How Third Space Built Its Team to Grow

Since opening in the fall of 2016, Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright have built Milwaukee’s Third Space Brewing into one of the largest craft breweries in the city. In fact, we happened upon Wright one day in the early summer of 2016 in a shell of a building of the now thriving company right before the brewhouse was to be installed.

Fast forward to the late winter of 2023 and Gehl admitted from that point to when Brewer was back in Milwaukee to interview the founders for the January/February print issue that over the past few years they have begun to be able to work more ON the business rather than IN the business. 

“It’s just kind of an old mantra, but it’s hard,” Gehl said. “When you’re first starting out, you’re just like, go go go and do do do. You don’t have time to step back plan, and think about the future. 

“We’ve thankfully been able to hire a great team that’s working with us that is sort of replacing ourselves piece by piece within the day-to-day business. We’re still doing a lot of stuff. But more and more, we’re able to step back and be more like managers and leaders … sort of strategic visionaries for where the company’s going.”

Getting to the point took effort as well, Wright said. Although he had a background in brewing while working as the Director of Brewing for Hangar 24, they didn’t bring in outside talent to launch the brand. They also weren’t able to bring on local talent from the larger marco breweries in the area as well.

“They make too much money and have too good a benefit package for people to jump onto an eight-month-old startup,” Wright said. “But, we did get local talent from people that have either been in the industry or were looking to get into the industry. That’s one thing we’ve always been proud of here is that we hire a lot of people who don’t have experience on the production side.

“I got my job with no experience so I want to be able to pay that forward to people and give people an opportunity to get into this industry. We had some of that, and then we were able to recruit a little bit from the brewing school that I went to and got somebody out of there.”

On the sales side, it was also really homegrown talent. 

“Our first salesperson that took Andy off the street essentially was one of our bartenders,” Wright said. “Our first four people we hired were four part-time bartenders, and one of them ended up becoming our first salesperson.”

Gehl did come from a corporate structure and creating a hierarchy of management has been on their mind these past few years as the brand continues to develop.

“We try not to be too corporate, but we also try to add more structure so that it’s there for people,” he said. “Structure actually is a benefit to people. When you know your place and where you can best fit in when you know what the structure is — we’ve tried to bring in more of that — and more formalities and a little more of an HR structure.

“We try to spend more time with goal setting and strategic planning … and planning out our brand calendar, things like that. Having a little more of a hierarchy within the team where we have a leadership team. That’s all managers that have people underneath them. Those managers are leading their teams, as opposed to Kevin and me doing it at this stage. That took some time.”

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