Building a Bigger Brewery: Weeks 25-27

“Your file is about ready to go to underwriting.”

Now THAT sounds scary.  These last three weeks have been a blur.  It’s been nothing but back and forth with the banks, more quotes from equipment manufacturers and trying to further optimize The Valley location – as far as staffing and management.  I’m spent.  It’s hard for me to wake-up in the morning (stress).  I’ve been sick with this low-level cold for days (stress).  I haven’t ran or swam (stress).  Whah…whah!

On top of that, I’m trying to figure out what led to an, understandably, bad review on social media.  I take that personally and honestly is causes me the most stress.  It’s essentially a bad review of me and how I have set this up with my staff thus far.  I take full responsibility.  Understandably, I can’t be behind the bar all hours that we are open to see everything, but knowing this, how can we use this bad review as a good excuse to get better?  For me to manage better?  For me to empower others with more responsibility to then do better?  I mean, our production facility will also have a taproom four times as large…we better figure out how to get it perfect EVERY TIME in ‘The Valley’ first!

Ok, I sound like a cry-baby.  I just have to vent sometimes and (not being terribly social) I choose the pen to do it.

So what’s new, Ron?

More efficiency

I’ve made a big push the last few months to get our current brewing operations more efficient.  This includes a new automated glycol controller, a better way to oxygenate wort and a better way to carbonate our beer.  All of these things will save time and raise quality.  I have to give a big thanks to Paul.  Many months ago, Paul (a patron) offered his help on anything regarding maintenance, etc.  Well, when I received this new fermentor glycol control panel, I knew I didn’t have the time to hook it up myself.  I asked him and a few weeks later, we installed it.  He did all the work given a few schematics and very little input from me allowing me to continue to dance with the bank.  Also, our new oxygenation system (courtesy of Vince and John of MadCap and HiHo) will save the boys 30 minutes per brew and allow us to get rid of a bulky air compressor…even though dialing it in is continuing to be tricky…it’s either very little oxygen or too much.  (Oxygen is needed at the beginning of fermentation for yeast cells to divide.)

About the production facility lease

Like the bank financing, it’s moving forward. We have had another meeting with the architects and the Lessor regarding moving product in and out of the building and we went over the new parking lot plan which includes loading docks.  I have submitted ‘my needs’ to the Lessor and have a meeting planned in about a week regarding this.

On a side note, we found our outdoor space!  It was hidden between our building and the next, around a corner that we didn’t think led anywhere.  You will get to this space though our taproom, over a bridge that goes over the brewery, outside and then around that very corner.

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Just imagine a nice brick floor with tables, chairs and a minibar.  Tall pots of bamboo will rustle in the breeze.

About the financing

I’m cross-eyed.  Never before have I had to fill-out so many spreadsheets with data.  I also  finally finished a business plan that explains the numbers.   I submitted all of these last Friday along with some personal tax stuff.  An hour later I get an email back that I need to provide the first three months of 2016 along with 2017 and my personal financial statement.  Ughh…back to the spreadsheets.  But really, it’s not so bad.  It didn’t take too long.  A good bank BETTER be asking this of me if I am asking for an integer with several zero’s behind it.  They need to know that I am thinking and have thought of everything in my projections.

So I sent my personal financial statement over.  Up until now, it’s been very positive (five year plan, solid growth numbers, good foundation, etc).  This time there was something they didn’t like.  That something is my personal debt.  Up until opening The Valley location, we (my wife and I) had nearly a perfect credit score.  We chose to personally finance this brewery as we had some equity in our house and some available credit – much easier than a formal bank loan with just as much paperwork as I’m doing now for far less.  Anyways, from when we opened, we used whatever we pulled in after operational expenses to reinvest to more than double our capacity as we needed it due to demand.  Then the kitchen was added (not cheap) and another POS machine plus many other things.  I could have used that to pay off my personal debt that started R.Shea Brewing to put me in a better financial light personally. But I didn’t.  I wanted to reinvest to keep up with you.  If I didn’t reinvest, the numbers I have now wouldn’t be nearly as impressive for the bank to take a risk on this next endeavor.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I have confidence that this will continue to move along.

What’s next?

I’m looking for a General Contractor and I have a few meetings setup with the Akron Economic Development team on a grander vision for an Akron Brewery District.  It’s super exciting.  More on that later!

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One thought on “Building a Bigger Brewery: Weeks 25-27”

  1. Let me try to decrease your stress a bit: I searched for a long time before finding any negative reviews of your beer or brewery! It was tough because of so many good reviews out there (5 stars on yelp, 4.9 on google, 4.9 on facebook, out of hundreds and hundreds of reviews; impeccable record on untappd with over 20,000 reviews, it goes on and on). So–the occasional bad experience may be really a statistical fluctuation: if you have that many customers then its inevitable! So my advice is to change everything in the search for perfection…(just kidding)!

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