Give us your “elevator pitch” (What you do, who you are, where you’re from).
My name is Brad Cooper, President and founder of Steam Bell Beer Works. Steam Bell aspires to be a family friendly brewery attracting novices and veterans alike with a collection of hand crafted ales inspired by blending old world Belgium with the new-age ingredients and techniques.
Who’s your hero?
Growing up my hero was Captain Nemo of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Nowadays, I would have to say that my heroes are my parents. From the start they have been incredibly supportive. I have taken over the garage with large brewing vessels until I secure a location. The refrigerator is full of beer, yeast samples and hops. They are opening up the house for me to hold investor meetings.
When I lost my job in the mining industry last year, they insisted that instead of looking for another job, I should kick it into high gear and focus my efforts on owning my own business. Anytime I am unsure of things, they are there to offer a second opinion. I hope that I am lucky enough to be able to offer this same advice to my own children in the future.
When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to unwind and refocus?
My parents have this little get-away place down in the mountains of North Carolina. It is 15 miles down a single lane dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and is far away from the internet, and cell coverage. We don’t even have a landline phone! This setting gives me the perfect place to escape the everyday grind.
What’s your favorite book?
The book that really inspired me to be the person I am today is Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I first read this book back when I was at the lowest of lows. Every problem I had, I was blaming it on other people- my parents, my teachers, my boss… you name it.
The big lesson I took away from this book was to take responsibility not only for my actions, but also my conditions. I friend told me one time, “If things don’t go your way, you are allowed to be angry, you are allowed to be pissed off, you can even feel sorry for yourself… but never for more than five minutes. Once that five minutes is up, then you begin looking for a solution.”
After reading this book, I no longer accepted my situation as something I had to deal with, but as something that is up to me to change.
Describe the biggest risk you’ve ever taken. How did it work out?
I am still in the startup phase, so everyday has me taking greater and greater risks. I am currently signing up investors to fund the rest of the capital needed to open Steam Bell, and pretty soon I will be responsible for over a quarter million dollars of other people’s money. This scares the living daylights out of me. So check back with the Facebook page, and I’ll let you know how it turns out!
What’s your favorite quote?
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between
his work and his play,
his labor and his leisure,
his mind and his body,
his education and his recreation,
his love and his religion.
He hardly knows which is which.
He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.
To him he is always doing both.”
Describe your dream vacation.
Vacation? What’s that?
My favorite vacation I have ever had occurred when I drove from Virginia to Washington State with my best friend who had an internship with an aerospace company out there. We drove out there together at the beginning of the summer, and back again at the end of the summer. Along the way we saw many of the touristy areas that we had never seen before simply due to our homes being on the East Coast. I would take that trip again in a heartbeat, only this time I would avoid the interstates.
Where do you see yourself in 25 years?
Most people going along the path of opening a brewery quickly put their focus on growth. I personally feel that the further out I send my product, the less attached I am to my customer. I want my brewery to establish its identity as the premier sour beer (yes, that’s a thing) brewery on the East Coast, and while I may not distribute around the country, I will attract the hardcore beer fanatics from all over the world. I have, however, learned the perils of being dependent on a single income stream. As soon as my brewery has become established, I will begin working on developing a second business… not sure what that will be yet, but I am working on some ideas!
What’s currently on your radar? Tell us about your latest project.
Big picture, my goal is getting Steam Bell off the ground and running. The current step I am working on is the fundraising aspect. After speaking with my attorney and CPA, they recommended that I go the route of a ‘convertible note.’
While going through the planning phase, I made it a point to network and tell my dreams to everyone that would listen. Now that I am beginning to approach these people for money to fund this company, the process is much easier because they have been part of the process all along.
Any advice for recent college grads?
“‘I am good at school.’ This is a fundamentally different statement from, ‘I did well in school and therefore I will do great at a job working for you.’ The essential thing measured by school is whether or not you are good at school.”
“Many successful people got that way despite their advanced schooling, not because of it.”-Seth Godin
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is another book I highly recommend. It’s no secret that a college degree is not worth as much as it used to be. According to Seth Godin, it is because schools are still teaching people how to succeed in yesterday’s economy.I’m not trying to tell you that your college degree is worthless, what I am saying is that today’s economy bears a stark contrast to what it was 20+ years ago, and schools have yet to catch up. I do however believe there is a reason that some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts.
Today’s educational system prepares you very well for a job that comes with a detailed instruction manual where you are constantly told what to do. The most valuable positions in today’s job market are the ones that are impossible to write that instruction manual for, the troubleshooters, the people that get the job done regardless of what the rules say to do.
Connect with Brad:
Check out Steam Bell Beer Works on Facebook and be sure to follow then on Twitter & Instagram @Steambellbeer. Also, connect with Brad on LinkedIn.
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