3 Entrepreneurs, 3 Stories – The Lunch Circuit Q&A Panel
The Lunch Circuit, a monthly gathering powered by Fresh Start Cherokee, turned a year old this past May. The program celebrated its second year kickoff by hosting a crowdsourced Q&A panel of previous guests to speak with the entrepreneurial community. The three entrepreneurs chosen this year were Nick Downs of Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, Heath Matiak of R&D Mechanical in Canton, and Dylan Brown from the Ball Ground Burger Bus.
To start things off, Jonathan Chambers, emcee of the Lunch Circuit program and Community Manager of Entrepreneurship at Cherokee Office of Economic Development, began with a lightning round of questions to break the ice.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, who would you bring with you?
Matiak: My friend who is a survivor specialist.
Downs: Is there an option to be there by myself?
Brown: Thought quietly… Winston Churchill
Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?
Matiak: Not a Star Wars guy.
Brown: I’ve never watched Star Wars.
The audience took a collective sigh. Chambers, disappointed, quietly put away his lightsaber.
Weeks before the panel began, COED crowdsourced a series of questions from the audience. The most popular was to hear about the origin story of each entrepreneur.
Tell us your origin story.
Brown: I was managing a restaurant in Texas but was looking to start something of my own. My dad kept telling me about a bus that he found, but I wasn’t interested in running a food truck. Over time the idea of building a kitchen off of the bus developed and here I am three years later.
Downs: Like Dylan, I was working for someone else as well as an airline pilot. The brewery grew out of a weekly beer night where my Co-Founder, Spencer Nix, and I made homemade beer.
Matiak: I went into the military after high school but endured an injury that wouldn’t allow me to carry on with my job, I had to choose between sitting behind a desk or getting out completely. I came back home and helped my dad with the family business. Seven years later and we are chugging along.
Many in our audience are interested in how you developed the values of your company, can you tell us about that?
Matiak: We have always wanted to give back to the community and are involved with the local church and ministries. Recently we wrote down those values so that our employees can see them and buy into them as well. We are built on serving which encompasses everything from giving feedback, communicating with the team and clients, and how we perform our jobs.
Downs: Acceptance, Moderation, Humor, Stories, etc. We set out to change the culture.
Brown: I always had to deal with someone else’s way of doing things because they were the boss. Now that I am the boss, my mission is to make sure all of our ingredients are fresh and the meals taste the same every single time. Whether it is your first Burger Bus burger or your hundredth, you should have the same experience. I am also sure to treat my employees like family. If you show up to work and do a good job, that’s all that matters.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned?
Brown: You can’t expect the business to run on it’s own, you have to be there and put in the work to make sure it runs smoothly.
Downs: You have to be an expert in many things you don’t know anything about like how to work your inventory system or how to market your product in another state. Your mistakes are expensive and suddenly the company depends on things I don’t have a background in.
What is the craziest story?
Brown: I have very strange luck when it comes to people who visit our restroom. I have recently called the police on someone who was using the restroom to bathe. They weren’t wearing anything when they came out of the restroom.
“No shirt, no shoes, no service,” said Chambers.
“Oh they had them, they were just left behind.”
What is your growth strategy for the near future?
Brown: Ball Ground has numerous wedding venues and we are currently marketing for rehearsal dinners and I have my wife to thank for that, she was the one who made it work. By hosting events outside of our normal operational hours we are able to accommodate more people and bring in more revenue. We are now hosting a rehearsal dinner every week.
Downs: Since the SB 85 was enacted in September, breweries are able to sell beer from the brewery which was a game changer for us. We are in the process of opening a research and development brewhouse off of Main Street in Woodstock so that we can create an opportunity for people to stumble upon us.
Matiak: We went solely commercial in April and are now 8-10 weeks ahead of our original revenue plan. We didn’t even have to add another team member, this growth is from becoming more efficient with our processes.
Do you have a target customer in mind?
Matiak: The background was industrial commercial and we fell into churches, Christian schools, and ministries. We are really looking for a client to partner and foster a relationship with, something other HVAC companies are not interested in because they want to get in, do the job, and get out. We look for complex jobs and enjoy finding the solution. Universal Alloy Corporation has been one of our best clients, they value our opinion and relationship.
Downs: We have split our target customers into two groups: the beer geeks and the social drinkers, and our approach to them varies.
What is your approach to innovation as a brand?
Downs: We’ve had to become innovative to keep costs low. We have to find a way to get highly carbonated beer into a can long enough for us to put a lid on it but without too much pressure that it would turn to foam. We had to get creative with this because canning to scale would add seven extra team members to the process and that additional cost would make the beer to expensive for our consumers.
Brown: It is important to keep an open mind and listen to everyone else’s ideas. I can’t be the only one running the show, everyone’s input is valuable.
Hearing the panelists share their experiences proved that no matter the industry, entrepreneurs have similar stories of wins and struggles and that there is no one way to achieve success. The lunch gathering closed out with celebratory cookie cake and a sneak peak at the entrepreneur who is starting the program for Year Two.
We at COED would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has participated in our event this year. We set out to create a space for Cherokee residents to find resources to start their own business close to home and a provide a community to encourage them to dig, grind, and hatch their startup close to home. Thank you for being a part of the entrepreneurial family and sharing your experiences with us. We are excited about our plans for Year Two and hope that you will join us to support our next wave of innovators and startups.
Powered by Fresh Start Cherokee, located at The Circuit, and hosted by the Cherokee Office of Economic Development.
Monthly ticket only event. To join us for our next Lunch Circuit featuring Tom Cox on July 11th from 11:30 am – 1 pm, visit the following link: https://lunchcircuittomcox.eventbrite.com