Brewery Start-up Series: Checklist for Planning a Brewery #4 (Writing a Brewery Business Plan)

This time in the Brewery Start-up Series, we’re discussing the Brewery Business Plan. I frequently hear from brewery start-ups who know they should have a business plan together, but aren’t sure why or what to include in it. It might be that calling it a “business plan” makes it seem like something fancier than it has to be. I think of a brewery business plan as a roadmap. And, it can be as sexy or as simple as you want. After all, it’s just a personalized tool for your budding business.

Drafting a brewery business plan doesn't have to be hard. In fact, it can be fun. It's your way of making sure your start-up brewery has a roadmap for its future, and that everything you're planning is feasible, profitable, possible—and worth doing.
Drafting a brewery business plan doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be fun. It’s your way of making sure your start-up brewery has a roadmap for its future, and that everything you’re planning is feasible, profitable, possible—and worth doing.

If you wanted to take a year to travel around the world, you likely wouldn’t get in your car and start tomorrow. You’d make sure you had enough gas in the tank, and a plan to have enough funds to fuel all the things you wanted and needed to do. You might sketch out the different places you’d head along the way, and how you’d plan to get there. Your brewery’s business plan isn’t much different. You don’t necessarily need to overthink, tracking down every turn, side trip, and adventure. Life happens, things change. However, your business plan helps make sure your planned venture is feasible, profitable, possible—and worth doing. For those thinking about starting a brewery, you’ve likely already put a rough plan together in your head. Now’s the time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys), and formally think through all the important pieces.

If you’re raising funds, your business plan becomes a pitch. A well-thought-through business plan might be the difference between reaching your fundraising goal and coming short. It could be that the plan itself sells the investor. Or, it’s your ability to readily answer a potential investor’s question, because you’ve already thought it through and have a smart plan in place.

Even if you’ve already got the funds, your business plan can keep you on track. It’s there for morale at times, proving that what you’re doing is possible, and pointing you to the goal—one that may not always feel immediately in sight.

So, what should you include in your brewery business plan? Like most business start-up questions, the answer will be unique to your start-up business, including its financial needs, goals, and objectives. However, these are good starting points:

  • Numbers. Math. How much money do you need to open the doors? How much to keep the business open? Consider equipment needs, real estate and overhead, costs of production, staff costs, tax liability, pricing your beer, etc. As you formally consider these things, you’ll inevitably reweigh and consider other essential questions, such as the size you want to be, how big of a taproom you want to have, whether having product for distribution is important to you, etc. Is your project realistic, or might contract brewing be a way to get started more quickly?
  • What’s your timeline?
  • How will you raise funds?
  • What kind of personnel/skill-sets/expertise do you need to run the business? And, who do you have on your team to meet those needs? To that, some background on the founders and the start-up team is important in a fundraise scenario.
  • What’s your brewery identity?
  • Where are you going to open your brewery, and why there?
  • What’s your approach to growth?

These are big, sometimes-nebulous questions, and it’s not always easy to track down an answer. However, ultimately, whether your business plan stays internal or is something you use to launch the business itself through investment, it’s an important process that every new venture is well-advised to work through. We’re here to help review your plan, be your sounding board, and make sure you’re ready to present the pitch to investors. More than that, if you’ve set a deadline for your launch date, we’re here to help with the legal end, ensuring you’re licensed up, compliant, and fully ready to kick off your new adventure (and, I hope, ride off into the sunset with beer-in-hand).

Next time on the Brewery Start-up Series we’ll be discussing the timeline of opening a brewery. What comes first? When should you be thinking about licensing? Do you need real estate before you seek a brewing license? More soon.

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