Planning Your Business

Craft breweries are small businesses. Usually there are a couple of principals - one may be entrepreneurial, the other maybe is into brewing. Both are innovative and creative in their own ways. There is also likely a backer or backers - could be family, friends or other business partners, all with invidual points of view about how to run a brewery. A good business plan ties these various interests together into a cohesive package that states vision, mission, goals and expectations. It is a strategic document that lays the foundation for how to proceed.

You probably have a good idea of what you want to do but can you tell it to someone succinctly? What is your mission statement or "elevator pitch"?  It is very helpful to be able to explain to a prospective banker, partner or investor what you want to do - something like "Sustainably brew excellent beer with locally sourced ingredients, unique recipes and a strong connection to our community".

You plan to brew and distribute beer (or cider or whiskey). You will either be selling from a taproom, pub, distributing to other establishments or to retail outlets. You will either self distribute or work with a distributor, probably in a three tier system.

Business Plan Components

Your audience will determine the depth you go into with your written plan. They may have a good understanding of the craft beverage industry. You may have a prior relationship with backers or bankers. In that case, you may be able to trim your plan but at any rate, you will want to think through and be able to talk to the following points.

  • Who you are - this is your name and mission statement. Include a description of the business structure. Is this a sole proprietorship? C-corp? LLC? Alternate Proprietorship? Also include information about how the name was chosen, where you are or wish to locate and a bit about your brewing and business philosophy.
  • What you do - brew a craft beverage (beer, cider, whiskey). Include information about your products - flagship, other brands, any seasonal offerings. Will you be operating a restaurant? Utilizing food trucks? Order in from local establishments?
  • Target Market - Millenials? Professionals with growing families? College population? Sports fans? Trades professions (construction, electricians etc.)
  • When you intend to start operations
  • How you intend to distribute - tap room? Kegs to restaurants? Retail stores?  Will you self-distribute or use a distributor? Will these phase in over time?
  • Team - Master brewer, business manager, restaurant or taproom manager, sales manager, assistant brewer, servers. How many and at what point will you build your hiring? Also include bio's for owners/key employees
  • Site - will you lease or own? rough idea of square footage and location
  • Equipment - list of brewing equipment (10 bbl brew house, hot liquor tank, cold liquor tank, brite tanks or fermenters - how many, etc.)
  • Other support - legal, financial, marketing. This doesn't have to be specific, just a note as to whether these will be in-house or contracted services
  • Financial Projections - P&L and Balance sheet for years 1-3. Everyone knows the out years are a bit of a guess but you should still have a rough idea.  For instance, you may plan to brew 500 barrels in year one and double your production in years two and three
  • Finance Structure - Debt vs. equity, bank financing, private investors, crowd funding, mug clubs and swag (may also be a part of marketing)
  • Marketing Plan - options include social media, website, trade publications, print media. What is your marketing budget and how much do you plan to allocate to each channel? Discuss opening day events and other special events you will take part in
  • Miscellaneous - you may want to include a mock-up of your logo and label pictures for your flagship and year round brands

This is not an all-inclusive list although it may be for some. It is meant to convey the thought that planning encompasses a thorough and thoughtful approach to your business. Your successful competitors are surely doing this. We can help you succeed as well!



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