SBA & SBTDC Support Early Stage Growth
Off-centered ales for off-centered people. The de facto mission statement of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery says it all.
“In that one phrase, you can understand what our company is all about and the profile of the consumer we are trying to attract,” said Sam Calagione, CEO of Dogfish Head based in Milton, Del.
Success hasn’t changed Calagione. More than 15 years since Dogfish’s launch, his innovative style continues to earn him a reputation as one of America’s most adventuresome brewers. It all started with a home brewing kit and a small Manhattan stove.
The Massachusetts native originally wanted to be a writer. While studying for a master’s degree in creative writing at Columbia University, a fateful job waiting tables introduced him to micro brewed beers. He soon discovered that he would rather spend his life brewing the great American beer than writing the great American novel.
After bankers dismissed his original business plan, he raised $180,000 from friends and family to open Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, a 150-seat restaurant-brewpub in downtown Rehoboth, Del. The first batch of Dogfish Head beer was brewed in the restaurant using three kegs with propane burners.
He took some training courses at the Small Business Technology Development Center and worked closely with its director, Bill Pfaff, to refine his business plan.
“From my first meeting with Sam, I had the feeling this guy was a leader,” said Pfaff. “Sam has passion, creativity and an inner spirit that draws you to him, making him just your average guy next door who happened to build an international business.”
In 1997, he opened a production facility in nearby Lewes. Working through the SBTDC again, he secured a $208,000 SBA guaranteed 7(a) loan through Delaware National Bank that enabled him to purchase larger brewing vessels to expand production. After outgrowing the original location, the brewery later expanded into its current location, a former cannery in Milton.
As the business grew, so did Calagione’s profile. In the past decade, he was honored as Delaware’s Small Business Person of the Year and the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the SBA and has since been tapped as a popular speaker and business guru on the national scene.
Dogfish Head has grown from 10 to 120 co-workers (not employees per Calagione) with sales projected to reach $41 million this year. In addition to the brewery and Rehoboth restaurant, Calagione recently developed licensing agreements with three Dogfish Head Alehouses in Virginia and Maryland and is in the final stages of launching a rooftop brewpub in New York City with famed chef Mario Batali.
Calagione and his team are featured in a new Discovery Channel reality television show chronicling the Dogfish Head Team’s adventures.
“We hope it will inspire fellow entrepreneurs and show how a small family-owned company with big ideas can make a difference in a crowded marketplace dominated by global conglomerates,” said Calagione.
The father of two credits his business partner and wife Mariah as a major force behind the business’ success. “I am the boss and Mariah is just the decision maker,” jokes Calagione.
Dogfish Head has become one of the most watched and well respected breweries in the country thanks in large part to Calagione’s unconventional brewing methods. He is known to transcend styles with unique beers like Chicory Stout, which is made with organic Mexican coffee and St. John’s Wort, and Immort Ale, which is brewed with juniper berries, vanilla and maple syrup. There is no doubt that its Raison D’être’s beet sugar and green raisins caught fan’s attention too. Dogfish Head also recycles ingredients from its innovative beers to make pizza dough, ice cream and cheesecake at the Rehoboth brewpub.
When archaeologists sought a leading brewer to recreate the ale recipe found in King Midas’s 2,700-year-old tomb, they turned to Calagione. After all, who else could turn Muscat grapes, honey and saffron into a delicious modern brew? Midas Touch caused such a stir in the beer industry that even the international media came calling.
Calagione is responsible for launching the brewpub and microbrewery industries in Delaware. When he first started the business, he discovered it was illegal to operate a brewpub in the state since Prohibition days. He worked closely with the Governor’s office and legislators to educate them on the industry’s economic impact. He later helped pass two other legislative bills permitting a brewpub to distribute its products and allowing a brewpub owner to operate a separate microbrewery.
Calagione’s marketing savvy and publicity stunts helped him to market the company on a shoestring in the early years. When Dogfish Head expanded to New Jersey, Calagione dressed as George Washington and rowed a handmade boat across the Delaware River. The publicity stunt caught the attention of Levi Strauss which selected him as one of six American entrepreneurs to launch its Slates clothing line. The marketing campaign allowed him to promote Dogfish Head to a larger national audience at the time.
Dogfish Head shares its success by giving back to the community. It is a strong supporter of The Center for Inland Bays, The Center for Marine Sciences, and the YMCA. The company was also recognized by Kent & Sussex Industries as an Outstanding Employer of special needs workers.
Its recycling practices have been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Wastewater Program. One of the company’s initiatives involves recycling all of the spent barley grain into cow feed. This innovative program creates over 150,000 pounds of feed a year.
The creative writing didn’t go to waste either. Calagione has authored three business books, including the infamous “Brewing a Business.” He credits the books for helping him articulate the off-centered, yet creative, independent and do it yourself business. Cheers!
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Delaware District Office will honor Kyle Morgan at the Delaware Small Business Week Awards Dinner on June 7 at the Executive Banquet and Conference Center in Newark.
Morgan owns and operates Mercantile Processing Inc. (MPI) in Fenwick Island, Delaware, a credit card processing broker, credit card terminal and ATM reseller and gift/loyalty card program supplier to more than 400 clients in the Delmarva region, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and California.
Morgan began working in the electronic transaction industry as an independent sales agent in college, becoming knowledgeable about the business, its rate structures and sales strategies. Once he felt prepared, he launched MPI in 2007. He hired Andrew Stump, his first employee in 2008, to be sales manager of three employees and five independent sales agents.
“Kyle demonstrated significant success in each of the evaluated areas, and shows great potential for the future growth of his business,” said Jayne Armstrong, district director of SBA’s Delaware District Office. “We are proud to have Kyle as part of the Delaware Small Business community; he is a perfect example of a young entrepreneur.”
To be considered a young entrepreneur, nominees must serve as a majority owner and operate or bear principal responsibility for operating a small business with a three year track record and not have reached the age of 30 by June 1, 2011. Morgan was selected for this honor based on the following criteria:
1. Evidence of success as measured by sales and profits.
2. Increased employment opportunities created by the nominee’s business.
3. Development and/or utilization of innovative or creative business methods.
4. Demonstrated entrepreneurial potential for long-term business success and economic growth.
Fulcrum Pharmacy (Fulcrum) is a private, woman owned pharmacy corporation founded by Christy Crkvenac in 2003. After having spent many years as a regional director for a large national long term care (LTC) pharmacy company, Crkvenac felt there was an opportunity to better service those members of the local community who had long been underserved by large LTC and chain retail pharmacies. She assembled a staff of pharmacists and professionals that had more than six decades of combined experience providing specialty pharmacy and consulting services designed to meet the unique needs of the clients they serve. In 2008 she founded Radius Rx Direct, similar to Fulcrum but offering services to a broader population of special needs clients. Both companies provide specialized and customized services to meet the unique needs of agencies that serve special needs persons in Delaware, including those with mental or behavioral health issues, physical disabilities, substance abuse challenges and those in correctional facilities or homeless shelters. By providing specialized services, including special packaging, delivery options, reimbursement and insurance expertise, and a customized formulary that remains flexible to suit the needs of the client, Fulcrum gained a reputation for providing exceptional pharmacy service. Now in its eighth year, Fulcrum is a fully certified Women Owned Enterprise filling thousands of prescriptions each month. Fulcrum is a shining example of how health care service can be improved without an accompanying increase in cost by using a combination of best practices and innovative methods. In 2003 with the help of SCORE counseling and a $200,000 SBA 7(a) loan (now paid in full) Fulcrum Pharmacy opened its doors to the LTC market. Crkvenac was fortunate in being able to take with her several employees who gave up the relative safety of a large, public company for the uncertainty of a start-up business. Fulcrum Pharmacy opened with just one customer. Having made a commitment to her employees to make the pharmacy a financial success, Crkvenac paid herself no salary for that first year to keep the company’s cash flow sufficient. Thanks to a sound strategy, innovative service, and a group of valiant customers, within 18 months of start-up, Fulcrum grew from a fledgling company to a viable force in the local LTC pharmacy market. Over the past seven years, Crkvenac’s businesses have shown steady, managed growth in their sales and profitability. Faced with more than the usual adversity encountered by a startup, her solid leadership and vision has resulted in an average annual growth rate of 13 percent since its inception and an increase in jobs from six to 29 employees. While the success of the business is satisfying, she is most gratified by the feedback from the organizations that her companies serve. The real motivation stems from the fuller lives of her patients as a result of the innovation and care that her companies provide in delivering their products. Crkvenac serves on the board of Connections Community Service Programs and is a committee member and sponsor at many local charities. Additionally, Fulcrum donated significant amounts of pharmaceutical and medical supplies to the Haitian Disaster relief effort. Crkvenac resides in Hockessin, Del. with husband Todd and their two sons.