December 22, 2020 | HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program: Spotlighting BuzzBomb Brewing |
BuzzBomb Brewing Company's outside space in Springfield's open street initiative. Photo credit: Josh Flanders
Owner: Josh Flanders
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your small business.
Partners Josh Flanders, Benjie Gines, and Bill Larson had been avid homebrewers for years when they took their beers to a local festival in 2016. The reception from the public there was so good that with the help of the Small Business Development Center by the end of 2016 financing had been secured, a location purchased, and the journey begun. The partners spent the next 14 months renovating and remodeling a building in downtown Springfield into a production microbrewery with a two-story taproom. Since then, they have continued to add features and bring more excitement to downtown Springfield including Trivia nights, live music, comedy, and more.
How has your business been impacted by COVID-19?
The pandemic has hit us hard, as the bulk of our income has and continues to come through our taproom. Being both a bar and a music venue we're in two of the hardest hit industries. Since March we've operated in a reduced capacity. Our income has been down while our expenses have been up due to costs associated with cleaning supplies, outdoor seating, tents, heaters and propane, purchasing a new canning machine, and a significant increase in labor (for managing and cleaning expanded outdoor seating).
How are you using the grant funds, and how will they help your business?
Grant funds were used for the down payment to purchase a new canning machine. Thanks to the canning machine, we were able to increase our distribution and sell our beer ourselves, either as carryout or delivery, as well as sell it to stores so that we can diversity our income and make more money outside of our taproom. Distribution is the larger money maker over the long-term, so this is a really big step in that direction and will help grow our business not just now but in the future.
Are there any other ways you've pivoted your business in response to the pandemic?
The biggest pivot has been our expansion into distribution, which this grant has greatly facilitated. In addition to that we’ve added carry out and delivery, which we didn’t previously have. Also, while we’re not able to sell beer online, we have done some virtual happy hours and other online events to keep people engaged and hopefully supporting us during shutdown times.
What advice would you give to small business owners who are struggling right now?
This is a harder question to answer than it would have been a month ago. With winter approaching and COVID cases running rampant the immediate future looks dark. Our best advice is to be creative, keep your eye out for any possible help (e.g. our local utilities are making accommodations for small businesses around here), and utilize your social media to get as many people to support local as you can. Small businesses are the beating heart of Main Street and we’re only going to make it together.
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