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Opening a Brewery #5: To Kickstarter or Not to Kickstarter

This is a series of articles about opening a small brewery in Hyattsville, a stone’s throw from DC. If you’d like me to answer a specific question about opening a small brewery, tweet @JonCetrano or shoot me an email at jon@streetcar82.com and I’ll do my best to write about it.

To Kickstarter or not to Kickstarter? That is the question, or at least it was last year. When my partners and I were debating taking this approach, I was in favor of doing a Kickstarter. My thinking at the time was that it would be a good PR move and that it would help move or at least pre-load our merchandise so we’d have a better idea of what the demand was for our shirts, growlers, and more.

There were some concerns that mainly centered around public perception of such a campaign. We were worried that people would view a Kickstarter as a simple money grab. Maybe they’d think we were using our brewery on Kickstarter to make a quick buck. Another part of the perception concern was the worry that people would think that we were incompetent mooks who couldn’t get enough money to open a business. Finally, our biggest concern was if we opted into a Kickstarter and didn’t reach our goal. What would that say about us? “Those guys.... LOL amirite? Couldn’t get people to give them a couple bucks towards opening a brewery.”

We shelved the Kickstarter plan and said we’d take it up later. A couple of months later, due to delays in getting water to our building, our loan terms and rent both kicking in, and limitations with SBA loans, the decision was made for us. We had to go ahead with the Kickstarter. What was supposed to be a marketing/pre-load swag sales type of thing took on a bit of urgency and became something more.

So we created the Kickstarter, made the site go live, crossed our fingers, and hoped for the best. What we got, instead of the concerns outlined above rearing their heads, was a lesson in the power of community and faith in ourselves. It was better than anything I could have hoped for. We received support from 229 people, some of who we haven’t seen in years, some we’ve never met, and several anonymous donors. Many of our Kickstarter backers were people in Hyattsville and members of DC's deaf community. We knew we had a strong base of support and that local people were excited for us. “But WOW,” we said. The community really invested in us. We blew past our original goal of $15,000 in six days and ended up with $25,487 after 30 days.

This vote of confidence provided the boost we needed, financially and psychologically, to get us over the hump and we were able to open Streetcar 82 Brewing Company. We started with soft openings, inviting 35 people who really helped us open our doors. We then had a private invite sent out to our Kickstarter backers, and then gradually opened up to a full public opening. As of now our hours are still contingent on how much beer we’re able to brew, but we’re open!

Last week, we opened to the public with two different Belgian table beers, a New England IPA, American pale ale, and a rye saison made with locally-sourced Maryland rye. This week we’ll have the rye saison, New England IPA, American pale ale, stout, and another IPA.  

This week’s hours are Thursday & Friday 5-10 p.m. Saturday Noon-10 p.m. For the latest hours check out our social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

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