Kickstarting a Brewery – Former Future Brewing Company – Part 1

former future brewing company kickstarter banner

Former Future’s Kickstarter Banner.

With all the brewery news that comes out of Colorado every week, you’d be forgiven for missing the launch of Former Future Brewing Company’s Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter has become a popular way for new local breweries to gain funding, but what actually goes into a campaign and how does the whole 30 days unfold? While I love drinking beer and brewing beer, I don’t think I’ll be opening a brewery anytime soon. What better way to put myself in the shoes of a Kickstarting brewer than ask one to share her thoughts on the process?

sarah howat former future brewing company

Sarah Howat

Sarah Howat, founder and community builder, was kind enough to share her experiences. Below is the first in a three part series where Sarah and her husband/co-founder James Howat will give us a behind-the-scenes look at Kickstarter process brewers across the country are going through.

Q: Why did you decide to use Kickstarter?

A: Well, Kickstarter has certainly become a household name. People get the Kickstarter Weekly Updates, follow the site on Twitter, and check on or back projects regularly. We were approached by a few other sites, but really wanted to make it easy and simple for people to back us.

When you’re asking people to donate money that they have undoubtedly worked hard for, why put roadblocks in their way or make it any more complicated than need be? Asking them to donate to a site they weren’t familiar with seemed like a roadblock to us – something that might make some people not want to donate.

Q: How long did the campaign process take to plan from the point you first thought of the idea until the launch date?

A: We knew we wanted to do a Kickstarter back in March or April, however we wanted to have a lease signed prior to launching a Kickstarter. We wanted to be that much closer to absolutely being open before we asked people to support us. That included being fully-funded, having a lease signed, etc.

Now, our original “estimated” launch date for the campaign was Aug 1. But, you know what they say? Life happens while you’re busy making plans. And while we planned for that date, writing the script, coordinating the filming, post-production, etc. all takes time. Then add the Amazon payment review process (they needed to verify our company tax ID info and such) and Kickstarter review process on top of it all, and we were a month out. Such is life, eh?

If there is one thing I’ve learned opening this business, it’s that you can try your best with all the greatest, purest intentions in the world . . . and things will still be delayed. And sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Q: Explain how you selected the rewards you’ll be offering.

A: When tackling such a thing as a Kickstarter, we wanted to do it right. James had found a brewery in California called Modern Times. The owner was the head of marketing for Stone Brewing and had moved on to begin his own. We watched their Kickstarter, which was incredibly well done, and their progress. They raised $65,000 (well past their goal of $40,000), and, to date, is the highest-earning brewery in Kickstarter history. What better example?

I basically looked at their rewards and tried to match their price points. From a marketing perspective, appropriate pricing of items is just as important as what you’re offering. It makes it that much more alluring. So, we knew we wanted a wide range of items, we knew we needed to be thoughtful and intentional with our pricing, but we needed to know what our fans wanted.

One of the cornerstones of our brewery is and will continue to be involving the customer.  So, we asked people on Facebook for their ideas. We asked them specifically: Do you want tangible or experiential? The majority of people said they wanted experiential. So, we combined both what we knew from Modern Times, and what our future customers said they wanted.

Q: Explain how you both felt when Kickstarter notified you that memberships we not allowed?

A: We were frustrated. Kickstarter basically told us that anything even alluding to a “membership” or “club” was not allowed, despite it previously being allowed (such as back in April with Modern Times). So, in typical Former Future fashion, we brainstormed a way to play within the rules and still attain our overall goal. That’s when we decided to offer these rewards via BrownPaperTickets.

Q: How much time had you spent creating the membership program, and how long did it take you to move the membership program from Kickstarter to BrownPaperTickets?

A: We had been brainstorming ideas for a Membership program for months – pretty much since the conception of Former Future. Believe it or not, coming up with a name was the most difficult part of the process for us.

Once we got the notice from Kickstarter that we needed to remove the Membership program, it took about an hour to set this up on BrownPaperTickets. From there, it took them about five hours to approve our “event” and make the link available to the public.

What made this whole thing even more of a hassle, though, was the fact that on the same day we had to drive to Ridgway to load up our brewhouse. It was definitely a balancing act.

FFBC Plans

Former Future Brewing’s Plans

Q: How do you plan on promoting your campaign?

A: We have been incredibly blessed to have so many friends, family, Facebook acquaintances, Former Future fans, and investors who believe in us. People we’ve never met are sharing our Kickstarter link. That is a huge part of it. Beyond that, we are in contact with John Turk from Colorado Craft Beer Radio to get on the show and promote.

We couldn’t do it without all the support. We will be posting every day on Facebook, both personally and on the FFBC page. We have sent out a newsletter from our website and have included links on our website. We will also be updating via Twitter @FormerFutureCo.

Q: How essential to Former Future Brewing is the Kickstarter campaign? Will the brewery still be able to open as planned if you don’t meet your goal?

A: It would be extremely helpful for us, but not essential. We are fully-funded and investor-supported, so we are well on our way to being open. This Kickstarter (and the Membership via BPT as well) is really to help us make more beer with extra capacity, and provide a wider range and variety of beer sooner. Of course we could add additional capacity later (and we plan on it regardless), but why wait when we can add it right when we open. We stay open longer, you drink beer longer. It’s a win-win.

And, why not add that coolship and those barrels now, so we can start playing and experimenting and crafting more beer? Again, it’s a win-win. In short, we want this campaign to be successful so we can spend more time with everyone, serving really unique beer more days out of the week.

Q: What are your overall thoughts as you wait to hit the launch button? Are you both nervous, excited, or something totally different?

A: Oh gosh. Honestly, at that point, it was “get it over with.” We had been going back and forth with our Kickstarter reviewer for a week, and each day he seemed to come up with some other line we needed to revise or remove. The morning we launched, we were already a full day behind. So, we missed our goal of Wednesday, and then Thursday morning, we received another email asking us to revise something.

For the past week, every time we corrected something and sent it back for review, it would take an additional 24 hours for them to get back to us. So, when we were asked to change something else on Thursday morning, we were frustrated.

To our surprise we got an email back within 10 minutes stating the campaign had been approved and ready to launch. There was some hesitation, some “is everything right?” or “are there any typos?” But we were so ready and absolutely elated.

 

Stay tuned for part two of our series marking the halfway point of Former Future’s Kickstarter campaign coming soon…

(All images from Former Future Brewing Company’s Facebook page)

About Peter MacKellar


A native Coloradan who thinks our fine state offers the best beer and snow anywhere in the U.S., Peter recently moved back to Denver after spending a few years in New York City.