Jessica Fierro is paving the way for women and BIPOC in craft beer
Running a business

Jessica Fierro is paving the way for women and BIPOC in craft beer

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias. 

Name: Jessica Fierro 

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Business: Atrevida Beer Co.

Atrevida Beer Co.

What does your business do?

Atrevida Beer Co. is a small, independent craft beer brewery where all beer is made on-site!

Why did you decide to start your own business? 

I realized that there was a big gap in the craft beer industry, both in the representation of BIPOC and women—both of which I am. I wanted to be a part of the change! 

How did you get started? 

My love of craft beer began during our military travels. My husband is a veteran officer of the U.S. Army. As part of our travels, we were assigned to Heidelberg, Germany. We ended up living there for about six years. This is where I learned how to drink beer. I was able to join a brewery tour in a local brewery in Plankstadt where they showed us, grain-to-glass, what the brewing and fermentation process looked like. From that moment forward I was obsessed. 

In 2007 we received our orders for Ft. Carson, Colorado. Serendipitously, we landed in the “Napa Valley of beers.” I quickly aligned myself with women in the industry and started asking local brewery owners for opportunities to brew and learn from them. I ended up interning at a local brewery for about a year. All the while I was homebrewing and building out my own recipes. I continued to homebrew and create opportunities for growth over the next 10 years. 

In 2017, I ended up on a TV show (by pure accident!) as a contestant on Beerland. One person with the best beer was selected from five states. I won for the state of Colorado. All finalists were then flown out to California where we competed for three days. On the final day, we went up against three professional judges and a brewery filled with local patrons who were critiquing our beer. I am proud to say that I was the only Latina woman solo brewer, and I WON! A year later, I purchased my brewery with the name Atrevida Beer Company, which translates from Spanish to mean “a woman that is bold, daring, and fearless.” My tagline and company motto is posted predominantly above my front door as you enter my brewery: “Diversity, it’s on Tap!”

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

My biggest lesson was that I cannot do it all on my own and still give everything 100%. My team is my backbone! It truly does take a village. Learning to ask for help is imperative. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

You become a jack-of-all-trades and wear many hats you never thought you would have to wear, all in an effort to cut costs and remain competitive. I have worked on broken machinery and parts that I never thought I would even begin to be successful at repairing, but I was! 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

For me, it was definitely on the business tax and reports side—how to interpret them, how to file them, and when to file them. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I took business courses to help me understand. I did have an accountant, but it was important to me to be able to understand every transaction between my business and them. Education is key and should always be ongoing! 

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I have an enormous sense of pride when I think about my business. That doesn’t mean I run it flawlessly, but I run it to the best of my ability and truly give it 100%. I have great days and really trying days, but I will always push forward and stop at nothing. There is no time or room for defeat. I strongly believe in what we are doing as a company and who we do it for. I have worked extremely hard and continue to do so despite any obstacles I may encounter along the way. Not one thing has been handed to me. This is the source of my pride. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

There are many challenges for business owners. As soon as one is solved, the next challenge is already rearing its head. The biggest challenge that none of us saw coming was the pandemic. I was determined not to lay off any of my employees. I really had to think outside the box and get creative to generate revenue and keep my business going. We did exactly that. We survived 2020 with zero layoffs! Unfortunately, we are all still feeling the aftereffects of the pandemic due to the increase in costs, difficulty in sourcing materials, and recovering from past debts. It’s a work in progress, but as long as there is progress we are on the right track! 

What are your proudest moments? 

I’m blessed to have many proud moments. However, one that comes to mind immediately is our contribution to the Fannie Mae Duncan steering committee. They were raising funds to honor her legacy with a statue. We created a tribute beer to Fannie Mae called “Everybody’s Welcome,” inspired by the famous sign that she posted in the window of the Cotton Club. All of the proceeds we raised went directly back to the steering committee to help fund the statue. At the reveal of the beautiful statue, we saw our brewery name inscribed on one of the stones. It was an amazing surprise! This definitely qualifies as one of my proudest moments, and Everybody’s Welcome is still served at Atrevida today! 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

I always have my eyes and ears open for potential opportunities. At this time, we have a few things we are working on. My Mexican heritage won’t let me speak of them until they’re confirmed (superstitions run deep!). But stay tuned, I can confidently say that big things are coming! 

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

  1. Having a strong vision. Without a vision, you are setting empty goals. Pushing for my vision to come to life is my driving force, but I always leave a little room for life and its curveballs. Having that flexibility is key! 
  2. Confidence. I am very sure of who I am and what I want to bring to the table. I am also comfortable with being uncomfortable. Learning is not always easy and, for me, asking for help does not come naturally. Confidence should never mean “fake it ‘til you make it.” If you don’t know something, learn it. Take classes, find mentors, and immerse yourself. Confidence is a derivative of your own willingness to push yourself and your business forward. 
  3. Being genuine. I don’t compartmentalize myself. The Jess you know as a boss is the same Jess you know as a person. I don’t change who I am. I lead with my heart. Having an open-door policy with my staff is very important to me. I truly value everyone who is a part of my Atrevida family! I have never led from the front. I lead from the back. I believe that every person has a strength that is worth shining light on and everyone has the potential to be a leader. 
quote image
If you stay true to who you are, you eliminate the exhaustion of pretending to be someone else.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

The ugly truth is that the odds are already stacked against us as women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people who strive to be leaders. In my experience, it began from the moment I tried to source funding to start my business. Later, people said I was “playing the Latina card” to receive the same grants during the pandemic that everyone else in my local industry had already received. It’s ongoing. Building the strength to drive through the “no’s” is essential. Knowing how to communicate (in a professional manner) that you are not going to sit back quietly is definitely a skill worth acquiring! 

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

The good news is there has been progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The bad news is there is still a lot to be done. One of the main reasons I decided to open my own brewery was because I didn’t want to deal with the sexism, harassment, and biases that can come with working under someone else. This is not the case in all breweries, but I and many of my female and BIPOC peers have experienced it in some form. So, as scary as it was, I decided to start my own business. I wanted to provide a safe space where women can be recognized and respected for their skillset. 

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry? 

DO IT! Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission. Work hard at it, then work harder! You will succeed. 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

First and foremost, set yourself up for success. Do your homework in regards to your industry. Align yourself with like-minded people who have found success in your industry. Get a mentor. Get five mentors! I had many mentors, all of which offered a different perspective on the industry and what it looks like to be a business owner. Know how to communicate and not react. Learn how to deliver your message or react to someone's snide comments in a powerful way. Finally, always remember your “why.” 

quote image
In the midst of the chaos and frustration of starting your own business, bring yourself back to why you wanted this so bad to begin with.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My family and close friends will always be a driving force. They are my biggest fans and my circle of support. They keep me grounded and offer advice to give me a better perspective. 

Music is also a huge part of who I am. This is proof of how powerful words can be. I can listen to a selection of songs and literally feel like I just went to therapy. 

That being said, my biggest sources of inspiration are my mom, my daughter, my son, and my husband! Without them in my life pushing me to do bigger and better things I could easily have taken the easy route. I know they are watching me, and while I don’t feel the need to prove anything to them, I do feel the need to make them proud! 

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

Collaborate! As a brewery, I work with women-owned businesses both for-profit and non-profit through fundraising and promotion. 

Uplift! If you know a woman that is setting her sights on opening her own business, encourage her. Offer to help. Offer resources you have on hand. Or simply offer her a safe space to vent. Believe me, she is going to need that. 

Support each other’s businesses! You have spending power. You get to choose where you spend your money. Spend it where it can make a difference.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

One that will always be at the top of my list is “Ovarios” by Jenni Rivera, one of my favorite Mexican American singers. Ovarios translates to ovaries. The song is all about the strength of women. It reminds me how powerful I really am and to never relinquish my power to anyone who does not serve the purpose of my mission.

To learn more about Atrevida Beer Co. and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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