Itching to get into the BC food and beverage industry? Well, Chris Peacock from Brave Brewing has all the details; from thorough marketing to choosing the right suppliers, he lays out what it takes. So read on till the very end!
You have quite a lengthy background in marketing! Can you tell us about your past at the company Traction and what being a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) was like?
When I started at Traction, the mission was to help generate business. I handled sales, marketing, alliances, brand, channels, contract negotiations and even consulting. The first years, everyone wore many hats and did everything they could to ensure our success. As the years progressed I realized that partnerships, community, demand generation, culture, brand and marketing were all intertwined. My title may have been CMO but I never felt that was truly appropriate at Traction, it was just the label that made the most sense in the world of Linkedin.
You’re kind of a startup-aholic! What traits from being a CMO have helped you succeed at being a founder?
Marketers are always looking for the ‘new’: New opportunities, new ideas, new solutions, new and creative ways to tackle a challenge. Starting and growing a business means never getting comfortable. Entrepreneurs are also never comfortable so I guess the two go hand in hand.
What is the tale behind Site B and what birthed the idea?
It was a solution to a problem we had at the time - the future of work for Tractionites. People no longer needed named desks or offices but they did need a place to connect and collaborate. We took a page from our end-of-Covid solution which involved a network of breweries to work from and created a space and business from the idea. Work + Culture + Play + Connect + Retail + Events…and beer of course.
Now tell us about your journey to becoming a beer brewer and how you got started in the industry?
Brewing our own beer was always part of the Traction culture. Beer is fuel for conversation, connection, and community, especially in Port Moody, BC. For me, beer also symbolizes accomplishment. There is nothing I like more than having a beer after accomplishing something - it’s fun and noble. I am paired with a brewmaster who is truly a master of his craft. We met Alex and bought all the gear needed to get started before we started outfitting Site B.
Then a different opportunity surfaced; An existing brewery on the row was looking to close its doors and we were looking to open ours. So instead of starting from scratch, we put our brewer and gear into an existing building that already had a tap room and a license. This meant we could brew twice as fast, focus on building a brand and break into this market.
How do you approach recipe development, creating new beers for your customers to enjoy and how has your marketing background helped?
Data, always. When it comes to the craft part of brewing, our brewmaster is the master. That said, we look at sales data for distribution and taproom. We also look at implicit and explicit feedback and requests and bring it all together with sales, service and production to find the right product mix and help guide decisions. It ain’t rocket science but it is very much science…and math. Science is the willingness to experiment and math to measure and validate. So actually, I guess it is kind of like rocket science.
What challenges have you faced in starting and growing your brewery, and how have you overcome them? For instance, why choose to rebrand from Bakery Brewing?
We wanted to enter the brewery market unencumbered by ‘the way things have always been done.’ Our inexperience in this industry and experience in business and product development would be our differentiator. We spent years being passionate about innovation for our clients at Traction and we have taken the same approach as we forge ahead in the brewery industry.
Some of the challenges that we face are actually quite similar to the space we were in. One example is the harmonization of capacity or inventory with sales and your ability to deliver on the demand from the market. That said, you really need an awesome brewmaster. Even though good brand and marketing can sell OK beer, if you have a great product to go with that good brand and marketing, the opportunity is limitless!
Bakery Brewing is not us nor our company. Other than a real estate lease and a manufacturing license, there was not much of the bakery that we took over. We built a completely new brewhouse and production facility as well as a new business and brand. Put a bunch of nerds who love to build companies together with a brewmaster at the top of his game and you have the perfect recipe to brew a successful business. While I have nothing but respect for those who loved the business that operated in the space before we moved in, it was not viable for the operators and there was not enough of a following or customer base to sustain it. Hopefully any remaining loyalists will stay curious and be open to what we are trying to build.
Your company prides itself on finding bravery in vulnerability and building bridges to inspire others to find success. How do you involve the community in your brewery?
I learned a lot from being a part of a company at 3, then 300 and finally 1,300 people over 12 years. Interest, need and collective passion changes as fast as you grow. So start early and build good habits from the start. If we reach the success I envision for us, I want to share that success and continue to build impact in line with building the business. As for who and when to support, our model allows us to give to and support causes that are most relevant to our stakeholders when resources are available. In our first 9 months, we have already supported organizations such as Kid Sport, The Terry Fox Foundation, Heritage Woods Secondary drama program, and Vancouver Association of Survivors of Torture (receiving all profits from our Women’s day brew).
What are your future plans for the brewery, and how do you envision it growing and evolving in the coming years?
I’d love to have a network of conscious and impact focused breweries that can do more and better together. We have already started a collective with our friends at Persephone called the Brewing better community. The fact is you need to have business success to be able to have notable community impact. The better your business does, the more impact you can have so I intend to use the impact we have to drive the success of the business and the success of the business to drive the impact we can have.
How can someone leverage the events offered at Vancouver Startup Week and could you give a few tips for someone who may be looking to learn more about creating a startup in the food and drink industry? Especially if they don’t have vital leadership or entrepreneurial experience like you do.
The best advice I can give to someone considering taking the leap and starting something new or different is to just do it. It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn't do. I heard this line on a show my 4 year old kid was watching last fall; “Not many people know this but brave is a very close friend of fear. Without fear, you can’t be brave”. If any entrepreneur says they were never afraid, they are lying. If you are an entrepreneur and you are going through a period where you are not fearful, that is when you should be most afraid. Acknowledge the fear and overcome it. You’ll be better for it.
Don’t forget to check out the Vancouver Startup Week in June to learn more key tips for your startup! Be sure to follow Chris on LinkedIn and Instagram to learn more from him!