Thursday, December 5, 2013
With more breweries than ever opening in the U.S., some start-ups are looking beyond traditional fundraising efforts to get brewing. A growing mode of start-up fundraising has emerged through crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter.
Since its founding in April of 2009, Kickstarter (originally Kickstartr) is a crowd-funding tool that anyone can use to get creative projects funded. Kickstarter allows donors to choose small to large contribution amounts, which can result in a "crowd" of people supporting one idea, instead of the traditional angel investor that covers all the start-up costs. Brewers now have the opportunity to put out their projects and raise funds - one donor at a time - trying to hit a target amount. At the scale of breweries, can be a great fit to get your first equipment purchases and hit the ground running.
While scanning new beer-related projects, I came across one for Strong Brewing Company, a brewery in planning out of Sedgwick, ME hoping to raise $7,500. This amount is far below the average being asked for by most projects, and it comes with an interesting twist.
According to the page, the money raised would go towards purchasing equipment, remodeling a brewery space, obtaining ingredients, and the payment of licensing fees. However, most of the continuous funding for the brewing itself will be accomplished through their "Community Supported Beer" (CSB) model, selling shares of a subscription to new beers. Similar to a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture share, the beer would be available to shareholders at regular intervals.
View the introduction to Al and Mia Strong's brewery here:
The Strongs are setting out to do something quite interesting. A full CBS Share gives you the ability to get 48 growler fills per year (either 64 oz or 32 oz), and first access to special and limited release beers. For the full share, a full-sized growler is $340, and the half size is $171. That turns out to be just a little over $7.00 per full-sized fill, which is a ballpark for the average cost of a pint of craft beer in a bar these days, at least around here. The half-sized growlers end up costing about $3.50 per fill. For those worried about getting to Sedgwick for that many fills, there is also a half share available of 24 fills per year costing $172 for full size growlers and $87 for a half size growler, respectively.
I am very interested to see if this model takes off, and the small price that the Strongs are looking to raise on Kickstarter has already been about 1/3 of the way funded. As part of the Kickstarter model, if you pledge a certain level of support, you can receive a reward relative to the size of your contribution (think of PBS fundraising drives). For $10, you can get your name inscribed on the wall of the brewery, for $25 you can get your name on the brewery and a magnet, etc. If you're feeling particularly generous, a $500 donation gets you the ability for you to come up with and name a special edition beer. (Hmm… Anyone up for a Beer Babe Belgian IPA?).
Investing in any Kickstarter project has its benefits and drawbacks. As far as risks go, if the project doesn't meet its goal, the funds you've pledged don't come out of your pocket at all. If they do get funded, the money is taken out on the deadline date. However, just because you're donating start-up funding and getting something as a reward, but it doesn't make you a part owner of the company, or entitled to profits later on. On the other hand, if the brewery closes or never gets off the ground, you don't get your money back then, either. But, it's becoming a viable funding source, especially for smaller-scale projects when banks and lenders are a little shy about taking a risk on a brewery.
In 2010 I noticed that, in addition to the creative projects usually appearing on the site, brewery start-ups began to appear more often. After an extensive search through Kickstarter's past project archives, I was able to find 49 successfully funded beer-related projects funded between 2009-2012. The total amount raised for these 49 breweries was just over $1,000,000 which makes the average amount that they were each able to raise in the $20,000 range.
I have contributed to other brewery and beer-related Kickstarter projects (Including the now-operational Lucid Brewing, Community Beer Works, Mystery Brewing Company and Rogness Brewing Company), hoping to encourage the next generation of brewers hoping to break into craft beer. However, it was not until I saw the Strong Brewing Company's page on Kickstarter that I realized I could also be helping Maine-based craft brewers. I encourage you to check out their page and see what they are all about.
Carla Companion is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog thebeerbabe.com in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since.
In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around.
Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] gmail.com or on twitter at @beerbabe.