Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food ana beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Anne Ortega, Co-Founder of Northern Pine Brewing Co., located in Oceanside, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Northern Pine Brewing Co. is a community-focused brewery, and we currently have two locations. Our flagship location is a brewery and taproom that is located in coastal Oceanside, CA. We also have a tasting room located a few miles south in Del Mar, CA. Northern Pine is a brewery inspired by the mountains and made for San Diego. We pride ourselves in offering a wide selection of craft beers that satisfy a range of palates. While Northern Pine was built with our community in mind, we love and welcome all craft beer enthusiasts! From the locals coming in for their favorite beer after surfing to tourists visiting our gorgeous town, we love getting to serve and share our beer with everyone that walks in our doors. We also have some exciting expansion announcements happening soon, so be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook or sign up for our newsletter to hear the news first!
Tell us about yourself
I have always loved being a leader, and my love of craft beer started early. I am from Idaho, and it was there that I went to college and worked at a beer bar in my early 20s. My job included menu creation and product ordering, which involved getting to sample a lot of incredible (and not-so-incredible) beer. That job helped develop my palate and love for craft beer. Years later, I moved to the San Diego area with my now husband, Aaron. He is a former Marine and craft beer enthusiast who started to home-brew with our friend Bobby Parsons right when we moved to Oceanside. After being in Oceanside for a few years, tragedy struck our community when there was a terrible training accident that took the lives of 7 Marines whose squadron was preparing for a deployment. Wanting to do something for the Marines' squadron, family, and friends, we created a commemorative beer in their honor. During that process, we met the owner of Mother Earth Brewing Co, Dan Love, who supported our project and helped take it to a level beyond what we could have imagined. With Dan's help, we were able to put that commemorative beer into the hands of many people across the world and then sold the remaining product at a charity event. The money raised at that event helped pay for funeral costs and gift shadow boxes to the fallen families to display all their medals and accolades.
Getting to help and connect with our community while getting to share something we created was a dream. It was then that we knew that building a brewery of our own was what we wanted to do. Immediately after the event, I reached out to Dan Love for a job and began working for Mother Earth Brew Co to get as much experience and understanding of the business as I could. Dan and the crew at Mother Earth were instrumental in training me and supporting my goals. During that time, Aaron and I, and now business partner Bobby, would meet almost every night after work, building our business plan, looking for locations, and putting our dream in motion. It took several years of hard work, but we finally opened Northern Pine's doors in October 2017. To this day, it is the community that motivates all of us to continue doing what we do. Most days are not easy being a small business owner, but when we look to our customers, fellow brewery owners, and staff, it is a quick reminder of why we started all of this.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am most proud of the community we have built. It is beyond what we could have imagined. We literally built Northern Pine with our own hands and on a bootstrapped budget the support we have received since day one is incredible. From being a part of our customers' lives (their celebrations and milestones) to the family that our staff has become to other business owners in our community that are now some of our dearest friends and cheerleaders- these relationships are our biggest accomplishments.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Honestly, almost everything that comes with being a business owner is hard. Challenges range from the finances to finding employees that fit your requirements, to logistics, to the pressure you put on yourself, growth plans, and an ever-changing economy and market; being a boss requires a lot out of a person. But know that while all of that is difficult, it is also incredible to be the person making those decisions and that you are not alone. No matter what business you are in, we are all up against many of the same battles. At times problems arise and can feel very isolating, but business owners of all kinds are experiencing and working through issues, and if we all can, so can you!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Start with a business plan; by that, I mean a legitimate forecast of your entire business, not just a plan you have in your head and an Instagram handle you snagged. When we first started Northern Pine, we found a business plan template (LivePlan) that worked for us and that helped us put pen to paper on what opening a brewery would actually look like. It introduced us to topics we had not considered, forced difficult conversations in our partnership, and created a realistic foundation and plan we still refer to this day. If you don't have the time or the skillset to build a business plan, you most likely will not have what it takes to run a business.
- Your reputation and connections are very important, so put in the work, especially when nobody is looking. Most of what everyone sees of your business will come from social media, your website, or the experience you have carefully crafted for them, but it is the work behind the scenes that really matters. I cannot tell you how many times moments from my past had popped up with people noticing my work or attitude when I thought nobody was looking. Opportunities and connections have come to us because someone noticed the work we put in on everyday tasks or into the small things. We also notice when others are putting in that type of work. All that being said, I do not mean it is the amount of time you spend working that will get noticed, but how you spend your working hours that matter. While there will be seasons that are busier than others that require a constant grind, rest and recharge are just as important as the work. You will have to allow yourself moments of recharge so that you can have the energy to put in the type of work that really matters as a business owner.
- Do check-ins with your gut instincts, your vision, and your business plan. There will be a lot of praise and a lot of criticism and those that will try to influence your decisions as a business owner, but remember, it is your plan and vision that matter most. You will certainly face hard times when you feel like you are doing everything wrong. There will also be great times when you think every decision you have made is right. Just know that nothing in business stays the same for long, so take notes on what works and doesn't and adjust according to your plan. It is easy to get off track with the opinions of others, but if you start to walk down paths, other people recommend, you're most likely going to get lost. This is where to trust your gut (and your business plan!) and make only the adjustments and decisions you see best fit your business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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