Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Finally, answers to our Electrical Nightmare ….

I have begun to realize that not everyone who is helping to get this brewery off the ground is willing to work until 2am, or makes this job the sole focus on their day.  In other words, answers that I expect within a couple weeks, sometimes take the better part of a month.  Sometimes these answers are not needed, so the time to get a response is not important.  But it seems like we need most of these answers in a timely fashion, and they set in motion a cascade of changes elsewhere, and each successive change is just as important as the last.

One of these huge considerations is the electrical issues for our space.  I have blogged about it, and it seems like we have been close to an answer for the past few weeks.  This is likely the biggest and most important answer we have been waiting for throughout this process, as our decision to lease the space rests on the advice and information we gather.  A bill of under $100,000 and we are golden to carry on.  Anything over this and we have a tough decision to make, and anything well over this means our dream is going to be dead in the water.  Additionally, we have already extended our contract to lease our space with the landlord past what we agreed to.  We were supposed to give our landlord an answer if we wanted the space by the end of November and we asked for a month extension, given the electrical issues and the lack of an answer around our Development Permit.

So here we are at this point.  We have 2 weeks to decide if we want the space, as the landlord requires an answer by the first week of January.  We have received our development permit from the City of Vancouver, so we are able to brew beer in this space.  We need to submit our building permit drawings to the City of Vancouver, and we need to find a solution to the lack of electrical power our space has.

Well as of yesterday, we found a solution to our electrical problem.  It looks like we are going to cut the power to the whole building, and re-run new power that will be sufficient for everyone, including our brewery.  This means that instead of getting a bill for well over $100,000, we should now come in around $60,000-$80,000 on this fix.  We are still a little upset by the amount we have to spend, but it beats the alternative, which is a pad mounted transformer, and the cost of which is about $250,000.

This means that all we have to do is hammer out the final details of our lease with the landlord, and we are going to lease this space.  I can’t actually believe this is about to happen!  Its almost like I have to pinch myself.  I know there are a few key points to be ironed out with the landlord, like tenant versus landlord improvements, personal guarantee (not unlike a kick to family jewels) length, but most of the important items have already been agreed upon.  In fact, our landlord has been very helpful and accommodating in working with our needs and challenges.  While his patience has started to wear thin, we hope that he still wants to complete a deal with us, and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.

I don’t want to get ahead of things, so I will leave our latest bit of good news at that.  I have learned from my mentors and peers that a deal is not done until you get a key to the front door, so I will not presume anything.  What I do know is this:  The lows we felt about things after our floor issues popped up, and then our electrical issues came to the front, have all been offset by the development permit we received, and then the answers around the electrical.

With any luck, we will have a firm deal in early January, submit our building permit application in 8 days, and start working on our brewery sometime in early March.  Should all this come together as we hope, we should be open for business sometime in August 2014.  Thats right, in about 8 months our brewery will be producing beer and slinging it to eager locals before you know it.

Given the amount of work to do, and the mountain we need to climb in order to get everything ready, I am going to take this Christmas break to relax and enjoy some time with my family.  The way things are shaping up, I may not see to much of them from February to August of next year.  Happy holidays to everyone that reads this blog and I hope you have a fantastic end to 2013.

Success …. Development Permit! Now what?

Today was a great day in our world:  We received news first thing this morning about the status of our Development Permit that was submitted to the City of Vancouver about 14 weeks ago.  Our permit was approved via rubber stamp by the City, which paves the way for us to move forward with permission to brew beer at our desired location.  In other words, from the City of Vancouver’s point of view, brewing beer in our chosen location is something we can do, should we want to do it.

I often hear that it is important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, as you need to draw upon these when you are slugging it out in the trenches.  So tonight I have a smile.  Tonight, I feel like the dream of opening my very own craft brewery is one giant step closer to reality.  Tonight, I still feel in control of my own destiny.  Tonight, I feel re-energized and ready for the next challenge that I will face.  Tonight …… well if I keep going on it will soon be tomorrow morning.

While this success is great, we still have other challenges that are right before us.  The most important of those is finding a solution to this electrical issue.  We are underpowered at our space, and we are searching for economical ways around it.  It is painful to know that every conversation you have with electrical engineers and other professionals costs money, but what other options are there?

The latest update on the power is that we should know this week about what options are available, and then we can decide whether or not we want this space.  If we can keep the bill under $100,000, then I think we are going to move forward.  However, if we can’t find a way to keep the bill under this number, then I think we walk away.  Hydro and our electricians are busy scurrying around getting answers.

All the while this is going on, we are still working away on our building permit submission.  We have (rightly or wrongly) assumed that we will find an answer to the electrical issues, and given that we need to have a full set of plans ready for building permits ASAP.  Time is the big enemy here, as every delay in submitting our building permits is another day more that money just goes out the door.  If we can’t get our brewery up and running by August 1st, then we run the risk of needing more loans and lines of credit, and we also run the risk of missing out on the busiest time of year for breweries …. Summer.

Needless to say, with this small win, we are one step closer to making this dream a reality.  Tonight we celebrate, as tomorrow there is even more work to do.

Nothing to do but Everything to do

Some days I feel like there is nothing that needs to be done in particular.  Whether its marketing, the business plan, finances, cash flow, collecting money, etc., there never seems to be a timeline on getting some of these things done.  But when you take a moment and look from 50,000 feet at what you have to accomplish before you sell your first beer and HOLY CRAP, there is a lot to do.

All of this means that starting a business, and in particular this brewery, results in having a lot on your mind.  I’m not talking about when you are in the shower, or making dinner …. I mean in the middle of the night, or when you should be engrossed by something else like a CFL game, or the company of a great friend.  It is so easy to let thoughts of your business, and the work that is undone, creep into your mind and send you on the path of mental anguish.

Tonight is a great example of that.  I would like nothing better than to sit down and turn my mind off the task at hand, but there are a few things on my mind:  I have a Brand Guide that needs attention, emails to investors to follow-up on progress, work with an architect on the space we are trying to lease, a meeting on Monday with our Accountant to prepare for, documents that our Lawyer needs returned, emails that need to be answered, a business plan that needs to be updated before it is PDF’d, decisions on equipment that need to be made, more requests sent to suppliers and manufacturers for additional quotes, contractors that need to be interviewed for work required, and most importantly this blog which needs to be attended to (I will get a check on that after this).

All of this makes me realize that Entrepreneurs are both made and born.  You have to like the  chaos that comes from this process …. the constant juggling and prioritizing of tasks, working in the trenches, while at the same time, working like a VP, and the constant struggle between what you really want to do, and what the market wants you to do.  You also have to be able to turn it off, and it is something that requires constant reminders of this.

So with the end of this blog, I am going to make a to do list for tomorrow, and turn-off my mind.  I am reminded what one of my good friends and mentors tells me …. starting and running a business is a marathon in that requires a balance of running harder to stay ahead of things and laying back to regain some strength.  Tonight might be some time to regain some strength.

When to quit my paying job for one that costs me money?

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.

Im Starting a Craft Brewery

Call me crazy, call me nuts, call me anything you want (my wife and family have already thrown all those verbal grenades at me). I am hell bent on starting a craft brewery based in Vancouver, BC.

Why you ask? It might be because I was raised by a father who would teach me his secret home brew recipes that my grandfather had brought to Canada in the 1950’s, after being entirely dissatisfied with the quality and range of beer available in Canada. Or it could be that I was surrounded by friends and family who were actively entrepreneurs and spoke about the great things that happen when you push your own boundaries. But I think the biggest reason may be the most simple. Life is short. These 3 words mean so much. Think about it for a second … we all know friends and family that have passed away too early, or a grandfather who sees their perspective of life change as they are older. The truth is, I wasn’t entirely happy with my life about 5 years ago, and this moment has been five years in the making. More to come on that in subsequent posts.

I hope this blog becomes a useful too for people who are thinking the same thing as me, people who are interested in craft beer and for people that are fascinated with seeing others take the biggest gamble of their life in pursuit of a passion.

So there it is. I am going to commit to uploading regularly with video, information and somewhat humorous posts about this process. I have been working towards this dream for 5 years, and I hope that I am closer now that I have ever been in the past.