At long last, we’ve risen from the trenches of the fundraising war.
Many of our friends and mentors had a close eye on us, ensuring that we survived while fighting one of the many uphill battles along the road to bringing the brewery into existence. If there were a less travelled road than the road less travelled, there you’d find the circles of our footprints, worn into the dirt from our seemingly endless pacing as we planned our next move.
While we were still in school, everyone had their own ideas for raising capital. The funny thing about college: reality is suspended completely. Class assignments were filled with “assumptions” leading you to believe that your idea was worth a million bucks. No one ever told us that, but our class projects were still set up with these guidelines in place. “Based on our research of the $10.7 billion piano lesson industry, it is our belief that we can capture at least 1% of the market in year 2 and give you a 20x return on your money by year 5!”, our classmates would surmise. Seriously. Piano lessons. Suspended reality.
As silly as these projects were, we forced ourselves to be as realistic as possible right from the start. At one point we were told to stop trying to meticulously lay out the future, as our plans will be constantly changing. Oh, how correct they were.
Fresh out of college, we pursued a few programs meant to foster entrepreneurship in the region. The thing these organizations don’t mention up front, however, is they’d rather not even talk to you unless you’re promising hockey stick curve growth. Our discussions quickly dissolved once we dismissed things like an early exit or getting acquired. It was a bit disappointing, to say the least. But then again, it forced us to to re-think how we would target money.
This led us to the launch of our Kickstarter. This step was a crucial turning point, as it allowed us to introduce people to Braddock, our goals, and our vision. Plus, the success of the campaign provided us a solid boost of confidence as we continued to look elsewhere for money. Being able to tell potential investors that our friends, family, and many others believed in us enough to donate to our cause helped move these discussions forward.
It didn’t end up being enough. Our pursuits of money were still falling short. We weren’t closing any of our discussions, and the dream of finding an equal partner was exactly that: a dream. We had to change our approach again. This time, we drew inspiration from the obvious. After a number of inquiries about investing smaller amounts, we asked ourselves why we never catered to these requests.
Enter our lawyer, Pete Kurzweg. Upon explaining our situation and discussing the inquiries we had received, he instantly took on the task of finding an appropriate legal offering. Here’s what he has to say:
It may come as a shock to many clients and lawyers alike that the most critical component of helping a client raise funds is listening to your client. Every industry is different. Every set of circumstances is different. And, most importantly, every client is different – they have different aspirations, they have different histories, they have different networks available to them, they have different thresholds for the pain of giving up a stake in their entity, and they have different, industry-specific abilities to do more or less with any given amount of money.
When I first met Matt and Asa, it was clear that I had two very bright individuals on my hands who had an ambition, maturity and savvy that was ahead of their age. We went through a number of different potential investment opportunities and vehicles that could support those opportunities.
We adjusted Matt and Asa’s expectations numerous times. We failed more often than we succeeded, but because we remained confident, creative and flexible, we found ways to do more with less.
Ultimately we realized that the best option was one that would involve a wide variety of their contacts and friends buying in at various numbers of smaller stakes, at the investment level at which they were comfortable. It gave our small but energized group of investors the ability to take this ride. They took advantage of the opportunity to build a brewery that was Matt and Asa’s brain-child. It remains in the control of their capable, creative hands, but those hands now have the added strength that friends, experience, and community bring to the table.
This is the part of the story where we disappeared from social media, our brewing equipment got dusty, and our friends began to show signs of worry about our rapidly crumbling sanity. We spent most days indoors hunched over our laptops, reading, researching, and writing. We had to take all of our work and accomplishments thus far and distill it into a comprehensive story. We had to re-work our business plan to fit the direction we were now taking. Finally, we had to take Pete’s work and assemble all of the puzzle pieces into one massive, aesthetically pleasing package.
We were finally equipped with a set of documents to present to those who had inquired about investing. We talked to friends, friends of friends, and anyone else who we were introduced to. Meeting upon meeting and long email threads finally began to shift into conversations regarding whom to make checks out to and where to mail them.
So that puts us where we are now. We have a team of dedicated investors behind us, with a few more spots available. We’ve raised the money required to get started. We did it much, much differently than we originally expected, but we’ve accomplished what we set out to achieve. The money has also allowed us to apply for a small business loan through the Enterprise Zone Corporation of Braddock. The quest to raise more capital is still very much a work in progress, but it’s rather amusing to see how far we’ve come from those classroom exercises.