Microbrewery Start-Up Consulting?

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brewNYC

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Hi all, I’ve been reading a lot of threads about folks starting, or thinking of starting microbreweries. Seems like a lot of folks are surprised to find that starting a brewery is pretty similar to starting any other commercial business - lots of planning, permits and logistics. Yes, you gotta have room ventilation, a business plan and code-compliant restrooms! Lol..

I wonder if there is a market for “brewery startup consulting”? I’m an architect, construction project manager and homebrewer (although I only have degrees in two of those, lol). I’m also a finance nerd and help a lot of my friends with financial planning. From what I’m reading, I could certainly assist the good folks out there trying to start breweries, but I’m wondering if startups want professional help, or prefer to “do it yourself”.

My experience with other startups suggest that getting professional help can cut startup time way down, and greatly reduce risk. I would imagine the same concept would apply to micro brewery start-ups. It does cost something to hire a professional, though, and start-ups are not usually flush with cash!

I could see several types of “services”.

- as an architect, help start-ups design and get permits for a commercial space (I design the space for your brew setup, give you drawings so you can get permits, you figure it out from there)
-As an architect and construction manager, design and build commercial spaces for micro start-ups (I build the building around your brew setup specs, then handover the space to you so you can fill it with all your equipment)
-I could team up with brew science pros to deliver “turn-key” microbreweries. Basically we would build a fully permitted, fully functioning brewery with equipment, software, bar&tasting room, etc ready to go from day 1. You just have to make the beer and figure out how to sell it (and maintain the thing, of course).

I could also add misc services to any of the above, like walking folks through the process of getting a brewing license, setting up a business plan, setting up a website, etc. Basically any of the stuff you have to do that isn’t making beer.

Of course, I’d have to figure out how this would work as a business on my end. I’d have to spend some time studying up, build some relationships, start small,etc. I’d also have to think about how I would be compensated (hourly, or a flat fee, or maybe a percentage of net profit for the first 5 years?). This is very much just a random thought at this point. I’d love to hear some opinions, though!
 

Qhrumphf

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There are already quite a few brewery consulting companies. Many will help with both startups and expansions, help with business plans, help designing the facility, sourcing equipment, hiring a worthwhile brewer etc. Most of em are industry veterans who don't want to do the dirty work themselves any more.
 

Qhrumphf

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If you peruse classified on ProBrewer you'll see ads for em pretty regularly, and many job postings posted by them seeking staff for a client.
 

MaxStout

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There are some financial/legal risks involved with consulting. If a client relies on your advice, and things go south because of it, you could be held liable. There are a few ways to protect yourself.

Consider registering your consulting business as a limited liability company. It's fairly easy and cheap to do in most states. Having an LLC has the "pass-through" tax advantage similar to that of an unincorporated proprietorship (you claim profits/losses along with your personal tax return). But it also includes some personal liability protection, like with a sub-s corp. A successful litigant generally cannot reach your personal assets, only business assets.

And maybe take out some errors & omissions insurance.

Both of these things can help protect you if a client decides to blame you for something you advised them on.

Good luck with your venture!
 
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brewNYC

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If you peruse classified on ProBrewer you'll see ads for em pretty regularly, and many job postings posted by them seeking staff for a client.
Good feedback, I noticed several shops like pro brewer. My impression is that they are more in the business of the technical brew setup, rather than upfitting or building the space that the brew setup is housed in. Im wondering if there is a niche - consulting as an architect and construction manager for microbreweries, possibly subcontracting people like pro brewer if a client wanted a “full package” for both the building and the brew setup.

Do you know of anyone who has started a microbrewery? It would be good to get some feedback on what challenges people faced related to designing and setting up a brewery space and/or tasting room.
 

Qhrumphf

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Most breweries will hire a general contractor who handles the actual buildout (apart from the equipment) that'll often work with the brewery ownership and the equipment manufacturer to sort everything out. I don't know if any GCs would be proverbial brewery specialists but I don't see why not. Certain GCs definitely get a good reputation in the industry.
 
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brewNYC

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Most breweries will hire a general contractor who handles the actual buildout (apart from the equipment) that'll often work with the brewery ownership and the equipment manufacturer to sort everything out. I don't know if any GCs would be proverbial brewery specialists but I don't see why not. Certain GCs definitely get a good reputation in the industry.

Yep, I could act as a GC, or I could work either for the GC or the brewery startup owner as an architect (you do have to have signed and sealed drawings, even for a 1bbl microbrewery). My guess is that start up breweries just hire the first contractor and architect they find in the phone book. Is there a demand for someone who specializes?

the other question is, would there be a demand for an “owners rep”? If you want to build a microbrewery you need to find, hire and manage at least three parties - a brew system expert, a contractor and an architect. You also need to understand and finagle through some regulations and processes to get all your paperwork. Is there a demand for someone who has done this a few times to take these responsibilities and act on your behalf? I see ads on pro Brewer for people who manage breweries, but not people who start and build breweries.

again, I’m asking because I see a lot of “I had no idea it would be this hard” chatter around the Internet by people trying to jump from hobby Brewers to microbrewery start-ups. Often people get tangled up for months or years with stuff like building permits - they have to keep going back and starting processes over or tearing out stuff they built because they missed something or didn’t build something to code. Do start-ups need help, or do they just need to learn the hard way?
 

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