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.
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.
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.
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-Rauch 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.
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.
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.
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.