"Creating a nation of breweries. Highlighting the people, passion, and growth in craft beer"
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Include everything that you would cover in a five-minute interview.
Explain the fundamentals of the proposed business: What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?
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Personal Background and Company Description
Chris McClellan has a broad professional background in digital marketing, technology, and great beer. A native Vermonter, he worked in sales and marketing for Magic Hat Brewing Company for a few years coming out of business school at the University of Vermont. From there, Chris moved to Washington, DC where he found himeself in the startup world at LivingSocial, helping to build a customer service department from the ground up. He worked there for over two years, and then moved unto a number of challenging independent business and contracting positions, including business partnerships at NPR, along with project management roles at AOL and Edelman. Chris then moved to New York City, working with a wide variety of beer (and non-beer) focused clients as a digital marketing consultant, writer, and storyteller, helping them craft a coherent online voice and vision.
For the past year, Chris took on a brand new position as the hiring manager and strategic marketing lead for the new U.S Guinness Brewery Ambassador Program. He hired a full national team of 9 Guinness Brewery Ambassadors, developed our positioning and voice in the market with a continued focus on program growth, operational excellence, and amazing beer.
The Guinness Brewery Ambassador program is an educational initiative focused on putting beer experts on the ground across the country who can represent the best of Guinness. Each Ambassador is a professionally certified subject matter expert on all things great beer and Guinness, including our iconic portfolio, Guinness heritage and history, and the amazing modern craft beer world we live in today. Our team attends conferences, brewery dinners, and any other consumer and trade focused event where we get to tell the Guinness story and network across the great beer world we live in.
Starting The Brew Enthusiast...
I started The Brew Enthusiast in November of 2013 with a hunch that I was onto something big. If you should know anything about me, it's that I trust my hunches. I back them up with data and heavy analysis, but I believe in myself. Most of the online beer community was rating and ranking their beer, which isn't the right way to approach great beer. There wasn't a coherent place online the told the brewery's stories, from the brewery's perspective. There were (and are) hundreds of blogs out there that review beer, and there are a few sites where great writing and authentic journalism exist, but they're few and far between. I knew I could build a place known for great content that actually explored the most important parts of the brewing industry and built real brand value for these small businesses.
The Future of The Brew Enthusiast...
The Brew Enthusiast will, first and foremost, be in the business of great beer. I will build upon on our current content platform (which is focused on brewery stories and education) and eventually create an entire online network of breweries, suppliers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. Initially, this platform will build brand value for the breweries, giving them a well designed place to tell their story and engage their online community. There is no independent digital platform that exists right now, outside of those that let you check into/rate beer, that helps a brewery accomplish these marketing objectives and reach a dedicated community of engaged craft beer consumers. Sites like Beer Advocate, Craftbeer.com, Brewbound, and Untappd serve a specific purpose, but they don't actually let the brewery tell it's own story.
Since its inception, I have built and iterated on the site's design, messaging, and structure. I have managed all of our social media, started an email newsletter, and done a little bit of advertising to see how paid media does for the site. I've also done 97% of the actual content creation, interviewing breweries and building the features you see see on the site. I have done all the outreach up to this point. It's been quite a lot of work.
The Brew Enthusiast, which will be formed as an LLC here in New York, will be marketed to breweries at first and completely open to consumers from the start, with the eventual plan (1-2 years down the road) to include all members of the supply chain (distributor, retailer, and consumer). We'll need a critical mass of breweries to participate in, and pay for, our service on a monthly basis to get cash flow going, and then we can start to build on the value offering so that everyone feels encouraged to participate.
With my background, I bring great writing, organization, management, digital expertise and intimate knowledge of the beer industry to this business venture. I truly understand what great beer means to this country, and to the folks of my generation, all of whom are looking to connect with their brands. The Brew Enthusiast will be that connection.
Craft beer has been growing by double digit percentages every years for over 10 years. We now have over 4700 craft breweries in this country, with almost 2200 breweries coming down the pipe in various stages of planning right now. Craft beer contributed $28 billion to the U.S economy in 2015, and still only accounts for around 12% of total U.S beer production. Large domestic producers account for a huge percentage of total beer produced, and their market share is declining due to the rise of craft beer, and changing consumers tastes. There is tremendous growth to be had in the United States yet. In fact, this is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S economy right now.
The Brew Enthusiast can harness this changing consumer landscape perfectly. Modern (millennial) consumers need to connect with their brands, and they want to do it digitally. They want to understand who these breweries are and why they do what they do. They want their breweries and local businesses to be transparent and accessible. I have received a lot of email from folks who love the content they read on The Brew Enthusiast, and I can't sustainably write every story out there, so we should give breweries the chance to do it themselves on a site purpose-built for them, among a community of users who care about that story.
The Brew Enthusiast will also be a dedicated digital platform for breweries that currently don't have the capacity or ability to maintain an elegant digital identity. A lot of their websites are just plain terrible, badly designed, and not optimized for a great user experience. Building a new website is very expensive and time-consuming. These brewery owners are already putting in 14 hours days without actually addressing any of their marketing needs. They can use The Brew Enthusiast as their online home to reach a dedicated audience interested in great beer and great stories.
In short, I want to build the digital platform that lets consumers connect with the broader beer industry. I want to build the digital platform that let's a brewery tell its story in a well-designed, coherent way.
Once we've done this, Phase 2 of our plan means that we can harness the data that comes from this activity and use it to realize value where we haven't yet. There is enormous potential in curating this information flow.
Products and Services
I'm going to build a product and platform (on top of this site) focused on breweries and what actually matters to them. I'm assuming they'll pay for a robust platform that allows them to represent their brand to their consumer base (current and future) in a clean, modern, and engaging way. This assumption will need to be tested thoroughly. Think of it as a much better version of all the current websites that feature basic profile information about their business. Initially, we'll build brewery profiles with these features:
- An intro video
- Brewery name and logo
- Brewery background info - Founding date, Brewery size, Contact information, Website, Social Media info
- Brewery Events
- Brewery Staff
- Product Portfolio (the beers they make)
- A Blog
All this would be curated and updated by the brewery itself, which is the real benefit of the platform. We'd have a validation procedure in place to make sure it actually was the brewery altering the profile, but then they would have full access to change the information within our design constraints and rules.
As a secondary benefit, brewery profiles and data pulled from these profiles will allow TBE to track live trends about the craft industry. Interactive models on current consumption, brewery openings/closings, employment data, beer styles, events, and all the other data you could ever want about the beer industry, all visible on the front end of the site on a live basis. The skies the limit for this platform after we prove the viability of this first step. This would all require a robust backend that could support these features, but it's distinctly possible once we've ridden the learning curve.
Moving on an opportunity like this now presents us with a number of key competitive advantages:
- First-mover - No one has done this yet effectively.
- Our platform would be grounded in outstanding design and ease-of-use. Consumers will want to discover breweries on our platform, and breweries will want to use it. User Experience is critical to the growth of TBE. Look at a site like Medium as an example. It's clean, beautifully designed, and extremely easy to use. It's a storytelling platform purpose built for great content and it's growing rapidly. We can do the same thing for the brewing industry.
- There are plenty of mobile apps offering the option to check into specific beers, rate them, rank them, or tell people what you're drinking. This doesn't inherently build awareness in the brewery or its story. Our platform will be better. Great stories around beer curated from the breweries themselves, as well as excellent resources for breweries and consumers. We could eventually build a database that could easily feed into a mobile app that updates folks on brewery events, beers, and all the other information they would want to participate with the brand.
Management and Organization
Since I've built the entire thing up to this point, I will continue to act as point-person and lead for the website and Phase 1 of this project. I'm not in a position to hire writers, marketers, salespeople, developers, or designers on a part-time or full-time basis, nor would it be a strategically sound move to invest in human resources until we've proven the model. I've got a basic proof-of-concept and MVP (minimum viable product) in the current iteration of the site, and we can build on that by creating the first prototype of the brewery profiles to see how breweries and consumers react to it. Realistically, this seems like a good idea, but it might not be, and that's something we'll have to prove as we go along.
Professional and Advisory Support
Consultant or consultants
Mentors and key advisor
Channel Strategy (Email, Paid, Social, Events, PR, etc)
Positioning (What do we do? Why do we do it? Who are we targeting?)
Customer ID/Persona (what does our ideal customer look like?)
Messaging/Communication (What's our call-to-action? Why are providing a service that makes sense for our target customers?)
The website build-out and product launch will be handled by me, and will be as lean as possible. Because this first step is designed to prove the viability and profitability of this concept, we're not going to invest more than absolutely necessary in the operating cost of the site. This doesn't mean that we're going to skimp on product development, but rather means that we're not going to need a large team to gain initial traction in the market. The only real costs (which are outlined in detail in the financial section) will involve my time, along with the investment in design/development resources to build it out. I will project manage the build myself, which avoids extra costs from full-service agencies. There are no operating costs associated with labor or rent. Legal services should be minimal. There will be no necessary physical overhead or inventory, insurance, equipment, or real estate at this time.
Product build-out (tentative timeline, based on funding):
- Identify initial feature set for the website. This has been outlined briefly in the "products and services" section above, but will be detailed upon project commencement in a project plan.
- Identify associated design and engineering resources needed. Independent/freelance designers and engineers will be considered for this first step, along with full-service agencies that specialize in Squarespace development and design.
- Once we've determined these factors, we'll be able to commence building the platform.
Expenses and Capitalization
You will have many expenses before you even begin operating your business. It’s important to estimate these expenses accurately and then to plan where you will get sufficient capital. This is a research project, and the more thorough your research efforts, the less chance that you will leave out important expenses or underestimate them.
Even with the best of research, however, opening a new business has a way of costing more than you anticipate. There are two ways to make allowances for surprise expenses. The first is to add a little “padding” to each item in the budget. The problem with that approach, however, is that it destroys the accuracy of your carefully wrought plan. The second approach is to add a separate line item, called contingencies, to account for the unforeseeable. This is the approach we recommend.
Talk to others who have started similar businesses to get a good idea of how much to allow for contingencies. If you cannot get good information, we recommend a rule of thumb that contingencies should equal at least 20 percent of the total of all other start-up expenses.
Explain your research and how you arrived at your forecasts of expenses. Give sources, amounts, and terms of proposed loans. Also explain in detail how much will be contributed by each investor and what percent ownership each will have.
The financial plan consists of a 12-month profit and loss projection, a four-year profit and loss projection (optional), a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a break-even calculation. Together they constitute a reasonable estimate of your company's financial future. More important, the process of thinking through the financial plan will improve your insight into the inner financial workings of your company.
12-Month Profit and Loss Projection
Many business owners think of the 12-month profit and loss projection as the centerpiece of their plan. This is where you put it all together in numbers and get an idea of what it will take to make a profit and be successful.
Your sales projections will come from a sales forecast in which you forecast sales, cost of goods sold, expenses, and profit month-by-month for one year.
Profit projections should be accompanied by a narrative explaining the major assumptions used to estimate company income and expenses.
Research Notes: Keep careful notes on your research and assumptions, so that you can explain them later if necessary, and also so that you can go back to your sources when it’s time to revise your plan.
A break-even analysis predicts the sales volume, at a given price, required to recover total costs. In other words, it’s the sales level that is the dividing line between operating at a loss and operating at a profit.
Expressed as a formula, break-even is:
Breakeven Sales =
1- Variable Costs
(Where fixed costs are expressed in dollars, but variable costs are expressed as a percent of total sales.)
Include all assumptions upon which your break-even calculation is based.