Accountfully has the fortune of working with good people across the country who make cool stuff, and have great ideas. Over time, we’ve grown our network and amassed interviews and conversations with some pretty amazing people. We’ll continue to publish these entrepreneurial bad-asses so you can learn from them, be inspired from them, and connect with them.
We recently chatted with Rick Wherner of Brewery Finance about what it’s like making sure that brewers can bring good beer to the masses. That’s an oversimplification of the good work Rick and his team does to help brewers with equipment financing but it’s something we are eternally thankful for and appreciative of. Over the years, we’ve worked with many food and beverage entrepreneurs who have struggled to secure capital. Today we raise a glass to the ways Brewery Finance have been able to support brewers and their delicious ventures. Here's some of his advice for brewers:
In a nutshell, what is Brewery Finance?
I started Brewery Finance in 2005 with the intention of providing equipment financing to small, independent, craft brewers. At the time, banks and other traditional lenders didn’t want anything to do with financing brewery equipment (especially for smaller breweries). Since then, we have branched out to working with cideries, distilleries, kombucha brewers, etc…and we also recently started offering working capital loans in addition to the equipment financing and leasing that we have always offered.
What drew you to working with brewers and breweries?
I’ve been a “beer guy” ever since I ruined my first batch of homebrew in college. When I started a finance company along with my brother, I quickly realized that, while we were providing a valuable service to our customers, I was not passionate about the customers I was working with. I wanted to be able to relate to my customers and I wanted to enjoy visiting them. Breweries offered that to me and so I started Brewery Finance after seeing the Brewers Resource Directory didn’t have a single finance company listed in it (times have changed since then). It is a tight and friendly community and I think of myself as being more of a “beer guy” who happens to offer financing than a “financing guy” who happens to work with breweries.
What’s the best part of working with brewers and breweries?
The community. Hands down…it’s the community. Working with brewers has provided me with so many great relationships that go well beyond the professional relationship that we have. I love seeing our customers at conferences, visiting their tasting rooms, and discussing the world of beer and beyond over a glass of their beer. It is so much fun.
Tell us who your ideal brewer or brewery is.
Our ideal client is either an existing small brewery that is expanding or a startup that needs a little extra help getting across the finish line. For the startups, we like to see that they have some industry experience or that they have an entrepreneurial background…and we like to see that they have a little skin in the game as well.
What advice can you give someone looking to secure financing?
The first thing I would suggest is to make sure you and your partners, if you have any, are all on the same page. Sitting in front of the dreaded “credit committee” at the bank is not the time that you want to learn that your partner has terrible credit or isn’t paying his/her taxes, etc….
Secondly, be prepared. Nothing can derail your request for financing quicker than proving to the lender that you haven’t taken the time to put together a complete business plan.
Lastly, answer questions honestly. I like to tell people that talking to the finance company should be like talking to your doctor…you tell them the truth and let the pieces fall where they may.
What did you wish brewers know about accounting and bookkeeping?
This is an easy one….your accounting and bookkeeping are far too important to the lifeblood of your business to trust it to someone who isn’t trained to handle your numbers. Using a good accounting firm will save you money in the long run and it will be a lot easier to sleep at night if you know your books are clean, accurate, and up to date. It is easy to try to save a few bucks when you are a small brewery, and there are areas where you can cut corners, but this is NOT one of them. Hire the right people and don’t take it on yourself…you’ve got beer to make!
I know people like to say “the next one”, but right now, I simply cannot get enough of the Slow Pour Pils by Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver. I know it’s a great beer because I always see other brewers in their tasting room ordering it. If you want good beer…drink where the brewers drink!