Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food & beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Aaron Gervais, Co-Founder of Otherwise Brewing, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Based in San Francisco, Otherwise Brewing creates gluten-free beers with flavors that appeal to GF consumers and craft beer fans alike. My background is in marketing and homebrewing, and I founded the company along with Stellar Cassidy, a local beer industry veteran. We launched our first beer in February 2021 and immediately saw strong demand throughout the Bay Area.
Tell us about yourself
I had been working in marketing in the tech industry for about a decade and was ready for a change of direction. Homebrewing was something that I enjoyed, but I didn't want to be Craft Brewery #189 in the Bay Area. A lot of people in my family are gluten-free, so I knew this was an underserved market. At the time, there were no GF breweries in the Bay Area (we have one competitor now).
Getting the brewing process dialed down was a lot of work and required a bunch of research, but I'm very proud of the beers we've produced. Seeing people (both gluten-free and gluten-loving) enjoying my beers gives me a lot of satisfaction.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Crafting a vision of what we wanted this to be and seeing it actually take shape. We've always wanted people to choose Otherwise for the flavor, not the gluten-free status. That's a fine needle to thread: one part marketing and one part product design. I'm relieved that people see our brand in this light—as a tasty craft beer that also happens to be gluten-free—rather than the other way around.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It's an emotional rollercoaster. You take it all so personally because you deeply care. The ups are amazing, and the downs are the worst.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find a co-founder you can rely on with complementary skills that you don't have. If they're your best friend already, they're probably not the right person to go into business with. You need someone you respect but who is temperamentally different from you so that you have the skill sets necessary to deal with whatever comes up.
- Stay lean as long as you can. In the early stages, if you can outsource something, do it. Yes, it's rarely the most efficient solution, but it lets you learn without making the massive investments in headcount and equipment necessary to bring things in-house. Once you know the ropes, that's the time to bring it back in and work on increasing efficiency.
- Prove your concept to the market as quickly as possible. It's easy to get bogged down in the mechanics and refinement when what you really need to do is show that people will open their wallets for your product.
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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