Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's in a name?

When Ryan first proposed the idea of opening a nano-brewery we all had a slighly different picture of what it would take to get it off the ground, but most of our ideas followed a relatively similar path.  Obtain funding, develop recipes, get a location, file appropriate paperwork, brew beer and sell it.  Some of us went a little more detailed into different parts of the above equation, but, for the most part we all were ont the same page about the work required on various parts in order to be successful. 

We started having weekly meetings so we could stay on track and check off all the boxes that needed to be checked off.  We discussed our name, our image and our brand often, but mostly in a high level discussion, not really drilling down to the specifics of the question, "What do we call ourselves?"  Then one week we decided it's time to really start answering these questions more specifically.  So, we had a brainstorming session with pieces of paper taped on Ryan's dining room wall where we each wrote down our ideas for actual names of our brewery (after making sure the markers didn't bleed onto the wall underneath, of course!).  Now we had 30+ different ideas, some still pretty general, some specific.  We mulled over these individually, but no one was ever really sold on any of them.  The more we tried to label ourselves, the more difficult we found it to really settle on one small set of characters to define our entire business venture.  We wanted to convey that we were local in mindset, but not have it sound weird if we hit it bigtime and were able to distribute nationally.  We wanted to make sure people knew we were brewing beer, not making park benches.  We wanted it to be memorable, but not memorable in the way you remember when your co-worker had a few too many at the office holiday party.  On and on our requirements went until we didn't think there was a single combination of numbers and letters available to us with the English language that would accomplish everything we wanted it to.

During this process there were several concepts and several ideas from the original brainstorming session that continued to be brought up.  It seemed like every meeting we were discussing the same four or five names and each time we had different arguments for each of them.  Who knew naming a company could be so friggin difficult??!!?!  Then we stopped talking about it for awhile.  We had narrowed it down to a few different options, much more manageable than 30, and we all just sat on them for a couple of weeks.  We moved on to different challenges that needed to be addressed more urgently than a name did.  After resolving those issues we came back to the name and a funny thing happened.  In the time that we took to address other issues and stew privately on the potential name of the brewery we had all come to the same conclusion.  We were making it too complicated.  We couldn't come to a consensus because we were trying to convey too many different messages with a single phrase.  In the end, what mattered is that even though we put it on the back burner and dealt with other issues, one option was clearly more easily recalled than any other.  We had finally chosen our name.

Now, how do we display that name?  Crap.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, we are extremely lucky to have two very talented graphic designers at our disposal.  We gave them the name and politely asked them to come up with some logo concepts for us to review.  I never probed too much into their development process, but I gather that they both worked on some ideas separately.  Then, when they had narrowed down their individual concepts to a dozen or so each, they combined their ideas and began collaborating more extensively to develop an overall design to present us.  They were extremely professional in their initial presentation to us.  They did not want color preferences to sway us in a particular direction so we first reviewed 7 different primary designs, with a few different font variations of the basic design, all in black and white.  Following an almost identical pattern to our struggles coming up with a name, it took us almost a month to decide on a main design.  We then asked them to use the main design, but with some different font options.  They came back a little later with 8 different fonts for us to choose from (this had been narrowed down from a total of around 48 different options before it even got to us!).  We worked a little quicker this time around and were able to come up with 2 that we liked a lot within a week.  So, one more meeting and they were kind enough to add a dash of color to our otherwise black and white logo options with the two different font options.  In a rare moment of clarity, we were able to actually decide on the final version that night after only reviewing the color/font options for a couple of hours!  That is lightning fast compared to the other logo/name decisions we have made!

If you have stuck with me this far (thank you!), I won't tease you any longer.  This post really does intend to officially release our name and logo to the public (well, public being those of you reading this blog!).  So, without any further explanation, I hereby proudly present:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Next steps, and another birthday!

Well, I wrote recently about the birthday of our company.  That was really the first big step for us as in order for us to make any real movement towards selling our first beer, we had to legally form our company.  Since then, we have opened our bank account (resulting in the first official mailing to our company...checks!), visited/reviewed potential locations, contacted our Trademark attorney and started the process of getting our name trademarked.  It's like Dominoes, once we get one thing taken care of, that leads us to our next step.  While there is a lot to do, it is helpful that much of the big stuff has to be tackled in a very specific order.

While the four of us have been busy with the above, Ryan and Brandon's wives have been working hard to produce a logo that we can use in marketing materials as well as the front of the tap room.  Those two have put up with lots of differing opinions and suggestions from all of us, but have truly come up with a wonderful design.  They are now hard at work designing business cards, letterhead and promotional materials.  If I haven't said it before, we are extremely lucky to have these two talented women helping us with this journey.  They have made our choices extremely difficult by providing many wonderful logo options for us to review and decide between and we are all eager to unveil our name and our logo to the public!

We have narrowed down our fermenter options and our brew house options and are very nearly ready to write a really big check to place our order for these critical components.  Ryan has been heading this search, but all of us have weighed in on the options he has presented to us.  This is obviously a very important decision for us, not only because of the money involved, but because these are the pieces of equipment that we need to trust to produce the quality of beer we want to deliver.  We can adjust our malt supplier(s), our hop supplier(s), etc. but once we purchase our brew house and fermenters, we have to raise a lot of capital to replace them!

In addition to the logistical part of getting this company off the ground, we were actually able to share our beer with a group people we didn't know for the first time.  We brought 3 styles (Numb Nut Ale, Berliner and an American Wheat yet to be named) to a pot luck at the Valley Junction Foundation a few weeks ago.  The tastes of these individuals ranged from someone who drank nothing but Coors Light, but came back up time and time again asking for Numb Nut by name to another who enjoyed all styles of beer and asked for a different flavor each time and truly seemed to be enjoying himself and the variety!  It was really great to see the reactions that strangers had to our beer partially because it was an extremely positive reaction, but also because it really was the first time we got to experience the realization of the basic reason we wanted to start this business in the first place.  While our actual mission statement has yet to be formally drafted, we all wanted to provide a higher quality, better tasting beer to the people of the Des Moines area.   Seeing the smiles and feeling the excitement that our beer helped create was a really fun experience and I can't wait to do it again.

If all that wasn't enough to be excited about, Dave and his wife welcomed a new baby girl to their family!  Dave's cell phone had been a constant companion at our meetings for awhile, never knowing if he would need to take off.  In the end, it was a very happy early, early morning for Dave and his family.  Congratulations you guys, now get some sleep if you can! :)

Until next time, Cheers!