Jason Smith Adventures In Homebrewing & Austin Homebrew Supply

Intro: The broad difference of what we see in our customers is so much fun And you know, they come in and I’ve had guys that had fermented milk and, really fermented milk? Oh yeah, I’m gonna try goat milk next! I’ve had guys that have taken artesian well water and made their beers with it And I picked the hops outside of a brewery in Ascota, Michigan and I got the lake water out of Ascota, Michigan That’s awesome That guy’s and gal’s are that involved with what they’re doing I think that’s by far the most fun Podcast Intro: If you’re someone who refuses to go along to get along, if you question whether the status quo was good enough for you and your family If you want to leave this world better off than you found it and you consider independence a sacred thing You may be a prepper, a gardener, a homesteader, a survivalist, or a farmer or rancher, an environmentalist or a rugged outdoorsman We are here to celebrate you whether you’re looking to improve your Maverick business or to find out more about the latest products and services available to the weekend rebel From selling chicken eggs online, to building up your food storage or collecting handmade soap This show is for those who choose the road less traveled the road to self-reliance for those that are living a daring adventure life off the grid Brian Intro: Jason Smith is the owner of Adventures In Homebrewing It all started when he was brewing beer in 1992 While serving in the army in 97, he left the army and moved back to Detroit to pursue pharmacy school While preparing for school, he realized the lack of competition in the homebrew market in Detroit and opened up his own shop in 1999 Over the last 20 years, his business has evolved into both retail and online sales as well as producing their own warehouse management system So the gap year that he took off from pharmacy school has actually been over 20 years now, but it’s been quite a rollercoaster ride Jason Smith, welcome to The Off The Grid Biz Podcast Jason: Thanks for having me Brian: So why don’t you let everyone know a little bit about what it is that you do? Jason: My name is Jason Smith I own Adventures In Homebrewing and Austin Homebrew Supply We do homemade beer making, wine making, cheese making, distilling of products We have guests that do soap making, soda making to kind of anything that you would make at home As far as beverage supply goes for sure Brian: How did you end up of all things in the home brewing industry? Jason: It’s kind of crazy I started out in the Army And when I started, I wanted to make wine with the guys in the Army And they’re like wine, How about beer? Well, I suppose we could do that So we got involved with some beer making I worked in a pharmacy We had lab equipment available to us, of course So we started culturing a lot of our own yeast doing different things in the beer making side of it We really didn’t have what’s available today Internet access, we couldn’t just order something It was a lot of finding where can we get grains, where can we get hops? And then of course with the yeast we started culturing a lot of it within the labs at the hospital at the time, I did that for some time, started a small homebrew club at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, did some fun stuff with that And then as I left the military, I got home, I was gonna go back to school for pharmacy When I got home, there was a couple small shops, but nothing really, that had bar equipment and you know, the kegging equipment and just the bigger items that were available I just had a larger vision of what home brewing could be versus what the local shops had had Says talking to a friend one night over beer, of course, and kind of determined that we could do a better job than what was currently available in Michigan So the first thing we did was kind of that ESPN mentality Well, we can open this in Michigan, but there’s a whole world out there Let’s jump on the internet and make sure that we are getting out to everybody We started collecting email addresses, phone numbers, names, building an email list and slowly developed a small website That was 20 years ago, the website is done well, from day one, we’ve kind of evolved And now I’m sure we’re the largest store in Michigan, one of the larger ones in the Midwest, and there’s two or three stores in the country that I think evolved to our size but it’s just been a an enjoyable trip I love home brewing I love you know, gourmet foods, gourmet drinks, of course, type in hand in hand And they’ve been very fortunate to get in as the craft beer scene really exploded back in 99 Most people were like, what is this craft beer? Today, it’s hard to go anywhere without recognizing either an event or something going on with craft beer, kind of pick the right time replace and unfortunately, pharmacy school is put

on the back burner and the homebrew shops evolved into what they are today Brian: Wow, that’s great Was this your first business? Jason: It was I was very young at the time Gosh, I joined the army at 18 I was in for six years So by the time I was 24, I was getting out And that was when we opened the business So yeah, it was kind of just a BAM take off learn business on your own I hadn’t taken any real business classes or anything I of course was a fairly responsible kid paid my bills, everything else So when it came time to business, making sure that you were paying all of your bills on time and stuff just came naturally It was something I had already done as a person So that side of the business was fairly easy Started with QuickBooks just plugged in my own information Oh, it sounds like it would go there first few years, I think we even filed on tax returns just with Quicken Boom, Well, looks like this would go there And of course, things become more complicated over time But starting out everything I learned about business was kind of through Quickbooks and self taught Brian: That’s great So, you say you start an email list How else did you find those first customers? Jason: You know, it was really email to start with People come to the store and ask for their email list And I only asked because it was in QuickBooks And hey, it asked here phone number address, and I can remember guys asking What the hell are you ever gonna do with all this? I don’t know, maybe open a credit card in your name But, you know, initially, I don’t know what we would do with it was just kind of, we’re gonna collect it and we’ll start, it was weird People would start to move to Ohio or Texas or Florida or California, whether they retire or move with a company, and they call us and hey, Jason, I really loved your store I can’t get that type of service here Will you help me out here? It was weird how it just spread kind of like Coronavirus Just suppose it was weird how it spread out and people would get to their new location their new home and they reached back out to us, Hey, can you do this? And that was kind of the evolution of the website but more so it was word of mouth People locally did great jobs, building homebrew clubs being involved with homebrew clubs I, I’d like to think that we did a great job of just sticking around with guests at night having beers with them become more friends family than just a customer relationship And for that reason, so often people tended to brew more or green instead of extract which is more advanced instead of extract when they went somewhere They seem to be that advanced Brewer so people would ask them question, how do you do this? How do you that? And then they refer back to us So it was a evolution I think or it grew because of our involvement or my involvement And, you know, getting people involved with the all grain with the kegging equipment with a just kind of nerding out on the whole craft beer But we had guys open breweries we had guys open, small brew club pubs, brew clubs opened up all over And it was weird how it just kind of spiderweb back to us Brian: Wow, that is interesting If you go from there and jump forward to today, where are you finding your newest customers at today? People are just coming across you, how are they most likely finding you? Jason: Our email list is significant for obvious reasons We’ve got God half million people available to list we section that out When we do small email groups We’ll do a group of 70 or 80,000 to hit winemaking because this is our winemaking group or things of that nature We do collect emails on the website, we collect them through our live chat, we collect them via PayPal, so however you’re paying PayPal, Amazon, anything of that nature We have a Facebook page with about 150,000 likes on it So we utilize that outside That not a whole lot more obviously, we’re using our SEO and Google to pull people in But very proud of the list that we have We’ve earned that list It’s not something we bought It’s not something we did marketing on newspapers or gave you something free to sign up on our list When you’re on our list, it’s because you want it to be on our list And for that reason, I believe our list is extremely strong with people Yes, I want to buy from Adventures In Homebrewing And Austin Homebrew is slowly building into that same feeling, but they want to buy it to us because they’re comfortable with us And because we didn’t go out and get their name from somebody else We didn’t build it by, hey, we’ll give you 10% off for this email We we built it by you being at the site and by you buying things from us Brian: No, that’s great That’s a really, really good lesson for others out there who are looking at building up an

email list I mean, the fact that you’ve been able to build that up and then somewhat because come depended on it as your own form of marketing That’s really fabulous So do you do any other sort of traditional marketing, any type of paid advertising, anything like that to bring people in? Jason: Right now? No, funny you’re asking during a pandemic Um, oddly enough, it seems our government is forcing people to stay at home and not travel and what the hell do you do you cook? You brew beer, you make wine? Yeah So right now we’ve shut down all marketing, all advertising, BC, before COVID We did a lot of Google marketing I would say Google is by far number one And I’m sure everybody else kind of tell you the same thing But our Google marketing, AdWords things of that nature, we try and maintain about a 10% purchasing on that versus return on investment But we’ve tried Facebook, people aren’t Facebook to chat with family We’ve tried a few other digital marketing, we just don’t get the return on investment in those places We’ve done magazines Unfortunately, most people are reading magazines online and such now, and you’re just not getting the tracking that you have available to you through Google So we’ve looked at other resources And the truth is we just haven’t done as well with paid advertising on them On we still do classes, we own a company in Austin, Texas as well And in Austin, we have a huge sign and I 35 it’s a digital sign So we’ve had a sauerkraut class, we’ll throw it up there and it certainly brings people in or a kimchi class or fermented foods are something that seems to be are really a good source of marketing right now We do have, you know, sign up for email, see what we have going on So Austin, Texas has been a good resource for us to continue to add But outside of that, um, you know, the yellow pages or anything like that is gone Now We just haven’t, it’s hard to justify the investment in it any longer Brian: Sure, sure And things have really changed with with the COVID-19 situation So let’s stick with that before COVID You mentioned doing these live classes, right, that you’re doing with people? Jason: Correct Brian: And to go to live events or shows or anything like that? Yeah, obviously, we hit the homebrew conferences every year, um, we would do mostly local in Michigan or in Texas, we would hit local events Those seem to be our best bang for our buck that guests or customers would recognize us there And they, it was a great way to, again, build that family type relationship that we’ve had most was on premise classes, or going to events and just meeting people there Brian: That’s great What would you say is your ideal customer, if you could describe them? Obviously, it’s someone that has interest in home brewing, but is there anything more than that, that really the type of person that finds you the most interesting becomes a great customer? Jason: 20 years ago, you know what it was white males 40 years old That was all we saw It was almost like they came out of a mold in the beer belly, with a beer 40 years old It was pretty funny at that time Today, it is evolved We have women coming in It doesn’t matter if African American or Asian, it’s just everybody is into the fermented foods especially so we’re getting a lot of we saw a lot of the cracks and things for kimchi or sauerkraut or any of those types of things we’re getting people in for that The beer brewing has just evolved and developed into a much larger crowd than what we would see years ago But no, I would say beer brewing still remains to be a little bit younger It seems to be that 40 to 50 year old crowd Well, I would say 50 all the way down to 20 now And above 50 tends to lean more towards the winemaking side We’ve really seen a huge increase in distilling And so people doing their own hard liquors and such of course sanitizers right now, I tried to sanitizers but online later on the jello shots or something I have a hard time rubbing on my hands when I can drink it But, uh, overall, it’s really developed a much broader customer base than I’ve ever seen Ever thought we would see It’s been a pleasant surprise Brian: No, that’s great After COVID I imagine the demands pretty high because of the situation or at least it hasn’t changed drastically what what other type of changes have you seen that have hit your business? Jason: It’s just increased really, we’re up about 10% or so on sales So more people are certainly brewing we’ve funny the homebrew industry does really well,

when there’s a bad economy As the economy has started to tank we’ve started to increase For the last five years the economy has been so strong that our business was kind of tanking on its own It’s like, Oh gosh, this is bad We need something to happen I don’t wish for this It hasn’t hurt business, of course So prior to this, the good economy was certainly hurting business with this Fortunately, fortunately, it is helped her business significantly The hardest part now has just been hiring qualified people With people getting what they’re getting on employment We’re not seeing a whole lot of applicants, of course So we’re having a difficult time hiring right now and keeping people comfortable The back of our warehouses It’s hot, summertime, it’s especially down in Texas The guys and gals don’t want to wear masks during the day and trying to enforce that And people have told me I’ll quit if I have to do this I got one side they’re saying it’s just too damn hot I can’t wear masks in the warehouse With our retail locations We do wear masks and we protect all our guests But then some people when they put in their application, they come in, they don’t see masks, oh, gosh, I don’t want to work here because you guys aren’t wearing masks in the back of warehouse So we’re really in a tight fix right now Those that have been here are very comfortable and look for six months, we haven’t wore masks back here and we’re fine You’re gonna bring in a new guy that’s going to tell us all we have to So it’s been difficult to maintain that balance and keep everybody happy Commercial: Okay, let’s take a break from that conversation I wanted to bring up a question for you, during these crazy times, do you feel like your business is indestructible? Most people don’t? And if not, the real question is why? And what can you do to make it as indestructible as possible? Well, that’s the basis of my new book, 9 Ways to Amazon-Proof Your Business Let me talk about what we discussed in the third chapter The third way for you to Amazon proof your business, which is be different In the third chapter, I go into, really, how do you put yourself out there and be seen as unique, where you really don’t even have competition And there’s ways of doing this In fact, I talk about two specific books that you should go out and get And these are difficult books to read These are fun books, books that will inspire you and give you creative juices necessary to be able to really stand out and be different, you don’t have to be wacky, you don’t have to be outrageous, but you do have to appear different And if you can appear different from everyone else out there, not only will you not have the competition of amazon.com, you won’t have any competition But I also have eight other ways to Amazon proof your business, basically the idea of making it competition proof to even someone as big as Amazon.com So if you’d like to get your hands on a free copy of my book, go to AmazonProofBook.com sign up and you will get a free copy and get the chance to purchase a physical copy of it for a special price In addition to that, if you happen to be in the Josephine County area or nearby, and you’re looking to have a speaker come and discuss these type of issues with your organization, club or group of friends, then I have a limited calendar that I may be able to fit you into Go check out Brian j pombo.com slash speaking and fill out the application We’ll be sure to get back to you on that And now let’s get back to our show Brian: So that’s an interesting perspective I hadn’t heard about the hiring issue before that no one’s brought that up right off the bat But that makes a lot of sense, especially if everything else is stable How about the supply chains, anything like that any of your back end, logistics, have you had any issues there? Jason: Fortunately, we wrote our own warehouse management system As I said, as in the military, I worked in the hospital I worked in pharmacy directly So logistics was a strong point coming into business And we wrote our own warehouse management system So as soon as we do saw the increase in sales, the increase in we ramped up all of our stock levels And I really think we have stayed ahead of it There’s some off the wall things coming from like Australia that we’re having a little bit of a difficult time maintaining But overall, we were out ahead of this guys, we’re gonna get busy And we did we were able to prepare for it better than most I talked to, you know, of course, I have friends in the industry that own businesses and they’re a week or two behind on stock levels or whatever else and we were out ahead of it just pure it on lock system working well for us And just enough foresight to see, hey, we’re gonna get busy We need to get ahead of this Unfortunately, over 20 years have seen down economies we have busy economies we get slow

It was to be expected I just totally was ready for what came, as far as the sales go Brian: Yeah, absolutely I know a lot of companies that are on the grow that would love to have an opportunity to have a logistics system like that Have you ever thought of franchising out your warehouse management system or selling that process? Jason: Yes, we did a good job developing it, and it works for us very well The downside that I’ve found with it is unless you have the people in place that understand excel and offer, that we’re going to be supporting it too often, that I don’t think we can support that and continue to support the company But it’s certainly something that my wife and I have talked about that Brandon who helped me develop the system and I have talked about, it’s probably as valuable as what our company is because of what it does We had NetSuite and we got rid of NetSuite And we moved in develop this and I would say We are every bit as powerful as what a NetSuite type platform would be So no, we we have talked about it, it would just you take the beers out of my hand and put a suit and tie on I don’t know I’d want that Lol! Brian: That’s a good point So what’s your top selling product right now? Jason: Believe it or not nothing, and it was really cool I hired a warehouse manager about five or six years ago And one of his first questions was Jason, how many line items do you have? I go, Well, we’ve got about 7,000 line items And he goes, well, what’s your top seller? Like his thought processes exactly what yours is, and I go, Well, we don’t have a top seller That’s the cool part about this He worked for me for about a month and after about a month, he pulled me aside he goes you know, Jason is going to tell you you’re full of shit You’re going to have a top selling item You’re not, you sell all 7,000 items, and he was just shocked at how diverse our guests were In what they were buying that it wasn’t just one thing keeping us afloat And the banks have told us that before you know, they come in and they look at you get what if you lose this one customer, you’re gonna be in trouble We don’t have that one customer our average sale is 75 bucks ahead and we sell all 7,000 items pretty much evenly We’re fortunate in a good blend of business to keep us very safe Brian: That’s fabulous That’s really cool What do you like best about your business and or your industry as a whole? Jason: I think it’s the customers I love having our guests come in and I’ve seen what they build and what they do It’s enlightening It’s motivational, it’s to see the things that they’ve built in their homes And you just look at it, you’re blown away about how interested somebody could be in this hobby And then you get the other side of the spectrum I’ve had guys bring beer in, in those tide dispensers And I’m like, You gotta be kidding me enough I rinsed it out, put beer in there, you push a little button and serve beer like, Alright, and my response is pretty much the same as yours You’ve got to be out of your mind and but just the broad difference of what we see in our customers is so much fun And you know, they come in and I’ve had guys that had fermented milk and really fermented milk? Oh yeah, I’m gonna try goat milk next I’ve had guys that have taken artesian well water and made their beers with it And I picked the hops outside of a brewery and I go to Michigan and I got the lake water out of us go to Michigan and we’re, you know, got natural yeast That’s awesome that guys and gals are that involved with what they’re doing So I think that’s by far the most fun today We’re working out front and two different guests came in throughout the day, hey, we brought you beers You’re just sitting there and you get enjoy, whether it’s beer, cheese, or wine or some type of distillate It’s neat to have people bring those things in but I think when it’s all said and done that’s what I’ll miss the most Brian: If there’s one thing on the opposite end of it, if there’s one thing you could change about your business, what would it be? Jason: I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of change a thing, sometimes there can be a lot of people get into homebrewing because it’s gonna be cheaper So, I think sometimes there’s that side of it, where everybody’s trying to save a buck And it makes it a difficult industry to, you know, keep your staff paid or make decent money in But, you know, sometimes I think that might be a little funny, but I assume you probably see that with a lot of the prepper mentality is, how cheap can I do this? And the other one maybe is Amazon I think for years, I thought that we were bulletproof We could never go out of business we can never go under And over the last two or three years, a lot of homebrew shops have gone under

It was where are you gonna go buy yeast? Where are you gonna go buy hats other than a homebrew shop? Where are you gonna go buy grains other than a homebrew shop and Amazon is really change that they’ve made those things available to anybody, and you can buy anything on Amazon But I think that removing the Amazon area from the industry would be really nice again to force everybody to come in and buy Now, I hate to use the term force, but have everybody come in and buy everything from the homebrew shops It is a struggle to maintain a small mom and pop shops like that And Amazon has certainly put a hurting on an industry that I just never ever thought was possible that the homebrew industry can be hurt by the big box stores I think that’s probably one and again, the mentality that hey, you can do this cheaper Sometimes that makes it a little rough too Brian: Yeah, that makes sense If you and I were to get back together and say like a year from now and talk again, and we were to look back over the last 12 months and everything that you had done, what would have had to have happened for you to feel happy with your progress in your business and your life? Jason: Next time, you should send me a six pack first, that’s all Lol! You know, Brian overall as long as my family stays healthy staff stays healthy I say it’s been a good year We’re happy with the company, we have a have a family setting with the staff and we’ve got 60 staff members and about 58 of them get along together So we’ve been really lucky with what we do, um, sales wise, over 20 years, I can say every year that I’ve been satisfied with where I’m at, I’m not the type of person that he’s driving around in a Corvette or Ferrari I’m happy in my 2000 Toyota For Honda enough, it’s so pretty laid back individual a lot of what I do because I do love the customers that we have And as long as we can continue to pay the bills, I don’t think there’s anything more than I would ever ask for to call it a successful year I call it successful 21, and I hope next year I was able to say, hey, it’s been successful 22 Brian: That’s great So what advice would you have for the business owner out there just blanket advice? Jason: Oh, gosh, read a business plan and know what you’re getting into I think so often people think they’re gonna jump in, open up And these things are gonna happen without looking at profit loss statements without truly getting a good understanding of what you’re getting into a solid business plan Again, QuickBooks of all weird things has just a basic template that you go in and follow And I throw that in there get an idea I mean, if you want to make 100,000 a year and you’re getting into the whole machine, shop industry and it news for you to make 40 a year or 50 a year, make sure that the end goal is something that you’re able to accomplish in the business you’re getting into Embrace technology, make sure that you’re jumping on to the website sales and things of that nature, or make yourself available, whether it’s through like a zoom meeting or something Make sure that you are available the technology I think so often people get into it and they think they’re just going to get it from the local business And unfortunately, nowadays, first place you are I will look for something is online, open up the computer and where is it So local is difficult to be, you’ve got to get out there and be available online, at start with the business plan, and you make sure that what you’re planning to do, you can be successful or happy Again, success isn’t measured by money, but successful, happy doing what you’re going to do financially, it’s going to be stable enough to put you where you want to be Business plan and making sure that you’re getting yourself out there to a broad enough audience that you’re able to be successful in that area But I think those are probably the biggest things that I would say Brian: Those are great points Really good What can a listener do if they want to find out more about adventures in homebrewing? Jason: Fastest thing right now, visit the website, HomeBrewing.org and we have AustinHomebrew.com as well But websites are a great resources There’s a learn how to section we have YouTube videos and such directly from the website So I take a little time there if they’re more interested in checking it out, um, anything else feel free to shoot me an email I still respond to every email I get if they’re looking for something or have a question, [email protected] I still, believe it or not, 20 years later, I still respond to all of them And I enjoy speaking with our guests Brian: All right, Jason Smith, owner of Adventures In Homebrewing Thanks so much for being on The Off The Grid Biz Podcast Jason: Thanks for having me Brian I appreciate it

Brian’s Closing Thoughts: Jason was a real kick to talk to if you couldn’t notice He just has such a great positive attitude, confident about what he’s doing But open to new ideas If you listen to very many of our episodes, you’ll notice that the people that are the most successful are the ones with a similar attitude They don’t necessarily have the same personality, but they have the same attitude There’s a light easygoingness but at the same time, a determination and just a future focused attitude about things that’s very refreshing I found it interesting that the biggest issue that they’re dealing with right now, with the COVID-19, is that they’re dealing with employment issues, finding the right people to be able to do the job That’s very interesting, but it also shows that they’re on the grow, because they wouldn’t be hiring if they weren’t informed on the growth If they didn’t need the help, they wouldn’t be doing it And like we talked about, he is on the grow, demand is high A lot of people are getting into this industry right now and into this hobby, or these hobbies that he has equipment to help you out with whether it be wine making, cheese making what have you He’s got the equipment available for all these different things And they’re all growing right now, which is really cool But running into that employment issue It’s sad to see and you can see how so many of the events that are going on right now have people in a very uneasy state, people are scared to get sick, and they’re scared to give up their unemployment checks There’s so many issues going on all at once It’ll be nice to see what happens when things calm down a little bit and we move on to whatever the next new normal or what have you is around the corner with all that it’s really neat to see that he’s been prepared though, that he has this warehouse management system that allowed him even when the times were not running as well for them to be prepared for when times did start going good And they did It’s just a matter of time before things turned after the economy soured a little bit, everything started going well for him It’s another example of a type of business that can go well in what would be perceived as a quote unquote bad economy And do you have the elements in your business to be able to do that? Or do you have the ability to be able to prepare for bad times as well, for when the economy twists on you or when your business ends up falling behind? Do you have the ability to make up for that good times bad times, having the control over those logistics will make a big difference to you in the long run Outro: Join us again on the next Off The Grid Biz Podcast brought to you by the team at BrianJPombo.com, helping successful but overworked entrepreneurs, transform their companies into dream assets That’s BrianJPombo.com If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on The Off The Grid Biz Podcast, offthegridbiz.com/contact Those who appear on the show do not necessarily endorse my beliefs, suggestions, or advice or any of the services provided by our sponsor Our theme music is Cold Sun by Dell Our executive producer and head researcher is Sean E Douglas I’m Brian Pombo and until next time, I wish you peace, freedom, and success