Tapping their Way through COVID-19

When Working Draft Brewery opened their taproom in 2018, the business model was to serve their craft brews exclusively onsite; fast-forward to today and all of their sales are through packaged products. As a young business Working Draft is no stranger to pivots, but in the last three months, they have had to get creative and resourceful just to stay afloat. One of the resources they turned to was the Business & Entrepreneurship (B&E) Clinic.

Traditionally there has been two main channels for brewery sales, on-premise where the beer is consumed in the same establishment it was purchased and off-premise, where a retailer sells beer for consumption somewhere other than where it was purchased. Working Draft’s idea was to see the people enjoy the beer that they make, and on-premise sales allows them to craft the whole consumption experience and environment for their guests. CEO and Owner Ryan Browne says, “when you sell off-premise, you miss that connection with the people and product. As a brewery that was started by home brewers, the best part of brewing is sharing it with people. We see beer as the catalyst for community cultivation.”

On March 15, Working Draft closed their doors ceasing all taproom and kitchen operations immediately in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Information for business owners and the public was changing rapidly and Ryan and the team was growing uncomfortable being a gathering space. Wanting to prioritize the health and safety of their employees and guests, the team had to make some hard decisions, fast. Ultimately, the leadership team made the gut-wrenching decision to layoff the majority of the Working Draft staff in mid-March in an effort to provide access to unemployment benefits and to give the brewery a fighting chance at making it through the pandemic with jobs for their employees to come back to.

Gathering all of the financial information for the brewery, the team worked to get a handle on the cash flow for the business and tried to halt as many other expenses as possible. Working with lenders to defer payments and cancel unnecessary expenses for the taproom, like cable and music subscriptions, they were able to assess what business operations might be possible to help Working Draft Survive. Ryan’s team turned to Mike Williams, director of the B&E Clinic to review the new budget for 2020 as well as daily sales and expenses projections. Thanks to the prior relationship between Working Draft and the B&E Clinic, Mike was able to look for blind spots and anomalies as he triaged the emergency budget. As they worked together to reassess the business model, they were able to see what was possible and work to eliminate surprises. “Mike has been a huge supporter and advocate of the brewery and we have benefited greatly from the relationship with the B&E Clinic,” says Ryan.

Read the full article at: https://bus.wisc.edu/centers/weinert/blog/2020/05/08/tapping-their-way-through-covid-19?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ctr-weinert-news&utm_content=2020-05-entreprenews