Monthly Archives: October 2013

I have never felt so many different kinds of stress!

One of the things about opening a brewery that you go through is STRESS!  Thats right, a word deserving of capital letters, because it is not something, when you are dreaming of this, that you think about at all.  In fact I had friends and other entrepreneurs tell me about stress, and I always dismissed it, or paid it some superficial lip service about how I was a laid back guy and it wouldn’t get to me.  Well it did get to me over the past month.

What I have realized is there are different levels of stress.  I will try and talk about each and how it relates to starting a brewery.

Instantaneous Stress:  This is the stress that comes out of nowhere, like being late for a meeting, which is very intense and lasts a very short period of time.  Often it is unexpected, and comes and goes before you even realized what the heck happened.  I don’t mind this kind of stress, as I don’t loose sleep at night thinking of how I am going to be late for a meeting the next day because of traffic or not leaving enough time to get there.

Decision stress:  As I have blogged about previously, there are heaps of decisions you need to make when you open a brewery.  Name, bottle size, engineers and architects, size of tasting room, branding, financials, company structure …. you get the idea.  Sometimes, you only have the odd decision to make, but other times you have 5 or 6 big decisions to make and they compound to make the decision even harder.  How do each of these decisions cumulatively effect your business, and will you end up with the company that you thought you would have?

Performance stress:  Ok, it might put a smile on your face, but it isn’t that kind of stress!  This is the kind of stress I feel when I think about me as an individual living up to my expectations, and those of my shareholders, and everyone else that is depending on this business to be a success.  Full stop, I worry that my performance in the day to day operations will be good enough.

Long term success stress:  This is the kind of stress that keeps you up at night.  Will I be able to make money, will I be happy, how will this business effect my personal/work life balance, and will I have any investors that want to be friends with me if this business goes bankrupt?  When you are investing thousands of hours in time, and thousands of dollars without a paycheque, failure is not an option.  I am far too old and far too deep into life to have another “learning experience.”  The only way I can cope with this stress is yoga before bed and exercise.  It seems to be the great balancer in my life, an I hope to always have time for this.

Family stress  I think we all feel this, and it goes without saying; the stress of my families well-being and happiness is more important than anything else.  I love my wife and kids too much to sacrifice their long term happiness.  How will my kids respond to me being gone 12 hours a day for the first year of this business?  How will my wife feel about the same thing?  I think the only way to deal with this is to unplug 1 full day a week, and to pick your spots when you work versus when you spend time with your loved ones.  I only hope I get the right mix!

Beer Nerd Stress:  Thats right, I said it.  I worry about how our beer will be received from the world of beer nerds.  While we are certainly going to sell our beer to everyone that wants to purchase it, I think the opinion of local and abroad beer nerds really matters to me.  I want to make beer that I would be proud to serve to those “in the know”.  Unique, unapologetic, and delicious.  I would hate my brewery to be a company that was put alongside other less than respected breweries.  It would ruin this whole process and take away from my dream to be a respected brewery.

I’ve Got Something to do:  This is the stress associated with having a deadline, and a finite amount of time to complete this task.  This stress is right up there for me.  Its like a real life episode of Chopped.  Recently I ran a couple focus groups on naming my brewery (I will blog more about this later), and the days leading up to the first focus group was intense.  It was 2 days of preparing, emailing, calling, booking, rebooking, re-emailing, buying, printing …. etc.  This is a really hard type of stress to deal with, as any escape from this stress will only put more pressure on you.

The stress of all these things …. In other words the stress of all this stress!:  The last bit of stress that comes to mind, is the stress of all these things.  Cumulatively, all these stresses can stress you out.  This is the kind of stress that can really impact you both in the short term and definitely in the long term.  The only way to deal with it is to stay positive, believe in yourself and those around you, and to make lists.  Ok, maybe there are some other ways also, but every person is different, and I am certainly one that falls into that category.

My next blog will focus on the naming contest, and the 3rd stage of that process.  I hope that we have our list of 3 names in the next couple days, and then pass this out to the world for their opinion.

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First Focus Group Results …. coming soon!

On Tuesday of this week, we had a focus group with the purpose of getting feedback on naming our brewery.  It was the first time I’ve planned and implemented a focus group, so it was many things rolled into one, not the least of which was a great learning experience.

Like anything in life, preparation is the key.  It was something that I prepared myself for, and even knowing that there was a lot of work for something like this, I was blown away by how much work it actually took.  I did keep a total of the amount of time I spent organizing this focus group, and up until the minute things started, it was 48 hours of work.  Where the hell did 48 hours go you ask?  Let me tell you:  Organizing participants, preparing questions, meeting with the moderator, securing the space, getting the food and beverages, printing copies of questions and non-disclosures, etc, etc, etc.

The focus group itself went well in my mind.  There are always questions you would change, formatting alterations you would make, and slight differences you would make if you did it again.  For the second focus group that we are having this Sunday, I will likely only change one question.

A huge component of the focus group is your moderator.  Luckily I had the help of a real craft beer enthusiast and very personable, yet professional individual.  I can honestly say, that next to the preparation involved, the moderator can make or break the implementation.  Rebecca was so unbiased, and also so personable, and was able to take the outline I gave her, and worked with it in her own way.

The feedback was somewhat expected and completely unexpected all at the same time.  While I would love to go into the details, I will wait for our second focus group to complete before commenting on them.  What I can say, is that the results will help us pick the name that is right for our brewery.  What we do know is the name we pick will represent what we are doing, what words are meaningful and what name fits with the local market.

I will update everyone more after we have our second focus group on Sunday and get closer to having our list of names narrowed down to 2-4 finalists.

Those Floors are becoming a lot more stable

Another short post today, as I have a bunch of items to tend to.  We have been gathering quotes, engineers information, opinions, and mixing them all together with our budget and timeline and it looks like we are getting close to making a decision on our floors.

At first glance, our floors seemed like they were not solid enough to build and construct things on top of.  However, since this time we have continued to gather information and we are now more sure that we can make the floors work.  Like everything, its just a matter of how much money you want to throw at the problem.

The focus group is coming together nicely, and I hope we get the right mix of people attending the sessions.  We are focusing on craft beer enthusiasts, in hopes that they will help us with naming our brewery, and a few other minor details we are interested to learn more about.

Lots to do, and in the next week I will be sure to blog all about it.

Onto Phase #2 of Brewery Name

OK, so thank you to everyone that has sent in their name request.  We had an overwhelming response from the community, and we are grateful for this.  I think the name of our brewery is on that list, and I hope we can now move onto phase #2 in order to find out what the general public feels.

So we now move to getting feedback from a small group of individuals in order to move us towards naming our brewery.  If you would like to comment on any of the names on the list, please feel free to send me an email, or you can post a comment on this blog.  I would love your feedback and it will help us move onto the next stage.

For now, I am going to contact some people for a focus group, and hopefully you can make the dates that are available for discussion.

Lots of other stuff going on, not the least of which is making a decision in the next couple weeks on our space, and whether we are going to remove subjects or not.  My fingers are crossed and I hope that things continue to move forward as they have so far.

How Many Breweries are Enough in BC, Canada and North America

I often wonder how many breweries can a City, Province, Country and Continent support?  As an entrepreneur and soon to be brewery owner, the concern is always in your head that the market reached a saturation point with businesses.  Eventually, craft beer market share will stop coming from Molson, Labatt and other International giants.  It will indeed come from other like minded craft breweries, which means I can taketh and I can giveth.

In the United States, the Brewers Association indicates that there 2,538 breweries operating in the country as of June 2013.  It also states that there are an additional 1,600 in the planning stages.  If you take a 90% survival rate, that would make about 4,000 total breweries operating in the USA.  That is a lot of beer, and one would have to think, reaching the point of saturation.  In fact, you can read this article posted in the USA Today, which looks at this very question.

In Canada, best estimates put the number of breweries at about 300, and within 5 years, that number is expected to reach 400.  Where is the tipping point?  Well no one knows for sure, but not unlike our counterparts south of the 49th parallel, with every new brewery, we take another step towards saturation.

All of this plays in your mind when you open a brewery.  It fundamentally matters what you stand for, the type of beer you make, and how you put all these moving parts together to form your brand.  It would be my opinion that as the market gets more and more crowded, new breweries need to carve out a more focused niche.  It used to be that making a craft beer was enough of a differentiator, but with more breweries doing more unique beers, being uncommon becomes a good play.

It feels like this is the path that we are going down with our brewery.  It just seems to make the most sense to me, and when something makes sense, I usually jump in with both feet.  When I look at the breweries that have opened and experienced success, they all stand for something.

Parallel 49 – Always something different and unique, but merged with hitting the middle of the market

33 Acres – Clean, refined and connected to Vancouver

Red Racer – quality craft beer in a can that appeals to the middle of the market

Four Winds – New world innovation influenced by old world tradition

Do you think Vancouver could support a brewery that focused on beer from one area of the world?  What about a brewery that focused on Low Alcohol beers or Gluten Free Beers?  Or do you think a brewery that focused exclusively on Sour beers, or different types of Saison would do well?  What about doing what Steam Whistle does, and only make one beer?  What about a brewery that only sourced local ingredients?

These are some of the options that are coming into play with new breweries, and ones that we have kicked around.  At the end of the day, I am going to brew beers that I believe in, and hopefully others like them as well.  There really is no other way to go, and to be honest, doing otherwise would be somewhat disingenuous.  As for the number of breweries, this is not something I can worry about.  It would be counterproductive for me to focus on what others are doing, at the expense of conveying what we are doing.

Back to my Excel spreadsheet I go.  It seems that I am spending far too much time making the numbers work.  My topic for next time will be the tasting room and what are some of the decisions and qualities that are important in designing one.  For now, I will leave this parting thought.  I hope that we are a ways from saturation, for it will make the task before me that much more attainable.