VOL. 132 | NO. 180 | Monday, September 11, 2017
Small-Business Owners to Share Lessons, Insights
By Andy Meek
One of the things that’s important to remember about a local business like High Cotton Brewing Co., says co-founder Brice Timmons, is that, yes, it’s a local brewer, but it also sees itself as producing something just as important as a great brew.
Brice Timmons is the co-founder of High Cotton Brewing Co. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)
“When you buy a beer that we brew, you can know that you’re supporting a local business, that you’re supporting our staff, who are all locals that are paying for their kids’ school clothes and able to pay their rent,” Timmons said. “You’re not just supporting a local business. You’re supporting your neighbors. And that makes people feel good. They feel like they’re part of a community when they buy local beer.
“That’s what we said from the jump. Our mission isn’t just to manufacture beer. What we’re selling people is community. Our real product is community. We want people to sit in our taproom and feel like they’re in a neighborhood where they can have a conversation.”
Speaking of conversations, Timmons will join a few of his fellow entrepreneurs in the local food and drink space this week at the next seminar in The Daily News’ 2017 Seminar Series. It will focus on small businesses, particularly the challenges and the environment that’s specific to businesses like his – breweries, restaurants and the like.
The need for everything from capital to dealing with the low-margin nature of a restaurant are something that can sink an entrepreneur who jumps in not fully aware of what they’re getting into. Which is why Timmons and the rest of the panel will share war stories, things they’ve learned and other insights they’ve picked up along the way while running some of the most prominent examples of what has made Memphis a dynamic and nationally and internationally recognized food town.
The seminar is set for Thursday, Sept. 14, at 3:30 p.m. at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave. Joining Timmons on the panel are The Majestic Grille co-owner Deni Reilly, D. Canale & Co. president Chris Canale Jr. and attorney Alan Crone, founder of The Crone Law Firm.
One of the things that Timmons said helped High Cotton grow – among the kinds of insights that he plans to share – is how it expanded slowly and deliberately, to not overwhelm itself too suddenly.
“When we opened,” he said, “we started with five accounts and decided to add no more than five accounts a time to grow very slowly. Partially because we had no staff. Now we have a couple hundred accounts. Some are exceptionally large accounts. And we distribute in two states.”
Local brewers like his also benefit from there being, well, a growing number of local brewers like his. It might sound counterintuitive, the rise of that competition, but what Timmons said he’s found is that while some customers are dedicated fans of this or that local brew, there are also many who choose Memphis brands over other bands and just rotate among them.
It’s another reminder that local businesses like High Cotton have plenty of challenges all their own, but they also enjoy a unique status on the small-business landscape.
“Honestly, I think this is a situation where a rising tide really does float all boats,” he said. “I think all of us are doing more business the more breweries open. The more local beers on the shelf, the more likely people are to grab a local beer.”