THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIPS & TEAM

I have never considered sharing a personal story about our company. After reading my wife’s story on our history and the value of perseverance -  inspiration struck! I would like to share with you what should be at the forefront of any discussion on growth or success. Partnerships and a reliable team are the building blocks of growing a successful company.

 Byron & Angela Burroughs 

Byron & Angela Burroughs 

I have worked for over 30 years in some aspect of the hospitality industry, working every position, from dishwasher to owner. My journey leading up to Proof Brewing Co. has been a long, challenging, and rewarding path that has given me much insight and experience to apply to our past and current operations. I did a lot on my own and became a horrible micro-manager over the years because I wanted everything that I touched to be perfect. I felt that the buck stopped with me, and I bore the absolute weight of the success or failure of the operation. It took many years to realize the detriment of this behavior and adjust accordingly. Proof would not have been able to grow as quickly as it has if I hadn’t finally listened to my wife and started to trust in the team and empower those around me to do the best job that they could.

I first would like to say "thank you" to my wife, Angela, for standing by me through thick and thin, from the inception of this business, now at our current state of growth and for whatever comes. I honestly could not imagine doing this without her, and I know in the process I have put her through hell, but through it all, she has been my rock and the voice of reason. This stabilizing force is what makes us work so well together. I can’t imagine our partnership any other way, as she is genuinely my support and balance and I will love her for this always.

 John Hennessey (Left) & Ed Ward (Right)

John Hennessey (Left) & Ed Ward (Right)

Angie and I have been through a lot together and have come a long way from where we started in Tallahassee, but we did not do it alone. The real unsung heroes of the Proof story are our fantastic business partners, John Hennessey and Ed Ward. I have known Ed since I was very young and John for about 13 years. They have given us the financial support, trust, and business guidance to allow us to continue growing over the years. Ed and John have supported us through good times and bad and have always trusted us to sail the ship and make the right decisions for the business – but there would be no ship without them. From an investor’s perspective, it is not always appealing to be continually reinvesting to fund growth or expansion for as many years as we have - and they have a lot on the line. I cannot appreciate this trust and faith in our ideas and ability enough. Their partnership drives me to succeed in everything that we do, and we could not have done this without them.

Team – as the saying goes, there is no "I" in "team."

Each team member plays a crucial role in the business. Our team is without compare, and I will put our team up against any other. Running a business in Tallahassee was initially tricky due to the transient nature of the workforce in hospitality on the University side of town. We started out predominately as a team of students and have now forged a career path for all - with some members now having families of their own. Over the years we have been able to build a team of the most loyal, talented, driven and hardworking folks imaginable. Our team is a family that we will support in or out of business, and this metamorphosis has been amazing to witness.  By trusting in the strength of the team, the growth curve that the company has taken by empowering the key individuals to work freely at what they do has been incredible. I appreciate everyone that has given up moving away post-college to stick with Proof because they believe that what we are all doing together matters.

 Proof team members

Proof team members

Our General Manager Mike Kofman has been with us almost nine years, Managers Tyler Harrison and Kris Link six years apiece, Head Brewer Arin Brown has been with us nearly eight years, Lead Brewer David Kant six years, Brewer Nick Digioia seven years, and Sales Directors Bryan Smith and Alan Truesdell nine years between them. Our Art Director and Social Media Director are incredible and have taken our design and marketing to another level. Bryan Smith not only works on sales but oversees the social media and organizes our Florida Tap Invitational each year – an unbelievably time intensive event to manage. These are the guys that run the show and are our faces to the world. I trust their abilities and decision-making implicitly and being able to trust their work allows Angie and I to grow the company. Collectively, our team is about 35 strong.

 Proof team members

Proof team members

Having a background in hospitality, I have always driven our tasting room staff to be the most knowledgeable around and operate under strict guidelines to deliver the highest level of customer service and operation. I believe that everyone’s efforts show on a daily basis and I cannot offer enough kudos to the team for all that they do to make Proof the best tasting room in the South. I am always amazed by the exceptional work that our team puts in. Brewing is a hard business, hospitality is a hard business, and we do both with the production facility and tasting room. Our brewers bust their asses in unair-conditioned space for long hours every day, striving to be the best at what they do. It shows in our finished product, and I can’t thank the brew team enough.

 David Kant-Rauch teaching Tri-Eagle team members

David Kant-Rauch teaching Tri-Eagle team members

Another crucial partnership in our company is our relationship with our distributors. We have an extensive statewide network of distributors, and without them, our beer would never make it to the market. One continually goes above and beyond— our local distributor Tri-Eagle Sales. We thought we were selling a decent amount of beer in our home market until we transitioned over to Tri-Eagle back in June of 2017. Wow, were we wrong! Mike Leporin, Kevin Corradi, and their sales teams have taken our brand and indeed shown us how well a top-notch local distributor can grow it.  They have a fantastic sales staff, warehouse team, managers, and owners and we couldn’t be happier with our partnership in distribution.

Micro-managing doesn't work if you want to grow. Do not get mired in attempting to do everything yourself as this is counterproductive. If you're going to grow, hire people that are better than you at what they do, train them well on your business, ideals, and goals, develop a structure that all can work under and most importantly have communication between individuals and departments. Provide people the tools and structure that they need to do a good job and your business will blossom and grow. It has taken all of us at Proof eleven years of hard work and dedication to be at this next phase of growth. Without a stable and trusting partnership structure, strong managerial leadership, marketing geniuses and an incredible team of brewers and tasting room gurus, we would not be growing at the rate that we are.

 Proof team members

Proof team members

I hope that I have been able to peel back the many layers as to what it takes to make Proof Brewing Company.  We aim to be the best brewery in the Southeast, and it takes a lot of dedicated individuals to achieve that.  I feel that we have the team and structure to accomplish this goal and beyond, but first things first – everything starts with our expansion and move to 1320 South Monroe. Keep checking back for construction updates and more info on what it takes to relocate a brewery in the coming months.

Liquor Loft To Proof – The Journey From Bottle Shop To Can

Byron & I want to open these updates on our expansion at our new facility by sharing the brief history of a great company – a company that I believe in with all of my heart – and describe the path that we have undertaken to become who we are.  Byron & I both love to connect with people and listen to customers’ experiences. As we share our journey we hope you’ll share your memories with us. Striving to be the best and doing the right thing for the benefit of our community is the foundation upon which our business is built.  We love craft beer and we love Tallahassee!

620522_10151013608908526_718979415_o.jpg

Byron and I met in Atlanta and moved to Tallahassee in 2005, before we were married, with the intention that we would help to develop a piece of property on Gaines St. and be back in Atlanta in 24 months or less.  We, along with our partners, owned little more than a liquor license and the old ABC parcel on Gaines.  With youth and unbridled drive on our side we had the intention to do great things for hospitality and retail in Tallahassee by creating a modern mixed-use building – the flagship concept was B3, a modern designed craft beer focused burger joint.

We realized very quickly that our intentions were not well received at that time. We hit roadblock after roadblock.  We eventually came to terms with the fact that we were way ahead of the curve to do what we thought was right for the area.  One specific individual said that the area would develop, but it would take about another decade – they were only slightly off the mark.  We tried to develop the property until we couldn’t try anymore.  Ultimately this was a failure; however, a failed idea can be moments away from a success story if you don’t give up and if you look at every angle to create opportunity.  It takes grit to watch all of your plans and hard work crumble yet persevere and be flexible enough to build something completely different from where you began. 

10398528_59381863525_6587148_n.jpg

The deal evolved into purchasing our original building on W. Tennessee St. Once we moved our sites from Gaines to West Tennessee St. the seeds of Proof were planted.  I remember thinking that if we created a cool, new style of boutique liquor store the customers would come and be attracted to the customer service and dedication to quality versus quantity and the price of the product.

We both felt that the best way to earn respect from the team was to damn well be a part of it.  Our unwritten policy, that still holds true today, is to work your way up from the bottom. Show everyone that no one is too good to do any job...

Byron & I were the only employees in the beginning and we did everything on a shoestring budget.  At one point, as I was chipping up the floors myself to save money on buildout, a friend popped in and said his wife would never consider doing hard labor.  It was a shocking thing to hear, but I never considered any other option. For Byron and me, it’s a fine line between “hard labor” and “a labor of love.”  From day one we have always tried to lead by example; a daunting concept when we were working 80 hours a week for the first few years, but we never shied away from doing anything that needed to be done. Byron and I have worked almost every position ourselves at some time or another. I had to barback on more than one occasion and he was the original staff member to train all of the retail & hospitality team.  We both felt that the best way to earn respect from the team was to damn well be a part of it.  Our unwritten policy, that still holds true today, is to work your way up from the bottom. Show everyone that no one is too good to do any job and that every job is respectable – even if you are cleaning up someone’s 21st birthday “experience” or cleaning kegs.  I think one of the most challenging things for us was to actually progress from those intimate days with the team in order to actually grow the company.  Our positions as team leaders evolved into much different rolls.  We eventually didn’t have the time to write the day’s specials on the chalk board or cover retail shifts.  In retrospect, there was a sweet simplicity to the beginning years. 

In 2008, after a year in retail, one that focused on craft beer and unique brands of spirits, we determined that this wasn’t going to have long-term success if we didn’t come up with something else to drive people in the door.  This was the second time in just a few short years that Byron and I could have given up but chose not to do so in the hopes that we could shift the social path for Tallahassee by offering a cool, unique hospitality concept.

10398528_59382133525_1355841_n.jpg

We looked at what was working – high quality customer service, product knowledge and craft beer. Byron is incredibly skilled in looking at what we “have” and maximizing on it.   In this case it was the liquor license.  Florida is somewhat unique in the sense that you can run “off premise” and “on premise” liquor sales under one roof if there is a wall to separate the concepts.  That is what we ran with, and Proof, a Modern American Pub, was born.  This is when Byron and I really began to focus on craft beer.  We spent countless hours and days driving to Orlando, Tampa and beyond to get beer that was not distributed in Tallahassee.  It wasn’t delivered here because the thought was that there was no demand for it.  We clearly showed that not only were there customers who loved and cared about great beer, but that the need for a high-quality brewery just might be the future.  Our insane efforts paid off. 

582832_10151013541333526_86023490_n.jpg

We spent a few years building other fantastic craft brands….and then we thought, why don’t WE become an incredible craft brand?!

In 2012 we hired a local homebrewer who made delicious beer, we bought the nano system, and hired a commercial brewer to train the original head brewer.  This was one of the key components to our long-term success – making sure that the team had adequate training from professionals who knew process, procedure and production better than any of us did at the time.  We determined that our brand, the Tallahassee born brand, was the direction we wanted the company to grow.

562754_10151005720903526_865238440_n.jpg

2014 was the most challenging year of my entire life. We were in another build out, had a 2-year-old that came to work with us daily, and we were just really trying to hold it together after so many years of dedicating EVERYTHING to growing the company. I was completely burned out and only capable of giving about 75% of myself to any endeavor – I was feeling failure for the first time.  The company continued to successfully grow, but I was just so tired and just feeling spent.  I was struggling to find the passion I once thrived on - a personal failure.

This was the year I realized that outside of being a mom, my company is everything to me.  It is who I am, what I take pride in, and that which defines me most as a person.
63258.jpeg

It was at this point that I realized just how tough I could be. For those of you who know Byron and me personally, you know that humor is sometimes the only thing that keeps us going. From that place, a place of humor and exhaustion, our family motto was created: “The Burroughs never dismount”.  Through humor we found the strength to persevere.  This ‘motto’ was even put on our Christmas card that year.  I am pretty sure Ulli’s (our daughter) grandmother didn’t find it very amusing.  It was the statement that got us through some very hard times: losing some of our longest-term employees, building out a new space, running 2 full time projects simultaneously, sleepless nights with a toddler, and a myriad of personal frustrations.  This was the year I realized that outside of being a mom, my company is everything to me.  It is who I am, what I take pride in, and that which defines me most as a person. 

12109054_10153209140238526_6909645556076048106_n.jpg

2015 to present, Byron and I have struggled, loved, learned, laughed, missed sleep, cried and felt every emotion you can possibly imagine.  Over the years the most valuable lessons learned are these: lead by example and allow your team’s talents to thrive by offering creative control and a safe space for them to have a voice.  Respect one another. Be flexible. NEVER give up. Never dismount.

11246975_10153009283348526_6042916590665875646_n.jpg

Finding the balance between work and life is still a challenge, but we do the best we can – today and always. My passion was refueled by our amazing and talented team of brewers, sales rock stars and tasting room mad geniuses.  I can’t explain how important our PBC family is in regard to our current success.  I have witnessed team leaders crash and burn and true leaders evolve from the ashes.  Regardless of how long it has taken to get here, it is our belief that Proof is in the beginning stage of it’s pure potential.  We love our small family and our PBC team, our patrons, our beautiful city, and we love our first baby – Proof Brewing Co!  Thank you for supporting PBC and we promise to continue to create the highest quality craft beer to help put Florida on the map as one of the best craft beer states.  Thank you all for sharing this incredible journey with us.  We hope that PBC can be a part of some of the best times in your lives, just as it has been in ours.  We <3 TLH!!

-Angela Burroughs