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Start Your Business Success Stories

Craft Brewery Founder Drafts Advice for Small Businesses

brewery Cape May Brewing Company / Credit: Cape May Brewing Company

The craft beer movement is exploding.  According to the Brewers Association, the volume of craft brewers has grown 13 percent in the past year. Sales growth has outpaced that, increasing by 15 percent, but what is more illuminating about these numbers is the fact that both volume and sales of traditional brewers were both down over the past year. The Cape May Brewing Company, opened in July 2011, is riding that wave of recent growth.  What makes this company unique, however, is the smart way they have conquered the most common problem that all small businesses face: gaining capital. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Ryan Krill, one of the Cape May Brewing Company's founders, about the fast growth of the company, some of their unique beers, and how he was able to get a loan of nearly $70,000 simply by picking up the phone.

BusinessNewsDaily: Tell us about your business.

Ryan Krill: We are a microbrewery located in South Jersey.  We began using a 12-gallon brewing system, and then stepped up to a 45-gallon system.  We are expanding again to a 186-gallon system.  One hundred eighty-six gallons of beer may sound like a lot, but it’s really only a drop in the bucket when you compare it to more established microbreweries. 

Last March at our first beer festival, we won first place for best India Pale Ale (IPA) for our Centennial IPA.  It was our first award for us and we were just floored.  There were 19 other beers from very large and well-established microbreweries from all over the country and the judges chose us in a blind taste test.  It was the kind of thing that just gives you butterflies.   

BND: Why did you start your business? What opportunity did you see that you thought you could take advantage of?

R.K.: I remember this vividly. Chris Henke and I were brewing out back of my parent’s house in Avalon, N.J., on July 4, 2010.  We were disappointed that we would need to drive all the way up to Atlantic City, N.J., to go to the closest brewery.  I suggested to Chris that we start our own in Cape May. It seemed appropriate since there were so many wineries and a brewery would be a nice compliment.  Chris admits that he didn’t take me completely serious, but agreed.   Exactly one year, later he and I were drinking our IPA on tap at a bar called Cabanas in Cape May.

Just because we opened did not mean we were finished.  Our plan was to start small and use what money we had saved to make it work.  My dad, Bob, a retired pharmaceutical executive and carpenter, wanted to be involved. Between everyone’s skills, we were able to build our brewery from scratch and expand using ingenuity, hard work and a limited budget.     

[7 Ways to Finance a Small Business]

BND: Can you talk a bit about the economic development loan you received and what that means for the future of your business? How did you go about getting the loan?

R.K.: We knew from the first month of being open that the beer was a hit.  But with that success, we knew we were going to need to be able to brew more.  When we started getting serious about using larger equipment, we had to come to terms with the limitations of what we could build ourselves and what we would have to purchase.  As some of the aspiring brewers will know, brewing equipment is not cheap. 

So, just as any company would do, we applied for a loan.  The banks didn’t want anything to do with a startup unless we mortgaged our homes, so there was no bank loan.

From my background in real estate development and finance, I knew that there are a plethora of financing and grant opportunities available at the federal, state and municipal level. I started sniffing around, and it turns out that our township has an economic development loan that was left dormant for the past 20 years.  I spoke with the township officials, applied and got the money we needed to expand.   

Cape May Brewing Company Credit: Cape May Brewing Company

BND: Can you speak about how the company has grown and handled growth since opening in July 2011

R.K.: We bite off only what we can chew.  We are very sensitive to our expenses and are semi-neurotic about quality and consistency in order to build our brand. 

As I respond to these questions, we have already hired our first full-time employee and are anticipating that we will hire more.  It’s a big responsibility, and it really makes you think about everything you’re doing, because if we screw up, then we can affect the lives of the people who work for us.  Granted, it’s only one person, but it’s still a big deal.

BND: What can other businesses learn from your story?

R.K.: Take the time to write a good business plan.  We spent months researching, reading and traveling to other breweries.  It really pays off because you have a piece of cohesive material everyone can work from.  And that also helps when you want to get your financing; lenders want to know you have your act together. 

BND: What advice do you have for other businesses or entrepreneurs?

R.K.: Go for it.  Follow your dream, not someone else’s. 

Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.

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