Elfin dug knew they've built a lot of brewers and knew exactly what things are going to cost. They knew all the suppliers, so we kind of could come up with a rough budget of what we need to start. But then it was yeah, trying to I mean,...

I'm not the financial grew and, but I know ultimately, alf kind of, I think, had an idea in his head of we need this much money to just get the doors open and then we can rally and try to keep this thing. Like we can start on a smaller scale if we don't get all the money we need. But we just had to have a we had kind of a black and white number that we had to have and if we had that just minimum amount, then we could open the doors and start and then we could continue to raise a bit more money and also start brewing beer and selling beer and in proving to the banks that we can have some revenue coming in to, you know, try to keep that cash full happening. But yeah, it's a capital intensive business. So I think ultimately it was I mean, finding a location that worked for us in everything else. But but you know, it was a tough start. You know, there were days when we, I think we all thought like I don't know if this thing's actually going to happen. You know, it was tough. We you know, we got beat down by some financial guys off the beginning, which was kind of defeating and but also good in a way to yeah, the kind of open there was some reality checks that we had to have, I think, in that starting phase. But but I think honestly, from me and everybody's different personality wise, but but having partners at that point I think was healthy in the sense of where we all kind of motivated each other a little bit to to you know, we all hand to kind of leveraged each other to say hey, you know, let's not let's you know, if somebody else is going to try, then I'm going to back you. We're just going to keep this thing going. So yeah, so wrote the business plan. Did the business case. Yeah, you use that case to go try to find some money, get some capital. Yeah, but in the meantime went we did. We did a little market study and Chatham, back in fifteen they had a craft beer show. So we made some beer. Tim or other owners place. He had his old equipment with makes of beer in his basement. Took it, took it there just to see what the response would be from the Chatham Folk, or actually not Chatham, Chattam, Kent Folk, and it was. It was excellent. I Call I was going to ask like kind of a big leap of faith, right, like I get if you were to, I don't know, go business school for a second and like, let's pick the perfect market to launch a craft brewery. Maybe it would be Chadham, maybe it wouldn't be. But you guys said no, we're going to start with chattams, where it's got to be. Yeah, that was a that was the standard. I think you could. You could really, depending on where you want to put a brew would really determine your Ark of strategy and your business strategy. But for us we knew Chatham was our base, our story are our emotional connection. Personally, the Chatam was there. But I think our story of who we are and I think having a really inspiring story in today's Day in terms of small business or any business in general, is is really important and I think your consumer, so seeing the craft beer business is, is really engaged with your story and if you can give an honest story about you know, for guys who grew up in this in this small town and we're in the industry and decided that they wanted to come home and build this thing is that's a story itself that people can really interact with, I guess ultimately so. So that was kind of the Chatham component of it for us. But yeah, everybody could have their own story wherever they want to be, but I mean ultimately where you are determined. Like there isn't really another brewery in Chatham, so it also we have a pretty open canvas of what we can do. I'm not going to say there won't be another brewery some day and Chatham. I think it would probably be healthy for the city to have another brewer. But if I were to open if I wasn't involved this brier and opening another one and we already existed, I probably wouldn't do the same thing we are doing right. I mean there's there's other avenues now that you could attract business doing. You know. So, so how did you, there's five of you, getting going, for for for how did you decide to how to structure it? Did you guys put in your own money? Did you always all outside capital? Like, how did you actually get going? So what we did is we did the business case up. We all put money in at one point and then we said look, we just, between four us, just don't have enough money to do what we wanted to do. So we actually went out and didn't investor pitch. We did it at a club...

...and in Chatham, a little club, and it was a real eye opener, the questions that we got from it, knowing that most of the none of us are business. We weren't business guys. We're tech, engineering, brewing, tech, your attach at one point. Yeah, and that kind of you know, we got a lie opener there. But but we were able to secure some investors right at the beginning and that's how we that's how we got going. Yeah, and I think you know, going to those being from Chatham originally, I think we all had personal connections to that city. With. You know people who worked for the bank or you know friends that you know we're in business and could kind of point us in a direction and people we should talk to who have some money in chatting they're looking to invest in a brewery's a unique business opportunity. A lot of people see it differently. I think there's a lot of opportunity in the business, financially of course, but there's also a legacy component to it. There's a community component to it, there's a cultural component to it. So, depending on why people want to invest in what they want to invest into, everybody has a different justification. If you're you know and ultimately a brewer's kind of a cool story and it's a it's a bit of a legacy piece. You know you're we are. What's happened in that city since we've built that brewery is really inspiring. I mean the populations growing again, and I'm not saying the brewery is the only reason that happened, but all these small pieces and really inspiring people and I think we were a little bit of a catalyst for change and even attitudes are changing in that city and we're hearing so much more positivity. There's more young people coming back to open businesses. So I think we were just one small piece of that story that helped reinspire that whole community and now there's more money coming into the community ultimately. So a lot of the people who helped us invest obviously had other business interests in the city as well, and I think it's been incredibly valuable for them too. So it's cool. Yeah, so you said this helps me figure out how you do risk it a little bit. So you got some some of your own money, found some investor money, did your market test, friend some yea beer festivals, got some product out there, figured out there was going to be a good response. How did you figure out what elements that you wanted and what elements you didn't want? So there's this concept and we talked about teaching entrepreneurship analogs and antilogs. So the example like, I don't know, you're going to start a coffee shop. You go to this all the coffee shops, you make a list of all the things you like. Go to coffee shops, make with list of all the things that you don't. Share through all of your experiences. Did you guys have this list in your head? Like, how did you figure out what it was going to look like? What to start with? There's a lot of breweries that you can investigate in now and I worked for, I mean for me, I worked for a large brewery. I'll say the M of work for collective arts right before the brewery opened, and Chatta, which is now one of the largest Brewis in Ontario, and they're growing like crazy and that was really interesting for me to kind of see what I liked about that place when I did. And ultimately they're kicking ass and they're moving a lot of volume. But that was really cool for me. And then, obviously these guys being able to work in a lot of berries and seeing how Brewis were starting and things that they liked about them and didn't and that was really cool and and I think that gave us an inspiration to open a brew of the way we wanted it and how we wanted our tap room to look. And you know, there's still things that two year, two and a half us in. You know, we should probably change that or we all we still are evolving and changing and stuff too. So that's been good. But yeah, I think being able to check out markets, I mean even the city of London. Now we opened in two thousand and sixteen, two thousand and seventeen, sorry. And how many brewers have opened in London since two thousand and seventeen is actually pretty crazy. I think two or three at least, so every year. It's kind of this this business is growing, this industries growing and things are changing and you have to be unique in on top of it and whatever. But but having so many brews available to us real inspired us and then obviously being close to Michigan, which is a huge beer destination, helped give us kind of a better but we can be original to that. We did sit down and we actually did some brainstorming where we all kind of talked about Yorkx. Be Like your experience. Yeah, just said my experience, Tim's, and we kind of...

...took all those things and said we want this, we don't want you know, we don't want this. You know, we don't want to have a bar. Just want to we don't want to be a bar. We wanted to be a tasting room where people can commit to sit down and dray a beer and hang out. I just on. That's one small point. We you know, we also talked about Lcbo when we and brewers retail, what do we want to be in? What's the best swing for it? Yeah, and then, depending on the side of your brew really depends on like where you what avenues you need to pursue as a brewer. I mean, ultimately, if you're a tiny brew pub with a small system and a really awesome location in the downtown core, you don't have the capacity or the square footage to be a massive production facility that's going to pump beer to the lcvo. Versus, you know, a really large outfit that has all the packaging equipment and huge tanks, you're never going to sell enough beer in your tap room to justify all your equipment. So you got to find that balance and I think for us we had kind of the best of both worlds. Have a cool location and we have a lot of space in the back, so we're kind of doing a bit of both. But your tap room sales or your front of House sales, or whatever you want to call them, are very kind of finite in my mind. I mean you can always grow that, but you know, if you're a bar restaurant, I mean you can get more people in the door, but you're only going to be able to get so many people in the door. You have a capacity, but in retail it's kind of infinite. Where you can, you can keep pushing and pushing. US being close to the American border, we keep that Avenue Open. We're still investigating it. We haven't entirely pursued it yet. We've done some test markets where we've moved a little bit of beer in Detroit and did some promos to see what the feedback would be. School partnerships over there and stuff, but we haven't entirely gone down that road yet, but we will. We will investigate more as time goes on as we see if there's not more opportunity there. Cool, cool. So you get location at was key. You knew chat them, but the location that you guys end up getting is pretty awesome. There's just cool history in the location and old movie theater right in Chatham. Yep, so that that's a great spot. You who's the actual brewer is? I'm I am calling so collins of Matt Master Brewery. You are the you are the product. You can see in the product. Yeah, so you do risk it to figure out like, okay, we get some local investors, these guys know the business, your passionate brewing. We've tested some of the product to get put it out there in the market. People seem to like it. But then there's this like leap you've got to take right like we're going to lay down money, we're going to open the doors, we're going to get investors on and like, let's figure out if people are going to like this or not. So I don't know. You you open the doors on day one. How did how did you get people to know that you guys existed? We didn't even tell people. Honestly, Chatham is such a small town. I mean any small town people love to gossip and whatever. We kind of reserved our even social media. We weren't we weren't trying to go crazy, because any big project with a lot of infrastructure never goes down on time, and I mean obviously Elfhan, Doug, you guys can I don't think we've ever had one project that, yeah, met our met my timeline, because I do the timeline. Never met it and yeah, because of dug on Alf. It's usually a there's a lot of move a lot of moving part and trying to nail down an exact date was really hard. I mean we wanted to be open in the fall of two thousand and sixteen and it was just like wow, this isn't going to happen. So then, yeah, you start this project and you start spending money and you know he got a the only way we're going to start making money is if we start putting liquid into these gags and start selling it. And it's a really tight spot because you're like, well, we can't open the brewery until I mean, we had our permits of stuff, but of course you got to have your if you want to open your tap room. That's totally different permit because it's the alcohol business and there's tons of rules. So these lags and delays and now we have thirty days to to even get our doors open once we submit the paperwork. But they won't even look at your building until you have it finished. So many of these things are happening and we were trying to get the doors open. But honestly, word of mouth was so easy. People and chat him, like I was mentioned early. I don't know if I said on the PODCAST, but people in chat him wanted something so bad and and nobody had offered them anything.

So once this thing started happening and people saw tanks coming down the street and going into the old cinema and Chatham downtown. People were talking and I think that was really happy to kind of we help fuel the gossip, I guess, or the word of mouth stuff. But we didn't give any definitive timelines or anything like that. We kind of just kept putting out the you know, the little guerrilla marketing, if you will, and just kind of you know, trying to get people talking and let them tell the story between themselves and let people go home at night and say, Hey, I saw some tanks going into that, that building, the girl on our facebook. You'd post something on the facebook. Yeah, and we would just watch the people just start calling. Are they ever going to open that thing? Yeah, and and people would just and I thought, I genuinely do believe that was a really healthy way to do it because it kind of gave us an open book to get the doors open when we could, rather than come up with a definitive day and not hit it, and it allowed people just kind of by word of mouth, to get really excited and tell their story and what they think they heard and what they heard. And we didn't really published definitive things which gave it some flexibility. And then when we open the doors there was retrofest, which is a big classic car festihone, Chatham. Chatham. People like classic cars, and we just open the doors, didn't tell anybody and there's a line up down the street. People just started talking. Hey, I heard, I heard, the doors are open. We got to go down there and check it out and it was packed. We were blown away and then we had our grand opening a couple weeks later, once we kind of got through the craziness of it all and having kind of that secret opening allowed us to work out the kinks a bit too, and I think that's a healthy way to do it. But teach their own so yeah, it was good. It was great and worked out so little secret soft opening. What did you see? How many products did you start with? How many beers around tap when you open day one? Huh, we have like twelve main taps on the bar. We probably opened with we a lot, about eight at least. Yeah, but we started with some smaller equipment and I mean we were doing about a thousand leaders per batch at the time, which isn't super small, but it's small enough where it gave us the creativity to be able to do some test batches and try out some cool stuff and open with a big kind of a better portfolio or a better lineup a beer. You could say that gave us more of an opportunity on that end. And having more beers obviously drops from people in the door because it's a cooler thing. Obviously it's cool, and then different beer for different people. So we so, before you launched, though, you had were you open about name? Like did you have a what? You had a website? You had a facebook page? Yeah, yeah, so we when we were established, I mean yeah, people knew there was a brewery. I mean there isn't a lot of news going on and chat, and at least there wasn't then. So the newspapers in the the media, the local media, was, you know, hounding us and people knew who we were. People were talking and we weren't, you know, like hiding behind you know, brick walls and not coming out. But we kind of let like I said, we kind of let people tell the story for us and when the newspaper and stuff came in, we I kind of gave them a set of rules of I've done. I do most the PR stuff and and I said this is what you're allowed to say and what you're not allowed to say, and I wasn't trying to be rude or anything, but I just said, you know, because the biggest question is, what dare you opening? I don't know, you know, and before you publish some vague thing that people are going to get excited about, let's just keep it open ended. And they were pretty respectful and that was cool and we took some photos, you know, like the CTV news came in while we still had dirt on the floors and stuff, because everybody was just talking about it and it was such an inspiring thing for our community, which is cool, and that was exciting that we didn't really even have to try. People were coming to us left and right, and not every business gets that, but beer is beer. It's sexy and cool and exciting and it inspires people. So so you guys have done an amazing job on I mean the story, the story is a genuine story. You make that's that's just the story of the story. It's a great story, but you've done a good job of telling it and sharing it through your website and facebook and social and everything else. So I gather that it social is a big component to marketing, like it's the voice that you control. Is that where you interact mainly with your fans, with your would say yeah, I mean understand that chat. I'm like Kent County Demographics or Chatham...

Ken as a whole. populars about a hundred thousand and it's mostly older people. I would say the one unique thing about our breweries that majority of our market is probably a bit older than what craft per in London might be in terms of demographics. I would say like probably thirty five to fifty five is our main, you know, main market, where other brews might be more millennial focus. But but it works for us and it's cool. So when you when you talk about social that's kind of blurry because obviously younger people are more engaged with social media, although it is changing, of course, but it's unique in the sense of eye of friends that own brews as well and they're like Instagram, instagram, instagram, of course, and it is the biggest platform now, but we get down a traffic on facebook because it's an older audience and a little bit of that is is our audience. So it's interesting to see that a little bit more. But I mean we sell our beer in more than Chatham. Of course. I mean southwestern Ontario is our main region, but our beers available across the province and we we advertise and market our beer differently depending on the geographical region we're in, knowing that our market will change the further away we get from Chatham. But social huge, of course, and I would say yeah, between those two platforms, that's our that's our bread and butter, honestly. But in Chatham, I mean the radio guys, believe but are not. Radio still does well for us for our market, and the guys on the radio stations are huge supporters, of course, so that's always fun to link up with them. And even the newspapers are you know, print still works in Chatham, believe it or not, so we still dabble in that. So yeah, it's cool. How did you guys decide what to do yourselves and what to outsource? And I'm thinking mainly on like the sale side, or sales and marketing side. So like again, like you're who did the logo? Who Does the branding on the beers? Who Does the your social is awesome. Yeah, let see the original logo was done by our guy MBC. Yeah, yeah, the word Mark Logo. Yeah, so we yeah, I mean dug and Elf had the guy who built that brewery who was really a marketing guru, not so much like tech beer guy, and he really helped us get the ball rolling on like what we need to do from yeah, a marketing sales strategy. So he was like logo needs to be great, website needs to be modern, like he played it all off hundred percent. And and we he kind of showed us his business case and said this is, you know, being like somebody's been in marketing and sales for how many years he was in it? Probably ten years at least. And then to say here's my business case. That's really marketing sales driven in that perspective. And, you know, we're going to build a brewery. I understand, like and that's where dug enolf kind of helped him a bit and said, well, this is what it's going to take to to build a burris financially, the equipment you're going to need, the infrastructure in terms of you know and energy and water and everything else, and then he kind of gave us all these guidelines like this is what you guys need to do and really helped us point us in a direction that was going to get us there. Helped US design the logo in the name of the company and our story a little bit. I mean a story was our story, but helped us tell the story better. And and then we kind of of yeah, we sourced, we have source a lot of our design stuff and we try to find people who are familiar with the industry. Obviously, when you get into beer labels and can labels and stuff, a lot of rules in terms of what you can and can't have. So if you have somebody who's worked in the alcohol industry already in terms of what you legally are obligated to put on your labels, that helps. So we kind of found people who had a bit more familiarity. But I think between all of us we always sat down and said what do we want our feel to look like? And that has changed probably a bit from three and a half years ago in this idea started and what you know, what we've realized as people are a little more receptive to us. But obviously, chat I'm being classic car capital and having an old cinema that's a little bit more nostalgic. We really tried to feather in a bit of that retro feel. I mean our eight track Ip, or XP, I guess is is, kind of falls into that category quite well. So that's kind of our inspiration from the marketing standpoint. And then we do a lot of it...

...in house too. We have three full time sales people from, you know, London, winds or Starnia and everywhere in between, and then we have an Lcbo guy to which is falls into that group. And then from the marketing standpoint, I actually do some of it myself. I've obviously dabble and some software and in terms of design stuff and I like that fun with it. But I have a friend of mine WHO's has a company and we kind of source a lot of like the video stuff and with through him and he helps me and US kind of really finalize these creative ideas that we might start on our own, but then they'll help seal the deal and get it done and get it on the Internet, get people get eyeballs on it. So cool. So I'm I'll make a guess what I usually talked about. Like what are the what are like the critical things of above all the other things what are the critical things you need to nail in the in this industry is over you guys like I would gather that nailing the look and feel and Brandon story was one piece that was worth investing in. Yeah, you product has to be good, like if the beer was bad, you, yeah, with the beer sucks, you'll never get past the starting line, I mean, and that's it's too competitive now to to not have a good product. I think five years ago nobody really cared because they're just every wanted. Craft beer was such a cool idea and there wasn't a lot of them out there. So your selection was low, especially for us being in a region, mean for me growing up in or not even growing up and be being in chat him five, ten years ago and being into beer was almost non existent, was, you know, barely anything that was craft from Ontario, and that's changed a lot now in that competitive end of things. Yeah, you got to have a good product, but I would would totally argue that at least fifty percent of your sales are determined by your marketing, which is your storytelling and your strategy and your your image, your brand at least fifty percent. The hardest part is getting somebody just to try your beer for the first time. And if you make a good beer then they'll drink it again. But if they're let down once, there's a lot of other opportunities out there, or other options out there, I guess you could say, for them to find their favorite beer. And, if you know, even quality consistency on my end from the brewing production management is crucial. I mean we the last thing I want is a batch of beer going out that's not good enough, because that could that has tons of long term detrimental effects. It's not just that one batch that went out bad. People who love that beer might say, yeah, you know those the people who love it will probably go back to it again, but if it's that first person who's trying it for the first time, they'll remember that forever. So we are incredibly critical on callity, in consistency and making sure that our product is always, always on top. And then, yeah, the sales guys obviously have to be the face on the street that are that are representing as well when we try to you know, we have some really talented people that are doing that. And and then our brand image in our story has to be on point two. So there's a lot of parts and if you don't nail one of them, then you know, you can have the best beer in the world, but if your brand sucks then it doesn't matter, right. I mean if you make the best beer in the world but nobody drinks it, is it really the best beer in the world? You know? Is there anything along the way that surprise you, for better or worse? Something maybe that you didn't in his a pain that was harder than it you thought was going to be, or something that you thought was going to be really challenging and ended up being great for you guys. Good both of you either. Yeah, there was a lot of stuff right in the beginning. I think that kind of open my eyes up in yeah, and just trying to get just trying to get things started and the delays that we got. I mean we thought a lot of stuff when we're building breweries up for other people, but I think part of the thing for us we hadn't done been worked on like a tasting room and trying to coup with that, and it's calling said earlier, it took a long time to get that done and get the permits on it and that that was a huge eye opener for me on that and I don't know calling did you do anything on that? Yeah, I think you know, one...

...of the hardest things for me is as a growing company. I mean we're growing probably what we did like seventy percent growth this year, which is a huge number for any business, you know, and and managing that growth is really, really hard get. I mean financially it's hard because beer is a weird product that has to sit in tanks and then ferment and then it's got to get into the packaging process and it's got to get packaged and it's got to sit in the fridge and then the sales guy's got to sell it and then you got to receive the money. So there's this there's a huge delay from wrong ingredients to the revenue and and that is challenging when you're growing that fast. So that's been a struggle for us. But you know, seventy percent is a big number. I mean, I we were anticipating in twenty two thousand and twenty will be fifty percent. But you know that growth curve is can't stay accelerated like that forever. I think it's just impossible. But we are still seeing a ton of growth and managing growth is really really challenging because that brings in New People and more bodies on the floor and and then you have to get's more managing people, which we've been really fortunate with an awesome team, but it's still hard, right. I mean it's not just pump and liquid out and hoping for the best. There's a lot of moving parts. But the one thing that I guess, going to the other side of it, things that I have seen that I never foresaw being as easy as they are are these I kind of touched on it earlier, but engaging your community in a positive way and how how much people really want to believe in what you're doing. If you give them something to believe and give them a reason to do then, and I mean yeah, like we have lineups out the door down the street to buy beer for, you know, like x or former Major League baseball players that grew up in Chatham or former NHL guys that grew up in Chatam. More we did a beer for urm classic cars, which was what big kind of classic car company and Chat and we do a lot of charity beers where a portion of every sale goes to a local charity. And not only is that great for the charity, I'm obviously it's great for our community and people rally behind that and we're obviously very engaged in our community. It's home. So those values we always knew that were there, but to really drive that and create these products that are beneficial to our community. People are so, you know, stoked on that as we are and it and it makes it you know, it makes it easy to get line up people down the street to get stoked on that too. So that's cool. It's amazing how small town's kind of rally together to support sauce the cose when the timings right in the stories right. That's great. It's been great chatting with you guys. I love the story. If for people that want to find you either online or to go purchase, where do we? Where you located? Where do people find you? Well, we usually have two products in the Lcbo across the province. All the time. That's changes depending on the season, but for the most part we always have eight check which is our IPA and then but if we're in Chatham Ontario, if you don't know that that is he's googling's easy enough. But yeah, we're not too far from the downtown core. We are kind of are considered to be in the downtown core. Obviously sons of Kentcom will give you all that fun information that you need. But we are available in Grocery and beer store agency stores, which is kind of a unique thing. But but yeah, we're always kind of growing our retail list. Ultimately we're across the province, mostly in southwestern Ontario. So kind of, you know, he could say the Kitchener Waterloo and then southwest of that is our is our territory. So any any of those retailers, you'll find US pretty easily, I'm sure. But come of the bewery. It's awesome. That's great. Yeah, it's a great vibe. Last one before let's you go and you can answer it rapid fire. Advice to your call it twenty five year old self. Like, would you do it any differently? I'm not that much older than twenty five, so but I mean, I think I wouldn't do it any differently. Honestly, I think there's things that have changed so much in the last, for me, six years, I guess, since that's twenty five. Things have changed along the industry, so it's hard to say. I mean beer is evolving and changing all the time, but I think I'm pretty proud and happy with what we have accomplished in Chatham in the last few years. And Chatam is changing to as a town, so with an ever changing kind...

...of economic and business area, I guess to buy and it's yeah, I think we're happy with we're at. But yeah, that's my two sounds anything, then I don't think I'd change anything because the whole thing's been a learning curve for me. So, but you're twenty five year olds and my twenty five. Yeah, as a long along, as a long time ago. Yeah, should have had more kids, you know, I don't think I would have like knowing what I know now. I wouldn't change anything. You know, if I was twenty five and it started out this way, he'd be great because you're learning as you go and different people from the city, like people from the city, from the owners, from the people that work at the place. So you're learning every day and I wouldn't change that because every day you should be learning something new. So that's great, guys. Thank you for spending the time. It's good to hear story. Yeah, thanks, chess. Thanks you've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV dot Ca, a forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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