VV Show #31 - Steve Hindy of The Brooklyn Brewery
Being robbed at gun point and being threatened by the mob are not problems the average entrepreneur encounters. Steve Hindy faced these problems and more, but what concerned him most was the fate of his brewery. Steve started the Brooklyn Brewery with Tom Potter. Steve was a journalist and foreign correspondent. Tom was a banker. Neither knew a thing about starting, much less running, a brewery. With grit and determination, they stared down bankruptcy and made it work. In 2003, they sold their beer distributorship for about $10 million. Now Steve’s focused on the brewery (which is doing about $12 million in revenue and has become a global brand) and on the community.
2:45 Starting career as a journalist and AP foreign correspondent
- “Somehow I got it in my head I wanted to cover a war.”
- “I was sitting behind President Sadat when he was assassinated in Cairo.”
- “Foreign correspondents tend to develop some pretty bad personal habits, much worse than beer salesman I can attest.”
7:30 Getting the idea for the Brooklyn Brewery
- “Entrepreneurship really takes all the creativity and all the resources that you have.”
- “I didn’t have the greatest resume for starting a brewery.”
- On convincing his partner Tom Potter: “When I suggested we start a brewery, he thought I was nuts.”
- On partnerships: “Misery loves company.”
17:30 Being in Brooklyn
- “Yeah, it was very difficult. We were robbed at one point. We had drivers who took off with our trucks. Our last year in business we spent $60,000 on parking tickets.”
20:00 Dealing with investors
- “We didn’t want to sell our friends down the river.”
- “What I learned about business is that a lot of people do sell their original investors down the river.”
- “In a lot of companies, people on the ground floor get crushed by the people on the floor above, or maybe the fifth floor above, who put in the right money at the right time.”
23:30 Building the team
- “I think early on, one of our best moves was finding a designer who could really do justice to the name Brooklyn.”
- Recruited Milton Glaser (who designed the I Love New York logo) to create the Brooklyn Brewery logo.
- “The first time I called there [Milton Glaser’s office] his secretary kind of blew me off.”
28:00 Selling the distributorship
29:00 Entrepreneurial terror
- “First time I read that I was just giddy with laughter, maybe nervous laughter.”
- “We were scared out of our wits early on.”
- “We got robbed at gunpoint at one time. We ended up emptying the safe of $30,000 cash to guys with pistols. And we had a run in with some mob types here in Brooklyn when we were building the brewery who basically were looking for bribes to allow the project to go on. But none of that was as scary as facing the possibility of failure, which is to me the most scary possibility.”
- “We’re just very determined.”
35:45 Turning point
- “We left behind the fear of total failure probably about 1995.”
39:45 Brooklyn Brewery today
- “Last year we grew by 18%.”
- “Craft beer as a whole grew by 9%.”
42:30 In the community
- “Having a high profile in the community has gotten us into trouble every now and then.”
- Brooklyn Brewery has supported Bruce Ratner’s plan to build an arena for the Nets in Brooklyn. Some bloggers called for a boycott of the Brooklyn Brewery as a result.
- “Brooklyn is a wonderful place -- two and a half million people. But it’s also a poor place. It always lags behind the city in employment. Brooklyn needs housing. It needs affordable housing. And Ratner has big plans for affordable housing in this new development.”
- “We have no regrets about supporting this.”
- “The boycott has not had any impact on our sales.”
- “No good deed goes unpunished. That’s something you got to face up to if you’re going to be involved in the community.”
Steve and Tom wrote a book about their experence called Beer School.
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Another great show Greg. I really enjoyed this one but, I have to say, I am a little upset as I could really go for a cold beer now but it is only 10:45am... :-) Ahhh well... I can wait a few more hours!
Posted by: Eric Olson at April 12, 2006 11:55 AM
Greg, excellent show!
It's a good sample of enterprenuer beside of hi-tech industry. Thanks. Please, produce more shows like that, covering different industries.
Posted by: Alex Givant at April 12, 2006 4:49 PM
that's one hell of a story Steve was kind enough to share with us.
Hearing from other entrepreneuers, who kept believing in themselves, and kept kicking forward is the kind of encouragement that keeps me going in not-so-nice times.
Posted by: Karl Traunmüller at April 16, 2006 12:43 PM
Another great show, thanks Greg. It's great to hear from such a diverse range of entrepreneuers; one thing that always shines through is the tenacity of your interviewees, which is inspiring. I look forward to the the next Venturevoice Podcast.
Posted by: Luke Moulton at April 17, 2006 10:03 PM
Thanks for venturing outside of high tech. This show along w/ the John Bogle show have been my favorite shows so far.
I still love the high tech focus but it's refreshing to hear from other enterprenuers.
Posted by: David Cancel at April 18, 2006 3:17 PM
I just recently stumbled upon your pod casts, they are great. I liked this one especially.
Posted by: Joe at June 8, 2006 7:14 PM
Listened to a couple of your podcasts and this has been my favorite so far. :) In fact I even threw down a couple pints of Brooklyn tonight and finished up listenting to the podcast while sobering up.
Posted by: mapwow at June 13, 2006 1:36 AM
Great Show! I'm looking forward to seeing Steve Hindy talk at this weird the non-conference thing this weekend called WRK/PLY. Should be pretty cool.
Posted by: nick at March 26, 2009 4:19 PM