How did you get into this? How did you decide that a distillery was the thing that you wanted to do?
I always joke that when I worked at Hewlett Packard for 12 years it drove me to drink, and that’s only a partially a joke. When I was a kid, my mom was always making wine, and would let me make wine, too. At the time, I thought it was absolutely a horrible tasting stuff, but it was still fun to make. And as I was first getting into engineering back in the early ‘90s, craft brewing was just starting to take off, but I was going a different direction in my career at that point. But when I was to the point when I was tired of doing the corporate/professional engineering life, I found that craft distillery was starting to take off out in Portland, Oregon where I had been visiting a lot for work. That put a bug in my head that this was a new field. This is kind of where craft brewing was back in the early ‘90s. You could still get into it – still small, and have a chance to be in on an emerging industry, not trying to get in on a pretty well-developed industry like craft brewing, where it now takes a lot more money and a lot more backing and that sort of thing.
Is there anything that you wish you had done differently?
That’s a really interesting question. There are a lot of things that, if I was doing this again, I definitely would not do. On the other hand, I look at all those experiences and I think well, if I hadn’t done that, there are all these things I wouldn’t have learned. So I can’t look at anything and say. “oh, no, that was a horrible glaring error,” but there are things that, if I had all the knowledge I have now, I would have made different choices. But nothing too bad.
A good example is that we just signed a contract with a distributor today to do all of our sales and distribution in Northern Colorado. I wish I had done that a year ago. But I had to come to that point [after] trying to do so in-house ourselves [before] I could really see the value of the distributor. And if I hadn’t gone through that pain, I wouldn’t have learned a lot of things about doing sales, and I wouldn’t have learned how to work with the distributor as well as we’ll know how to do now. So, it’s good and it’s bad. Probably have more money now if I’d done that sooner, but we’d be missing knowledge.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Just I think it’s the same thing every entrepreneur says. If you knew how hard it was, would you ever do it? People just need to make sure that they’re prepared for it to be harder and take longer than whatever they’re planning. If you think you’re going to need enough money to live for a year, make sure it’s two. Because things – if you’re lucky maybe you’ll rise above those clouds, but there are so many pieces of it that it’s hard to be lucky on everything all the time. So it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.