I have received some feedback lately around wanting a general update on our progress. There seems to be genuine interest in how the overall project is going versus what we are encountering on a daily basis. As such, this post is a little more of a general update on our progress rather than a general rant about this process, or a specific detail of things.
So as you likely know, we have submitted a development permit to the City of Vancouver for a space in East Vancouver. On Thursday of last week, we were told we’ll be given an answer on this permit in the next couple weeks. We are waiting for this permit, as we can’t lease the space we are interested in without first getting approval to brew there by the City. In Vancouver, the only buildings that you can outright lease and know with certainty you can brew is M2. The trick is that there isn’t a lot of M2 zones, and the buildings we were looking at in M2 just weren’t right for us. So we ended up in an I2 zone, which is one where brewing beer is conditional upon submitting a development permit. Any potential for us to use this space hinges on getting this permit, so we are waiting with fingers crossed to get good news. As of Nov 18th, no news!
Another big process is collecting and securing money from investors. Luckily, an investment in our brewery is eligible for the eBC tax credit, which basically means that 30% of each investors money is returned to them in the form of a credit from the government of BC. It looks like we need to raise over $1,100,000 so everything we can do to help secure “financial partners” is welcomed with open arms. We are going to be collecting money in the next 2 weeks from our investors, so I hope that what people have committed is what they are going to offer us. If not, I am sure I will post something around my frustration with this.
Financing is another part of the business that is really important. We will need both an operating loan and a line of credit in order to make the business float during the crucial first couple years. Opening a brewery can be a recipe for financial hardship, as the line between profit and loss on a monthly basis is razor thin. If sales fall behind a little bit, and costs are a little higher than expected, money can go out the window very quickly. Luckily for us we were approved for a loan and line of credit to make our finances come together. These will total about $450,000, and when added to the money we are raising we feel like we should be in a good position to make things work.
The layout of our space and submission for building permits is something we have been working very hard towards. In fact, this has taken the majority of our time of late. With the arrival of our Development permit by the end of November <fingers crossed>, we would like to have our building permit submission ready to go. This means that we need to have the layout of the space virtually complete, have the work needed by engineers complete, have all the drawings and work from our architect complete, and to have all other inputs ready to go. It seems really easy when I sit here and type this, but the reality is that there are so many moving parts to this, that it is incredibly complicated and difficult to carry out. Finalizing the layout of our space has taken us over 8 weeks, as there are SO MANY variables to consider. For example: Needs now versus in the future when we grow, tasting room connection to brewing space, retail area, production flow and functionality, the location of existing services, proximity of different spaces that need to be connected, etc, etc.
Equipment is something that we need to have ready to go, so that we can be sure it is ready in time for production. We have looked to China, Europe, Canada and the USA for our brewhouse and tanks. To be honest, I can see why this step can be either really easy, or one of the most difficult steps. No two quotes seem to be alike, and the unknown factors of quality, timeliness of delivery, and follow-up support make these intangibles even harder to gauge in terms of importance. A big hurdle to buying Canadian is the price. Companies like Newlands and Specific Mechanical are local and have a good reputation in the business, but their prices are among the highest. Moreover, it sounds as though some of the other start-up breweries have experienced some trouble with them. Then there are the systems from Europe, where the quality is top notch, and the price matches. Moving East to China, the land of cheap equipment, but one where the after sale service is poor, and other local breweries have experienced trouble with having to repair brand new equipment. All of these things make choosing one company to work with very difficult. At the end of the day, it is a balance between all these things, and hopefully one company stands out as the best. At this point, we have no idea which one it will be.
Another huge part of this process is our name. For the time being we are letting this one go for a few weeks. While we don’t have an official name yet, the focus groups we ran were instrumental in getting us closer to making this choice. The only problem is that we are putting out other fires that are more important at this time. Things like financing, layout, legals, accounting, etc. We anticipate having our name by the end of the year, and that should give us 8 months to create a brand around this. I hope this is enough time and that we make decisions that are based on sound principles.
The legal side of things is something we kind of let slip and caused us a lot of grief and unnecessary stress. In order to raise money and run a proper incorporated company you need to have: A shareholders agreement (aka a partnership agreement), a subscription agreement, a set of articles for your company, and a share ownership agreement. All of these documents are tedious to create, and require the hard work of a legal team. Reviewing and revising take a lot of time and mean that you are continually working on getting these documents ready so that you can raise money, and provide a framework to investors on how your company will operate.
There are literally hundreds of other little things to do, some of which are major and some of which are minor pieces of major components. There seems to be nothing that isn’t important in some way to the overall picture of this brewery. To be honest, I would love to find the time to blog about all these things, but I just feel too much pressure to write about them, rather than working away at them.