Barebottle Brewing Co., owned by Lester Koga, Mike Seitz, and Benjamin Sterling, is a craft brewery and taproom in San Francisco. Barebottle Brewing Co. opened in July 2016 with just five employees and zero outside accounts. Now, they have 19 employees and over 300 outside accounts, in just their first ten months.
Lester and Mike started brewing in 2008 while working corporate jobs and spending their energy helping someone else develop their business. They decided to pursue their passion and start a business together. “I think it’s true that every middle aged male wants to own a brewery,” says Lester. Barebottle has a competitive model, working with the homebrewing community. Their customers and the public participate in judging a quarterly homebrew competition, the winners of which get their beer brewed and distributed to Barebottle’s clients. Visit their taproom to see what beers are open for votes now.
The Barebottle team came to Main Street Launch for capital to help them get the doors open. “We found a sizeable space, about 16,000 square feet. The space gave us room to grow over the long term and add capacity as we expand. But we needed more money to buy equipment and for unknown future costs, which is what Main Street’s loan helped us do,” explains Mike. The working capital helped Barebottle hire staff, fix a leaky roof, and improve their building. In addition, the loan had a longer-term impact for Barebottle’s growth: “The loan also helped us have extra cash as we opened. Having money to spend allows you to invest in growth. We hired employees and now we’re seeing our sales increase to more than $200,000 in revenue per month,” reflects Lester.
“It was great to work with Darius. He worked as a partner with us. He was enthusiastic and it felt like he took a lot of ownership in helping us get the loan. Darius wanted us to succeed as much as we did. We see him periodically and want to support him by sharing our experience. If you need money for your business, you want to work with Darius,” says Mike.
Lester and Mike offer advice to entrepreneurs considering starting up: “Spend some time in an apprenticeship so you can learn the industry you want to enter. Lots of small businesses are happy to have you, to help you get some practical experience,” advises Mike.
Lester and Mike have learned a lot in their business journey: “When you’re starting a business, you should plan to throw away half of your plan and spend twice as much money,” says Lester. “Have a good strategy for hiring, because good people are critical to scale. Know what you need for your team and then give them the space to grow and blossom. Coaching and empowering your team gets you the best results when everyone is motivated by their passion for the goals of the business.”
Visit Barebottle’s taproom for their exciting selection of beers and to vote in their current homebrew competition.