Running a brewery or distillery isn’t all fun and games. At the recent Denver Start-Up Week a panel of brewery and distillery founders shared their unique start-up stories and the challenges they faced along the way. 

Here are a few takeaways from the Breweries & Distilleries of Denver: A Vision of Change

Pinpoint Your Passion and Gain Experience: 

Before you open a business make sure you not only have a passion for the industry but you actually enjoy doing it. Charlie Berger (Denver Beer Company) worked for breweries all across the country and gained educational experience in Europe before opening his own. If you’re going to put in long hours you should love what you do. 

Write a Business Plan: 

Writing a business plan is a must; not only for your partners and investors but also for the bank. When it comes to obtaining SBA loans, it’s vital that you are able to show the bank how much you are planning to spend, along with how much you’re going to bring in.  A former investment banker turned brewery owner, Justin Baccary (Station 26 Brewing), brought his knowledge of finance and fundraising to the table when starting his brewery.

Take a Leap of Faith:

There’s no time like the present. Matthew Osterman (Sleeping Giant Brewing Co.) said that you’ll never feel fully ready, but you should take the leap. William Stewart (Colorado Sake Co.) explained the importance of incremental growth. Stewart would know best, as his distillery started in the back alley of the building and grew to occupy the entire space. 

Develop Strong Branding: 

In an industry with plenty of competition, the founders agreed that it’s vital to have strong branding. Michelle Redding (Dry Dock Brewing Co.) uses a nautical theme to stand apart and differentiate her product on shelf and on social. Others turned to a unique bottle shape, as in the case of The Block Distilling, who not only employed a branding firm but looked outside of the category for a stand-out design.

Maintain Strong Relationships:

Whether you’re going into business with a friend, relative or partner, it’s important to set clear boundaries and expectations. Kraig Wheeler (The Block Distilling Co.) runs the distillery alongside his wife and carves out business and personal time to keep their relationship on track. Other founders have tapped family members as investors and said it was key to be upfront about the risks of investing so no one was surprised.  

Ready to open a business? Good! We hope we’ve set you on the path. Just remember to plan, take the plunge, and build.