Welcome to Ask the Meadmaker, where I, Ricky the Meadmaker, answer your questions about meadmaking, mead drinking, mead brewing, and really any question you're willing to send to me.
So, in this episode, we're going to be talking about things I'm glad I didn't know before going pro. As one of the scions of business in this state one said, when she was asked "If you could go back, knowing everything you know now, what would you do differently?" She said, "Oh, I wouldn't start a business." She was dead serious.
If I knew going into this what I know now, I'm not sure I would have made the decision to be a professional brewer even with all the ups. There are lots of ups. It's amazing. I'm drinking out of a horn tankard. This is like a horn highball glass custom made for me that I can make mead cocktails in. I am living the life.
But, If I knew everything that I was going to go through, I don't think I'd wish that on 25 year old Ricky. So let's get started.
Going WIthout Pay
Stress On THe Family
When you're wondering how you're going to feed your family. You ask yourself over and over and over again, did I make the right light choices?
Dealing WIth Trolls
When people find out that we're a queer-friendly company... It's just the amount of hate that you can generate that can exist on the internet. I know I should have known that, but I really didn't.
Dangers of Success
Angry Orchard is just Sam Adams. They just made a cider one day and overtook the largest cider makers on earth! On a regular basis we have to sit down as a team and say, "What if a multinational corporation decides to make a mead?" And the answer is usually "We'll all go look for new jobs. And if I had known that that would be a day in, day out fear for me, and that my own success, if we were really successful as a meadmaker, it would be more likely that someone would make one to compete with us. If I had known that, I don't know that I would have started a business.
Losing Great People
Playing Without a Rulebook
When we launched, we had invested in a bottling line and labeler, and we were going to sell four packs of bottles, because a few breweries were successfully moving higher-end product in that packaging type. We nearly went bankrupt, and on the edge of bankruptcy, we had the guts just once to make the transition to cans and octupled our sales. We had to sell off our bottling line, sell off our labeler and go with our contract canning company (They were wonderful. Ironheart is amazing. If you're trying to get started, please, please, please work with Ironheart. Love those guys.) But it hurt, it hurt, it hurt, it hurt to be that wrong about bottles. And it wasn't that it was wrong when we started. It was that the world changed.
And the world changed again. We have discontinued five products. And every time you discontinue a product, especially if you're a core product-based company, it can cost you 10s of thousands of dollars in cans that are sitting around and other things.
So, knowing that no matter how smart I am, how much I think about something, how many amazing people I have around me. Nobody can hand me a rule book and every week (and don't even get me started on the impact of Coronavirus on having a team that has a minimum number People and a maximum number of people working in a space at a time, right?) every week. I have to sit down with my team or just think on my own,and figure out what has changed since Monday. It's exhausting. It's exciting. It's, it's wonderful, really. But when you're up with your toddler at three, when you're looking at the books, and all the numbers are red, and you can only think about the fact that you have, in a sense, been wrong about every decision you made, and every right decision you made, you're going to be wrong about soon. It can get really tough.
So, that's the end of my list! I'm glad I did it. I don't know that I do it over. But I am so glad I did it and it's you, and all your nice comments, and your messages you write to Nora when you order your mead online. So thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you're thinking of going pro, I will do everything in my power to help you, but I will, as always, start by saying, "Don't do it. It sucks."
Thank you for all your questions, and I will get to them as soon as possible. Cheers.