I’ve been spending a good amount of time over the last few weeks thinking about Megalith Brewing again, about my plans, past and future, and just how exactly I want to proceed from here.
Part of that has meant looking back on all the steps I took to get where I am now. In 2014 I spent several months putting together a business plan – researching the brewing industry; pricing out equipment and ingredients, and looking at local business real estate prices; talking to a number of local small brewers, cideries, and consultants. I felt like I had a really solid handle on how to make a craft nanobrewery work, from a business point of view: develop a unique line of beers, keep them available year round in small batches, sell everything at the retail level and don’t worry about distributing or bottling, keep the entire business at a small enough scale that it can support itself easily with only a modest customer base, and then grow from there.
Unfortunately, when it came to looking for potential investors, ‘staying small’ isn’t exactly an inspiring goal, especially when their biggest concern isn’t simply owning part of a brewery, but the very real potential return on their investment. My lack of practical experience in the brewing industry was also an understandable concern – why would anyone invest with me when I have really no idea what I’m talking about, and can’t possibly understand the market I’m planning on jumping into? To paraphrase Darth Vader, they found my lack of confidence disturbing.
Even with all of that going against me, I was able to lay the groundwork for some of the long-term promotional plans I had. I brewed a lot of beer, and had a few tasting parties, which were moderately successful in getting the word out about what I want to do, and what it will take to get me there. That part of the plan, at least, proved itself strongly, and went about as well as I’d hoped. I mean really, how can you go wrong with free beer?
So what’s next for Megalith, moving forward? Well, my timeline has drastically shifted. I’d hoped originally to be opening the doors on the taproom this past January, and obviously that didn’t happen. I’m probably about as far from opening now as I was when I first put that plan together. So it’s time for a new plan.
First step is to develop some confidence in my understanding of the brewing industry, which means enrolling in the ‘Business of Craft Brewing’ certificate program being offered here at PSU. It’s a year-long program, and at the end of it I’ll have a much better understanding of running the business side of things, from brewhouse efficiency to marketing and distribution. I hope that the added confidence will come through when I start drumming up investors.
And attracting investors is the next step. Past experience has shown me that, for a business the scale I’m working on, angel investors aren’t going to be the way to go. With such a high ROI needed, I would need to plan to grow the brewery much more quickly than I feel comfortable with, and to shift the sales focus away from a retail taproom, and more onto distribution. The best option to realize my business plan will be to work with a program like Hatch:Oregon, which allows regular Oregon residents to invest small amounts in local businesses as a form of crowd-funding— similar to Kickstarter, but instead of merchandise rewards, supporters actually purchase equity in the business, with a potential (modest) ROI. It seems like a great program, geared exactly for business plans like mine, and I’m looking forward to getting that set up when I’m much further along on my certificate program.
And of course, in the meantime, I’ll be continuing to brew small batches of my pillar beers, and hosting tasting parties in the area. If you’re in Oregon and want to talk to me about providing beer for your party, get in touch and we’ll see if your event would be a good fit for Megalith Brewing!
Alright, back to brewing!