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Ep. 006: On Launching a Brewery — The Adam Sjogren Interview

Hear the thrilling entrepreneurial journey of brewery founder, Adam Sjogren, of Northgate Brewing.

Listen as he describes why and how they started, what it was like to raise capital, and how he promotes the company on a limited budget.

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Podcast Timeline:

0:43 – Introduction to Adam Sjogren, the co-founder of Northgate Brewing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2:41 – “Give Me the Basics” Podcast Segment – Adam describes his brewery company, how the business idea emerged, and what makes the brewery unique.

4:05 – Did his original startup assumptions prove correct, or did the company need to pivot based on customer feedback? Hear Adam share his answer.

5:17 – Adam describes the size and growth of Northgate Brewing, as well as future growth expectations and plans.

6:30 – Adam describes what it’s like running a small business for the first time. “My beard has gotten much grayer . . . but also very rewarding.”

6:51 – Adam shares how the company started: “It started with a broken ankle.” His co-founder, Todd, was in an entrepreneurship class and he wrote the business plan, thereby expressing to Adam, “I think we can do this.” Hear Adam describe that “we started in a 700 square-foot garage and it worked! Somehow it became successful!”

8:36 – “Tell Me How” Podcast Segment – About raising capital (8:51) and asking friends and family for money. Adam describes he and Todd emptying their nest eggs. “There was a lot of beer involved, so that helped!” And “a lot of sleepless nights.”

11:25 – Adam describes his background before starting the company.

11:33 – Adam shares how they learned how to manufacture the beer. He talked to the helpful founders of other companies (i.e. Surly and Fulton). These people were very open about the process and how to source the equipment. They used converted dairy equipment.

12:54 – Adam addresses some of their early manufacturing problems. “It never goes smoothly.” He advises others to add six months to the startup process because of the industry federal and state regulation.

14:09 – Adam offers his key pieces of advice regarding manufacturing. “Check the references of the manufacturers.” “Friends in the industry gave us amazing tips.” “Get the best equipment you can afford.”

14:55 – Adam describes how he approached bars and restaurants (to sell to them) and the importance of product sampling and the relationships with owners and buyers.

15:55 – Adam shares his experiences about being rejected and the pressures of selling: “I get rejected every day. You gotta have thick skin in this business.” “’No’ doesn’t usually mean ‘no,’ it usually means ‘not now.’”

17:19 – Adam talks about the challenges and importance of creating consumer demand – and creating community involvement, offering events and educating bar and restaurant servers.

20:29 – Adam describes how they set their pricing. They had to raise their price after running the business for 6 months. Margins weren’t large enough. They re-did all of their pricing sheets.

21:45 – Adam offers his thoughts on working with distributors, and the pros and cons of working with them.

23:38 – “Let’s Get Personal Podcast Segment” – Adam describes his entrepreneurial motivations (23:50).

25:00 – Adam shares what he’s been most proud of – his biggest joy – since starting Northgate Brewing.

25:52 – Adam expresses his number one frustration since starting Northgate Brewing.

26:23 – Adam talks about some of his self doubt as an entrepreneur. Despite his success, he talks about his “sleepless nights lying there staring at the ceiling, wondering what I did wrong. It’s very frustrating to start a business.”

27:20 – Adam describes how starting a business has changed him, and how he’s “much more assertive now.” But also “more willing to listen and more willing to admit that I don’t know what I don’t know.”

28:18 – Adam shares what he’s learned most about himself since becoming an entrepreneur: “I’m willing to work a lot of hours without sleep.” “It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.”

33:20 – Adam offers closing advice: “Make sure you’ve had that talk with your family – that they know what you’re in for” before starting a business.

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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