Four Years in the Books
Written by Monica Pearce, Owner/Founder, Tenth Ward Distilling Company
WOW! Has it really been four years? That’s insane! I remember when my mom and I were selling bottles out of our teeny little tasting room on East Church Street that could maybe comfortably hold six guests at a time. Now here we are, right smack in the middle of the historic district operating out of a beautiful original brick building with a capacity of 250 people.
With 2020 being the way it is these days, I’ve had some time to process and think back about how we got here and many of the hard lessons I’ve learned. I don’t know that Monica, the business owner 4 years ago, would have been savvy enough to make it through something like this, but 2020 Monica certainly has it a bit more figured out.
How did we get to four years?
I can 100% say that our growth and success should be attributed to an (obviously) incredibly supportive customer base, but also the entire Tenth Ward team. I remember very early on a business owner telling me that I should start hiring and employing staff that will make the business more money before I consider paying myself. I also remember reading conflicting information from business advice articles that you should remember to pay yourself first. It took me a while to realize that I could find a happy medium.
Instead of hiring staff just to “make Tenth Ward more money,” I focused on building a team I could trust and depend on to help me grow the business. We first signed with a distributor once I found a dedicated Sales Manager. We started booking weddings once I secured a passionate Events Manager, and I was able to start offering cocktails at the Cocktail Lab once I hired a team of talented bartenders. It is certainly risky to bring on employees whose livelihoods you are now sort of responsible for, but I always made sure the opportunities were there before I bit off more than I could chew.
Of course I don’t just see them as a means to accrue revenue for Tenth Ward. They are all an integral part of an AMAZING team. They represent our brand in the most professional and top notch way, they excel in each of their fields and are always working to grow and professionally develop themselves. I, like many in my position, certainly have had that feeling that if you want to get the job done right you might as well do it yourself. However, it is an even more liberating feeling when you have all these tasks and roles that you used to all have to do yourself now being taken off your plate by specialized team members who can actually do those tasks even better than you. To sum it up, I’m proud of them for being good at their jobs and on top of their shit!
What have we accomplished in four years?
Thanks to the wonderfully aforementioned team I’m thrilled to list the following accomplishments that we’ve achieved in the past four years:
- Donated over 200,000 pounds of grain to local farms.
- Increased our revenue by 40% every year.
- Created jobs for and employed 14 local staff members.
- Lobbied to pass a number local, state and federal laws/regulations.
- Contributed to our local economy and community through donations, event hosting, joining local associations, participating in events, bringing in tourism, and so much more.
- Sourced nearby grain and cider to support local agriculture and manufacturing.
- Expanded and renovated a historic building.
- Won a half dozen of awards for our spirits.
- Grown our bottle club to almost 400 members.
I attribute so many of these accomplishments to our wonderful City of Frederick. Our city is made up of associations and government entities who want to grow our economy, community members who will always shop local first and an active craft beverage community with our well-run Maryland Distillers Guild.
What have I learned in four years?
Like I said before, I don’t know if the Monica four years ago would have been able to handle 2020 without perhaps having a total mental breakdown! I used to spend so much time reading about business management and looking at other distilleries with a microscope, wondering how a nearby distillery could afford to give cloth bags to every customer or why a certain brewery was always so much busier than my tasting room. It took me the first year or two to realize that we need to operate in a way that works best for us and that not every business (especially in this industry) can have an out-of-the-box model for success. For example: Yes, my tasting room might not have been as busy as that nearby brewery, BUT I have customers walking out the door spending a higher price point on spirit bottles where the average brewery customer is only there for a couple of pints. It’s just all relative depending on the business.
I’ve also learned to not stress when things happen that are out of my control. Let’s say for example some piece of equipment broke down and we need to come up with $10,000 to replace it – which has totally happened before! That super, totally sucks. Four years ago I would have been in a panic over situations like that, but now I’ve realized that when you’re running a business there is ALWAYS going to be something. An employee who needs to be out for two months on medical leave, air conditioning that decides to crap out on a 100 degree day when you have a 150 person wedding scheduled, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC/ECONOMIC RECESSION/CIVIL MOVEMENT (ALL AT THE SAME TIME)!
I love recommending a book called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” to all business owners. I believe leadership skills are exhibited in many ways, but especially by the way a person reacts to a situation no matter how challenging it is. I try to keep a cool head, not make any rushed decisions, talk through potential solutions with my team and sometimes my advisory board.
Now we are in one of those places where it certainly feels like everything is raining down on us. Times are hard, we have another one of those instances where we need to come up with some quick cash, but we have an amazingly supportive customer base and I have no doubt in my mind that we will make it work. More information on how to be a part of our current efforts to raise funding can be found here (link coming soon!).
We are already half way through the year and one year away from a five year anniversary so I say BRING IT ON 2020.