One thing that I tended to overlook was the transition from working at my current job, to working at both jobs and then making the jump to the brewery full time. It is a delicate balance, and one that had its ebbs and flows, so it can be a hard thing to judge when the right time is to make the move.
My journey started about 5 years ago, when I just couldn’t shake the dream of wanting to start a craft brewery. I have always been an entrepreneur and at various times in my life, I have tried starting businesses, intermingled with jobs working for corporations, other entrepreneurs and multi-nationals. There was the Crepe restaurant that I tried starting during University with my good friend, an advertising company we tried starting after University, and a destination based travel company I tried starting in the late 90’s. All didn’t get off the ground, and looking back on those experiences, I am glad, as they would have likely prevented me from following this passion.
It was about 5 years ago that I needed a work/life plan to start a brewery. I knew that there is a whack of work involved in starting a brewery, a lot of cash needed, and often that work revolved around times that were inconvenient to having a 9-5 job. Most importantly, I knew that you couldn’t stop doing everything in favour starting a craft brewery, as the road to opening your doors is several years long, and that means no salary for a long time. So I wrote my real estate exam, and became a realtor. It was a tough few years, one that made me question what I was doing to my family and my life that seemed so normal and easy up until that point.
You see our life was comfortable. Both my wife and I worked for large companies, which meant we brought home regular income, and had for the most part 9-5 jobs M-F. Well when you get into real estate it is often the opposite of that. Evenings and weekends, and work is excessively seasonal in the Spring and in the Fall. This can be a real challenge when you have kids and friends who work in other M-F 9-5 jobs. But it was my dream to start a craft brewery, and as such I thought the best way to have flexibility to start a brewery was to be a realtor, as the hours were flexible, there were some great skills I would learn, and it would provide me a little cash to pay for some of the expenses along the way.
Having walked this path for the past 5 years, there have been many highs and lows. At the end of the day, there is no perfect job to have when you are looking to start a brewery, and depending on your situation, there are likely a variety of options that are best for you. I have found the flexibility with my schedule and complimentary hours a positive in working real estate, and the lack of regular income and seasonality in work required with real estate the biggest challenges.
So all of this leads me to question when I should quit my real estate career in favour of working for the brewery full time. The sooner I move to the beer business full time, the better my business will be prepared and planned. The flip side is the longer our family will have to go on one income, and the greater the stress on my wife and kids. I really don’t think there is an answer to this question, but I do feel like I am getting close to that point. The 60 hour work weeks used to be enough to fit everything in, but now they are insufficient. The space we are looking at leasing is requiring a lot of work and attention to detail, not to mention money.
I can see all of this leading to a point where I will be exhausted, broke, and likely as happy as a kid in a candy store. I hope that I have the wisdom to make the right decision on when to break away from real estate, and focus on the brewery. It doesn’t feel quite right yet, but I expect by the end of the year, when we have our space leased and operations set for a grand opening in 2014 sometime, the right time will emerge.