Never Stop Learning – Become an expert in your field. Read anything you can grab, not only on your industry, but general business as well. Stagnation leads to the demise of your business. Visualize your business as an ever evolving and changing force.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wyndee Forrest. Wyndee is Co-Owner and Founder of CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson, Nevada. Wyndee discovered a passion for craft beer during a graduation trip from UNLV traveling to Europe. There, she was immersed in culture that encouraged one to slow down, enjoy quality over quantity and build relationships. Wanting to share that with her Vegas Valley community, she and her husband, Dave Forrest opened CraftHaus Brewery to bring that sense of community and craftsmanship back.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When we first approached the city of Henderson about our business model, there was not a license that applied to us. We were planning a brewery with an attached tasting room, which is common in our industry, but not common to the Las Vegas area. The only license that was available was $75,000 and came with full liquor and gaming. We were adamant about not having gaming as it detracted from our guests engaging with one another and building a community. Instead of taking no for an answer, I became a registered lobbyist and with the help of the City of Henderson wrote new licensing that was more craft beer friendly. I removed the gaming and liquor and then reduced it to $10,000.00! We were urged to just pay the origination fee and get open, but we knew that making this change would create a stronger craft beer community by opening the doors for more breweries. Our efforts have allowed three more breweries to open and there are a handful in planning.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My husband I are inspired by the camaraderie within the craft beer community. New breweries are not looked upon as competition, they are viewed as a “rising tide floats all boats.” We have a passion for building a community around quality driven beer. We start with people first, then beer is the conductor to bring everyone together.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Our plan to grow the craft beer community and culture has worked. We are in an area called the “Booze District” in Henderson, which is home to two more breweries, Vegas Valley Winery and the Las Vegas Distillery. Our fifth anniversary is approaching in September, which is amazing for a couple who had never owned their own business or worked in the craft beer industry prior to opening. We are also opening a second tasting room in The Arts District, Las Vegas to reach a wider audience including a portion of the visitors to the Las Vegas Strip.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I poured beer at a festival by myself the second night we opened our brewery. I was nervous about tapping kegs correctly to get the beer pouring for the thousands of people who were waiting to enjoy the event. I swallowed my embarrassment and asked a fellow craft beer professional for help. They viewed the ask as no big deal, but it seemed enormous for me at the time. Now that person and I have a moment where we connected. We laugh about it now. Looking at the bigger picture, it brings our craft beer community closer together. Never be embarrassed to ask for help, it is an opportunity to connect.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
CraftHaus Brewery strives to be unique and distinct. When faced with a decision we ask ourselves “Why? What is the purpose?” We make decisions based on the longevity of the company, not what is right in front of us. If an opportunity does not have purpose, we decline. We were offered to brew a beer for a high-profile individual. The offer was to only brew a beer, not to engage in a partnership. The opportunity would have sold beer for the short term, but it would not benefit the brand in the long term. We chose to decline because muddling the brand for a paycheck is not authentic to the brand we created.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
· Don’t listen to the negative
· Stay focused on your mission
· Pick your head up once in a while to see the big picture
· Learn to say no
· Revisit what made you choose to start your business
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My husband has taught me to stop, think and take a breath before making decisions. I am very impulsive which can be a positive attribute for an entrepreneur, but it can also be to the demise of a new business owner. I am thankful he is my business partner; he pushes me to be a better business owner every day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We pride ourselves on building community. We have had friendships, engagements, marriages, celebrations of life, retirements — all milestones our community chose to share with us — that is the biggest compliment we can ever receive.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Embrace your mistakes- I was afraid to make a mistake until I realized mistakes are learning opportunities to improve. I never wanted to appear that I did not have the answers. But when I asked for help and expertise from another person, it empowered them as well. We learn from every beer release, event, social media post, partnership, sponsorship and make sure to not make the same mistake twice.
It never gets easier- Things change and it only compounds with the growing of your business. Decisions that we thought were tough in the beginning seem miniscule now in perspective. Know you will get through it. We face new challenges on a minute by minute basis and instead of pushing back on it, we embrace the unknown.
Celebrate the wins, no matter how small- We are guilty of always striving to improve, we are our toughest critic. Celebrating our successes with our team also creates a stronger internal culture.
Never Stop Learning- Become an expert in your field. Read anything you can grab, not only on your industry, but general business as well. Stagnation leads to the demise of your business. Visualize your business as an ever evolving and changing force.
Passion Keeps it Going- If we were not passionate about our mission to build a community around quality driven beer, we would have run out of steam long ago. We didn’t chase a fad, do it for a quick buck, or even create an exit strategy, we always go back to our passion. Passion got us through changing licensing three times for Henderson and Las Vegas, it got us through not taking salaries, it gets us through the not so glamourous stuff. But when it pays off, like when listening to one of our regulars share our taproom with a newbie and hear them take pride and ownership in “their” brewery — it makes it all worth the sacrifices.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Always take the high road. One can never be faulted for choosing positivity.
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Thank you for all these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.