Early in 2013, two entrepreneurs decided to start up a business in a growing economic sector – micro-brewing beer. Matt Ferrucci and Tom Drejer formed a business partnership and began experimenting with flavors and beer types they liked and they knew that their friends would like. Matt had been brewing beer for over 13 years and Drejer has home brewing roots in the late 1990s.
Matt and Drejer began formulating their brew operations schedules to operate a successful brewery and thinking through business management skills they needed. Although they both had business backgrounds they realized that there were things they had not experienced – so they went to the Southeastern Chapter of SCORE, and attended several SCORE workshops on business planning. “The workshops were great”, according to Drejer. “The SCORE volunteers who lead them are real business pros.” After attending the workshop “we realized we wanted to further engage with SCORE as we built out our business,” Ferrucci added.
Matt and Drejer decided to take advantage of SCORE’s business mentoring support, and connected with two SCORE mentors, — Jud Perkins of Salem, who brought experience as the construction manager at Disney World and Mike Del Vecchio of Killingworth, who held senior management positions and owned several companies. Both were retired and SCORE volunteers. “The Score volunteers, Mike and Jud, have strong and diverse experience”, according to Drejer, “and over time we viewed them as an invaluable part of our team.”
Drejer and Ferrucci had written a comprehensive business plan prior to meeting with Perkins and Del Vecchio, and a review of the plan by the experienced SCORE business mentors led to several changes to the finances and operations, and the result was a plan that was “bank ready” for startup funding applications.
“SCORE really helped us to move this process along”, Drejer said.
Del Vecchio, Ferrucci and Drejer worked as a true team during the pre-production phase. Startup went relatively quickly: conversations with the mayor’s office and zoning department went smoothly — all officials were very helpful and worked well with the startup team. Financing was in the works with the State of CT. Jess Wenzel at Eastern Savings assisted with startup SBA backed financing. A brewmaster was hired; a private debt placement and equity infusion generated funds for a down payment on equipment; a tap room constructed; a board of directors including Del Vecchio and Wendy Richardson of Premier CPAs, PC of East Lyme was formed to provide guidance to the inexperienced operation, and equipment was procured and installed.
“Throughout the startup process the team from SCORE was there helping us step by step,” Ferrucci said. Their combined efforts were recognized at a luncheon by the Small Business Administration in 2014 as a success story.
Launch occurred on April 3, 2015 and a Grand Opening launch was held May 30, 2015 at the Bridge Street location in Groton – attendees included several dignitaries – Congressman Joe Courtney, SBA state director Bernie Sweeney, local State representatives, representatives from the mayor’s office, Southeastern Connecticut SCORE Chapter Chair Bob Potter, board members Richardson and Del Vecchio, several distributors and a large number of family and friends.
Today the company taproom and brewing facilities are at 266 Bridge Street in Groton. It currently has three distributors and delivers 1,400 barrels of product throughout the State of Connecticut. They are planning a canning facility which will increase distribution, and by year-end they are projected to employ six people.
“The Outer Light team were ideal SCORE clients as they were had a great vision for their business and they were ready to engage with us,” Del Vecchio said.
Are you ready to turn your hobby into a business, or expand the business you currently have? If you need assistance in getting started, or if you want to take your business to the next step, SCORE can help.
Mike Del Vechiio is SCORE mentor. SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers free and confidential advice on starting your own business or improving and growing your existing small business. All 45 counselors in Southeast Connecticut are volunteers, receive no compensation, and are working or retired business owners, executives, and managers. SCORE’s nine counseling sites in Southeast Connecticut include Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Essex, Waterford, Middletown, Mystic, Norwich, and New London. For more information on upcoming free workshops and how to schedule a free small business mentoring session with our counselors, visit www.sect.score.org.