Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Jeremy Cowan, founder of niche craft brewery Shmaltz Brewing Company, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
After 13 years of brewing and marketing a Hebraic-themed beer as “Chosen,” and, more recently, rolling out a line of circus sideshow-inspired craft lagers, we at Shmaltz Brewing Company have learned to aim for the fringes and explore the counter-intuitive. Although we lack the budgets of giant beer companies, we bring attention to our products through unique branding and promotions. For example, for the past two years, we’ve hosted “Freaktoberfest,” a boutique beer and music festival in Brooklyn, N.Y. That and other promotional events have helped us attract a loyal following.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
The flexibility that comes from being my own boss. If I want, I can work until 2 am one night and then take a few hours off another day.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Not being able to achieve everything on my to-do list. While money is a factor in why projects don’t get finished, time is also an issue. Plus, if I spread myself out too thin, there’s no way I’ll be at my best, and things inevitably will slip through the cracks.
Name: Jeremy Cowan
Business: Shmaltz Brewing Company, a niche craft brewery.
Location: San Francisco
Year founded: 1996
Number of employees: 7
Web address: www.shmaltzbrewing.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
I’m not — and never have been — a very good businessman. I like to be creative, which helps in running a business. However, I generally have a tough time with numbers, margins and negotiations. To make up for my failings, I tapped a business consultant friend, who helped me craft a budget based on my company’s sales, expenses and profits. Then, I just became extremely careful about how I spent money. In time, I hired a professional bookkeeper and small business accountant to keep the company’s financials on track and on budget.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Straying away from the company’s core products. Initially, I considered selling T-shirts and other merchandise to add a revenue stream to the business. But the project turned into a second business with its own issues of production, distribution, sales, marketing and maintenance. Plus, most distributors and retail outlets expected merchandise to be free because bigger beer companies offer so many giveaways.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
You do not need to spend money to make money. You’d be better served if you learned to starve, struggle, save and sell. That way, you can achieve your vision based on quality, sincerity, creativity and hustle.
SmartMoney.com provides news, information, and tools for business professionals and growing businesses. All content provided by SmartMoney is © 2009 SmartMoney®, a Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership.