Mark Twain once wrote, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It’s a great sentiment, but in practical terms it can be challenging for people to find a way to make a living by doing the things that they would do for free. This is especially true in the beer-making world. There are thousands of amazing beers being made in basements and garages around the United States, and every homebrewer knows the satisfaction of having his or her friends say, “you should really do this full time.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
The good news is that it’s not impossible. In fact, there are a number of successful breweries, both large and small, that started off as “side hustles” before making the jump from hobby to career. And while there’s no single path to transform dreams turn into reality, there are five key things that homebrewers should take into consideration if they are thinking about making the leap into the beer business.
The first thing that you need to do is figure out is if there is a market for what you are making. Most professionally brewed beer is going to be sold in a very small geographical area, so it’s important to make sure that your product is going to resonate with local customers. You can conduct expensive and time-consuming market research campaigns, but the easiest way to do this is simply look at what else is available in your area. If there are 10 local breweries making Pilsner, there might not be room for an eleventh. On the other hand, if people in your community tend to prefer uncomplicated beers, sours and lambics might not sell very well. If you are a dedicated homebrewer, you probably already know what local tastes are, so use that as the basis for your initial decision about whether or not to make the leap into selling, rather than just making, beer.
Know the Law
Alcohol is one of the most highly regulated consumer products in the United States. There are federal laws, state laws, and local codes affecting the ability to make, sell, and transport beer. This creates significant burdens on homebrewers who aspire to become professional brewers and have other people enjoy what they make. If you are thinking about turning your homebrew passion into a professional brewing business, it’s important to be up to speed on restrictions that may negatively affect your ability to operate. Also important to note, it is against the law to sell beer that is not brewed in a federally-licensed brewery. That’s not a big deal if you are just making beer for your family and friends in your garage, but it could affect your ability to market and sell anything to the public.
Create a Brand
If you’re going to create a business, it’s important to actually look like a business. Plain brown bottles are fine for homebrewing but are obviously not going to work in the marketplace. You need to invest in a logo, a name, and materials that are going to help you get recognized and stand out from the crowd. One of the best ways to do this is by creating custom labels for your beer cans or bottles. This is where stickers from StickerYou can help you make even the smallest operation look big-time. A lot of homebrewers are wary about ordering labels because they are reluctant to deal with large minimum orders and they don’t want to be stuck with boxes full of unused labels. That’s why ordering from a company with no minimum order size can make this process pain-free.
No matter what kind of business you are in, people need to know about it. This is where building strong networks can you play a vital role in building your business. When most people think of networking today, they think about social media. While that’s important, what is even more valuable is a real-world collection of friends and associates who will help you spread the word about your new your business. A common way to do this is through a technique called mind mapping, which involves making lists of all the people you know that you believe can help you grow your business. Chances are, you will be amazed by the size of your network! Once people get started, they often find that they have hundreds of people who are potential customers, partners, or evangelists.
Marketing and Sales
This is where the rubber meets the road! Once you’ve set up your business, obtained all of the proper permits and licenses, defined your brand, and built your list of connections, it’s time to officially get the word out. Because most small brewers sell in a small geographical area – maybe even just one town – it’s important to focus your marketing activity on your target audience. If you’re making a beer in Peoria, getting fans in Albuquerque isn’t going to help you grow your business. Instead, look for highly localized approaches to promoting your product. Something as simple as handing out stickers and flyers can be far more effective than taking out advertisements for spending on paid social media campaigns.
Not every homebrewer has aspirations to become the next beer tycoon, but there are a number of practical ways to turn a hobby into a successful business, whether it’s a full-time job or a side gig. All it takes is some basic business savvy and a desire to share your creations with the world.