(Urban Growler Brewing owners Jill Pavlak and Deb Loch)
Last summer microbrewers Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak encountered a predicament faced by many smallish enterprises with big plans. “They were spending their time every day working in the business, without a lot of time working on the business,” says Bob Arvold, a business development consultant at Enterprise Minnesota.
Loch and Pavlak own Urban Growler Brewing Co., a taproom located near Energy Park Drive and Raymond Avenue in St. Paul. It’s a successful endeavor that consumes most of their waking hours. But their entrepreneurial growth, they agreed, would evolve from expanding their brewery. Their projections indicated that operation could add $3 million in revenue if they could find the focus.
Loch, a long-time avid homebrewer, previously had a career as an engineer and product manager in the medical device industry; Pavlak most recently worked in sales. The birth of Urban Growler was an easy decision.
“We both loved the idea because it was a very divisive political time, and we wanted to find something that would bring people together,” Loch says. “We felt if people could just sit down and have a beer, we’d all figure out that we had more in common than what separated us.”
Loch says their operation has “been on a tear the last couple of years,” already surpassing the goals of their early business planning. They had reached a point in which they needed to benchmark their progress and plot a more profit-based strategic plan, she says, “not just focus on getting stuff done.” They started canning and kegging their brew and distributing it to bars and liquor stores. “That’s where we will grow,” Loch says. “We’ll get some small growth in the taproom. But increasing our production capabilities outside the taproom is how we will grow our business and our brand.”
But how? Arvold suggested an Enterprise CoreValue assessment, a process in which entrepreneurs analyze and grade their business performance and prospects for growth from the perspective of 16 different functions. Eight are related to production, and eight are administrative, including human resources, sales, and marketing.
“It gave them a good overview of the business,” Arvold said. “They’ve got a great business; they just want to take it to the next step.”
Loch agrees: “The CoreValue assessment was a good way to figure out where we’re at and where our gaps are—what we needed to work on next.”
They’re working with Enterprise Minnesota’s Steve Haarstad to plot their next step: a full-on strategic plan in which they’ll design production, marketing, and profitability.
Loch and Pavlak plan to revisit their progress according to the assessment every 90 days and identify areas to improve.
“The other piece is staying focused on revenue growth,” Arvold says. “How do you purposefully move from a startup canning operation to $3 million in three years? That’s huge growth. If you’re going to achieve that kind of growth, you have to have a really good plan and stay focused.