Keep Calm and Carry On
I struggled the entire time to keep my emotions level, but it’s impossible not to have some reaction to a successful or failed pitch. Towards the end, when I was confident the deal would get done one way or another, I hated hearing “no” mostly because it meant I had to spend more time fundraising. “Maybe” was the absolute worst answer: it almost definitely means months of disappointing follow-up calls ultimately ending in a “no.” Only one “maybe” became a “yes” for me.
What the Hell Is Craft Beer?
Another unexpected challenge I encountered is that most of the people I spoke to had very little understanding of craft beer. Hell, some people had never heard of “microbrew” and found the idea of starting a small brewery completely exotic. One person asked, “Are you prepared to giveaway truckloads of the stuff before anyone will buy it?” When that’s the starting point for a discussion, it’s hard to convince a potential investor that bearded men will stand in a sweltering parking lot for 4 hours to buy a single bottle.
You Are The Investment
Something else that caught me off-guard was the variability of people’s interest in the offering documents and business plan, which I had agonized over for months with the help of various attorneys and accountants. Some potential investors asked pointed questions about language choices and grilled me about the particulars of various obscure clauses. Others showed a lot more interest in me than in the documents. As one investor explained, “I’d rather sign a bad piece of paper with a good person than a good piece of paper with a bad person.”
Most Investors Are Not Beer Geeks
Along the same lines, very few potential investors displayed any interest in tasting the beer itself. Most were self-aware enough to confess that they couldn’t tell good beer from bad, and I even ended up with two investors who don’t drink at all (though both are well-seasoned in the ways of money). I had started the fundraising process thinking that the beer would be the biggest selling point; it turned out to be a footnote (incidentally, this helped me understand why lousy breweries still get funded).
In the end, fundraising was not only different than I’d imagined, it was much, much more exhausting, expensive, and challenging. A process I thought would take 3 months took 6, and by the end, I was so sick of it I couldn’t wait to dive into the fascinating world of building codes, which, by comparison, are significantly more relevant to actual brewing.
Ultimately, what made it work was not the beer, nor the documents, nor craft beer’s gaudy numbers – though they all helped. It was my ability to convince people it was a good investment, that I could execute the business plan, and that I wouldn’t screw them over. Other people helped get my foot in the door with potential investors—for which I am eternally grateful—but once the conversation started, I had to sell them on it.
Fortunately, it worked, and now I can get a little closer to making beer.