This year’s Small Business Assocation (SBA) Small Business People of the Year are Garrett and Melanie Marrero, the cofounders of Maui Brewing Company, Hawaii’s largest craft beer brewery.
This year, Maui Brewing Company is on track to bring in $US18-22 million in revenue and ship 53,000 barrels of beer (the equivalent of 17.52 million 12-ounce cans). By the end of 2018, the Marreros plan on having three restaurants, a notably larger brewery, wider distribution, and a staff of 700 employees.
But before they were successful, they were two people who had quit comfortable jobs in California and amassed around $US500,000 by any means necessary. They sold their property. Melanie refinanced her house in Sacramento and pulled out money from her 401k. Her parents mortgaged their house. Garrett’s mum took money from her retirement fund, and his grandmother even found a way to contribute.
“There were some times there when, you know, we questioned what we had done,” Melanie told Business Insider.
Through the trials of risking everything to build a thriving business, the Marreros learned valuable insight into what it takes to succeed, not only as an entrepreneur but as someone with an infinite well of ambition.
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Back when the couple launched Maui Brewing in 2005, Garrett’s passion for and knowledge of beer was well ahead of Melanie’s, and so he took charge of the brewing vision while Melanie focused on financials.
“Garrett always educates himself on as many aspects of the company that he can and reaches out to people who are already successful,” Melanie said.
From the start, Garrett connected with craft brewers who had built successful businesses with widely respected products, including Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch and Sam Wagner, Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione, and Oskar Blues’ Dale Katechis.
He even travelled to Colorado to meet up with Katechis to learn how to can beer — and crashed in Katechis’ mum’s basement.
Garrett met Koch in 2009, and Koch told Hawaii Business he was immediately impressed when he made a trip to Hawaii to check out Maui Brewing. “I can remember visiting their Lahaina production facility later that year, and when Garrett showed me around he was able to explain every last detail about the brewery, down to pump sizes and fermentation specs,” he said. “He knew every last detail about every last detail, and it’s that level of attention that’s helped them get where they are today.”
Be unwilling to quit.
Garrett said that he tries to block out bad memories from the early days, but Melanie said she can remember learning to “take hardships on the chin” and get back to work the next day after dealing with a mistake or emotionally draining situation, such as when they had to deal with a lawsuit with the former owners of the space they bought, regarding terms of the lease.
Garrett said that he liked how SBA head Linda McMahon spoke about the way entrepreneurs deal with adversity is what defines whether they are successful or not. For him and Melanie, he said their resilience was based on a total “unwillingness to quit,” especially because they had made their mission more than just a personal gamble.
“We had family that we had to consider, that had invested money,” he said. “It was going to be a fight, and we fought hard to make sure that we were going to be successful.”
When they put in long hours in the early years, barely seeing each other, they were driven by a mindset where the only option was to move forward. “And whatever sacrifice it meant personally for us, it really was no choice,” Garrett said. “We didn’t have to make choices about sacrifice. We just sacrificed.”
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