The Launch: Tips for Success Out of the Gate

Getting your brewery up and running can be an exciting, yet stressful period in your life. Many have done those same steps and either had success right off the bat or learned from the tough road.

In order for Ozark Beer to get funded it first needed to have investors.

“It never felt natural or comfortable for us to ask people for money, especially when you have run through all of your family and friends and are asking people you don’t know,” said Lacie Bray, a co-founder and Business Manager for Ozark Beer Company. “It was a stressful process and it took a lot longer than expected.

“We could have had the money earlier, but we walked away from some potential investors that did not feel right. There were people that seemed too good to be true — they generally were — or people that gave us ultimatums, and people we just didn’t think we could work with, and we walked away from all of them.”

But now, Bray said the brewery has a solid group of investors with diverse backgrounds that believe in the founders’ vision.

“Each have unique skills and professions that we have drawn on as needed,” she said. “We see them as a valuable resource to our business instead of a hindrance or necessary evil. It was worth waiting for the right people.

Madison’s Karben4 Brewing is still run by owner and operator Zak Koga, but he admits he is always trying to build a bigger and better team around his team.

“People are the whole thing,” he said. “No idea or brand or spreadsheet will run the business. It’s all about the people.

“An owner needs to focus on being very self-aware and humble and lead through service.”

Bray noted that the Ozark Beer Company has invested in its team. With paid vacations, livable wages, and 100-percent paid health care, it has helped make a difference in outsiders’ perceptions of the company and investment in the company.

“We also look at finding the right people,” Bray said. “An honest, hard-working person can be taught anything. We have had people turn in resumes and we haven’t been hiring, but they are too good to pass up. We have found places for them, and they grow within the company and the company grows exponentially because of them.

Bray added that even with a small team, breweries should never think that conflicts or problems will just blow over.

“They will just get worse,” she advised. “Meet everything head on and always come from a place of trying to understand the situation instead of being angry or frustrated. Sit down and talk with people, sit down and have people talk to each other, and don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know what to do here, but this is what I see … so help me understand.’ “

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