By Bill Covaleski
Sixteen years ago today, Victory Brewing Company was born, so to speak. With the opening of our doors on this day (February 15, 1996) that we officially began operations. Today, as we celebrate the sweetness of 16 years in business, we take a moment to reflect on where we started.
Our desire to start a brewery was born years before VBC ever opened. In fact, our original business plan, which sits beside me on my desk as I type this, was dated June 1994. I’ve kept this plan to remind me of our idealism and as a reminder that critics aren’t always right. With the only wealth we had being brewing experience gained in Germany and 5 years of industry work, we were desperate for dollars to start our business, and we naturally turned to family and friends to include them in our dream. One of the first potential investors we identified was an older cousin of mine who had parlayed his accounting degree into quite a successful career for himself. When the plan was returned to me, without a check, he had penned various comments all over this very copy, all of which were negative. Some of which were helpful.
The best comment of them all? “Don’t like this. Is B******t!” Very constructive.
The main criticism from him as a prospective investor was that Ron and I had no experience running a business. But wait! We left out an important fact. Ron and I had months of Junior Achievement in 1979 to fall back on!
During our time at the mentored business experience, Ron took on the role of CEO for our faux business. I took on the role of disinterested employee. Either way, Ron had executive experience. See photographic proof:
But none of this impressed my cousin enough to invest in Victory.
As I scan back through the original business plan, ignoring the nay-saying scribbles, I am pleased that much of our initial vision has come to fruition in our sixteen years
Even back in 1994, we noted that our competitive advantages would come from the ingredients we use and the techniques we employ. That remains true today. The imported malt and whole flower hops we use today are the same stellar ingredients we proposed as we were getting started. In 16 years of business, we are proud to say that we have never compromised on quality in favor of price.
Some of the most significant developments we’ve made since opening in 1996, make where we started seem almost laughable.
As we got started with Victory Brewing Company, the entire business consisted of just Ron and me. We did every job. We were the brewers, book keepers, marketers and delivery drivers.
“Initially, Victory Brewing Company’s products will be distributed by either of our two Brewmasters and principals, Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski. Allowing us to forge close links with our retailers and gain customer insight, we feel this is the proper approach to take.”
~ The 1994 Business Plan
Today we have more than 200 employees, people who shouldered the burden that has spectacularly outgrown two elementary school friends.
Not only did we start with just two employees but with just one email address. Drink@victorybeer.com was registered to receive all email for the company in 1997. At the time, we couldn’t understand why a beer business would need to receive email and we certainly wouldn’t need more than one address for such things!
Today, we embrace our web presence and the ability to digitally connect with our audience through email, Twitter, Facebook, texts and soon, an app! This profusion of digital communications options is making me feel old.
Ron and I are proud of the success we’ve achieved and humbled by the dedicated fans who have provided the critical support that our crazy beer notions needed to survive. Though we don’t drive the delivery trucks anymore, we still believe in forging close links with our retailers and customers. We welcome your comments via social media and love answering the questions you submit to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While many 16-year-olds are hoping for car keys on their birthdays, we are grasping tightly to the keys we already have – the keys to our success that we developed back in 1994. So far, so good.