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Level 6

Sara from Dru Bru Brewing wants to know: How do *you* branch out and reach new markets?



Sara's husband Dru traded in his career as a civil engineer for a life of entrepreneurship and brewing his own beer. But building a brewery from the ground up is no simple task. 


Learning the ins and outs of small business ownership, targeting customers and creating an adaptive business model has taken serious effort on their part. We were lucky enough to hear firsthand how Sara and Dru are making it work when they decided to put everything on the line. 


Let's hear their story!



SGiuffrieda.jpg Name: Sara Giuffrida 


Business: Dru Bru


Started: Winter 2014


How did you create your awesome job?


Dru, my husband, used to be a civil engineer who loved home brewing. As his hobby became a passion and then a downright obsession, we went so far as to remodel the backyard of our townhouse to make room for his brewing equipment! 


We were giving out beer to friends and family and hearing loads of positive feedback. After a while, we realized it would be well worthwhile to explore brewing as a full-time job. 


We were having conversations around what that would look like logistically when an entrepreneur friend of ours mentioned a community development in the Snoqualmie Pass area here in Washington state that would really benefit from the addition of a brewery. So, we did a meet-and-greet with the investors of the development, where they sampled our beers and told us they thought it would be a great addition to the neighborhood. 


After that, we knew we needed to go out and find some investors of our own and figure out what our long-term business plan was. Things really took off from there! 


Who was your very first customer? 


We were contacted by an apparel company who wanted to do a holiday party at our brewery. So, our first paying customer was essentially a group of 50 people. 


We hadn't even opened yet and it was a great opportunity to do a soft launch, test our efficiency and see how our systems were working. We needed to see how quickly we could get the beer out, find out whether everything was pouring okay, how we would handle multiple orders — that sort of thing. It ended up working out really great. The group was excited to be there for our opening and everyone had a lot of fun. 




When did you know your business was going to work? 


I think we're still in that period of uncertainty. The first winter that we were open was the absolute worst winter on record here at Snoqualmie Pass. There was almost no snow, so the skiing and snowboarding crowd we depend on was pretty much non-existent. It was brutal because we just weren't getting the traffic we expected in our tap room. 


But, that forced us to rethink our strategy to include distribution in addition to our onsite tap room. We started reaching out to restaurants and bars in the greater Seattle area to get our product out there and build a name for ourselves. 


To start with, we had some difficulty getting our highway signage posted. Snoqualmie Pass is right along I-90, so we thought if we could capture even 1% of the traffic that passes right by us, that would be huge! 


Turns out, working with the government can take a long time. Eventually our signs went up six months after we opened. But once those signs were up, we saw an immediate uptick in customers in our tap room and our confidence grew. 


This past winter was amazing and at this point we're nicely set up to head into the summer season with a little more knowledge and the ability to drive business without relying too heavily on the ski and snowboard customer base.  




What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?


Dru and I thought our roles would be more clear cut. Dru was going to focus on brewing and I was going to do the marketing and operations, while our third partner was supposed to do all the accounting and billing. 


We quickly realized that those lines get blurred really fast. Everyone has to do everything. One of the reasons I was confident in opening this business with Dru was because I knew he was more than just the "beer guy." We're all in this together and while none of us are experts in running our own business, we're able to come together and brainstorm solutions.


How do you price your beer? 


Pricing is interesting because the state requires a markup for our keg distribution. We can't offer certain restaurants or bars different pricing or deals, as we have to have one universal price. 


When we were pricing our kegs, we spoke with bars and restaurants to get an idea of what they were used to paying and then priced our product a little below that. We really wanted to get our beer out there, but were a little worried about price being a deterrent. It was important for us to remember that we weren't pricing our beer for a resort. Our product is aimed at the local community, who've been so supportive of us and our brewing journey. 




What does a typical day look like for you? 


For Dru, it's changed so much from day one. When we were in the thick of it, he would wake up early to drive from Seattle to the Pass and start brewing by 6am. Brew days are typically 12 hours long and take very hands-on, physical work. He'd also be giving tours of the tap room, meeting and greeting customers, answering emails, coordinating vendors and managing tap room staff. These days he's able to be more specific with his tasks. While he still has brew days, he's able to focus on sales and developing relationships with our various accounts. 


For me, I work full-time in the city so my Dru Bru time is mostly focused in the mornings and evenings, when I'll answer emails and coordinate vendors. I'm personally responsible for creating all our marketing material, ordering supplies and equipment, managing donations and the creation of our trivia questions and even making the snacks we sell at the tap room! There's really no task too small. 


What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?


I would love to know how other small business owners learn about new opportunities to reach their customers. I feel that we've saturated the beer world, including forums and events, but we want to branch out and tap into other markets like outdoor enthusiasts and concert-goers. 

I want to know where other businesses get the information that helps them reach new customers. 




Tell us!

Do *you* have tips for Sara that will help them reach new markets and find new customers?

Are you a fearless conqueror of new markets? How did *you* learn to break into a new target audience or diversify your clientele? 


Share your own experiences with us in the comments below. :-)

1 Comment 1
Level 7

Sara from Dru Bru Brewing wants to know: How do *you* branch out and reach new markets?

My favorite stories are the ones when someone leaves the stability of a career behind to chase their dreams. I truly believe that by not letting fear control our actions, we will always come out on top. 

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