The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Brewing big business
A beer for all seasons
Anyone who is worried about the future of the younger generation should come to Borden-Carleton, P.E.I. and meet three entrepreneurial-minded visionaries: Dillon Wight, Jared Murphy and Spencer Gallant, joint-owners of Lone Oak Brewery.
Friends from an early age, they would meet regularly to discuss collaborating on building a business venture together. After brainstorming many ideas, they initially considered brewing cider. However, that soon evolved into creating a full-fledged, craft brewing operation.
After visiting BordenCarleton, they saw this location as ideal to attract tourists coming off the bridge or passing by on their way home. They also hoped to attract locals from all over the Island, as well as other like-minded retailers, making Gateway Village a go-to destination.
On top of entering an already crowded market (nine craft breweries in P.E.I.), the P.E.I. brewing philosophy is the better the competition is the better they will be. They believe this will increase market share for everyone. They praise Kevin Murphy and Jeff Squires (a direct competitor) for their support, encouragement and mentoring while getting started. In fact, Dillon and Jared both worked at The Gahan Brewery (formerly Murphy’s Brewing Co.) prior to venturing out on their own.
They were also supported with seed money from the McCain Foundation, designed to encourage small business investment in the Borden area. The plan is now to develop a “beer for all seasons” with the objective to maintain a year-round stream of business.
Unfortunately, within a few months of opening, COVID-19 hit. The province ordered restaurants and bars closed. While others would moan in despair, these resilient entrepreneurs were determined to make their venture a success.
They kept all seven fulltime people on the payroll to keep the operation running seven days a week. They began offering no-contact delivery at the brewery, deliver beer to your door, and created social distancing in their bar, tap room and outdoor eating area. Live music with local talent entertains on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays.
Trivia night is offered live and virtually. Eventually, they will have a full-service restaurant, but in the meantime, they have a partnership with Terry Nabuurs, who currently has a food trailer placed beside their building and serves an eclectic menu including quesadillas, lobster sandwiches and daily specials.
So, where does this determination and perseverance come from?
Jared, a high-energy, selfmotivated individual, directs the overall operations of the business. After graduating from UPEI, he went straight into the world of business managing a small enterprise. He enhanced his experience by working in marketing and communication for a nonprofit association. He discovered his great organizational skills and plans to develop quality business strategies that will ensure success.
Dillon began in the brewing industry at an early age. This is when he found his passion for understanding all aspects of the industry. He achieved his BSc in biology and has a strength for cultivating connections with business people.
Spencer entered the profession with the P.E.I. Brewing Company in 2013 after completing a chemistry degree from UPEI. He is now an experienced brewer with an expertise in product development. He played a role in beer creations that have been awarded gold, silver and bronze medals at the Canadian Brewing Awards. He is also an active member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists and has given multiple presentations at their international conferences.
Each of them attests that much of their management abilities come from on-thejob training and personal experiences. They practise open and direct communication and maintain open dialogue with all staff to work symbiotically as a team. As a result, they have been able to hire and maintain high-quality workers by including them in decision making, providing positive reinforcement and holding staff functions where they can relax and socialize.
The Lone Oak leadership mindset is that they would never ask an employee to do what they would not do themselves, including keeping the place tidy – even cleaning the washrooms.
When things do not go as expected, they do not criticize, but provide constructive options and positive reinforcement. Their practice is to provide negative feedback in private and praise good work in public.
When I asked, “What would you say was you biggest mistake?” they very quickly replied – “We thought too small: we should have dreamed bigger right from the start.”
This is a common theme I hear from many successful entrepreneurs.
Craft brewing is here to stay, and these young men are making their mark in the industry.
My question for managers: What is your daily practice to inspire a FEELING of true collaboration, teamwork and a friendly working atmosphere among your employees?