Imagine devoting your life savings and years to a start-up brewery, going into deep debt and sleeping on a cot in your brewery, not just because you “live your job”.
Fast forward seven years. You’ve worked hard to build a successful brand, you have 14 employees, and you make award-winning beer for a loyal customer base that has grown so much that you’re building an $ 8 million multi-purpose brewing complex down the road.
Then a pandemic hits and all of a sudden you’re ordered to shut down. For how long? Nobody knows.
“For the hammer to fall so quickly was not something that no one was prepared for,” said Todd Baldwin, president and founder of Red Leg Brewing in Colorado Springs. “That everything you work for is beyond your control is an emotion that very few of us have known. “
Like most business owners, Baldwin said his first thoughts after learning of the mandatory brewery shutdowns, which went into effect on March 16, were with his employees.
“We brought our team in the next day when I think a lot of people got the ax,” Baldwin said. “We decided to take a very different approach. We said we’ll keep everyone.
As long as they could, at least.
Baldwin put it all on the table: At that time, Red Leg had enough reserves to keep everyone going for another eight weeks.
“We told our employees, this is how much money we have. That’s the length of time we can keep everyone working… without any money coming in, ”Baldwin said. “We said, we’d rather keep all of you employed, do the right thing, and get you together as a team rather than putting you in line with the 14 million other unemployed.”
Baldwin knows he was lucky he was able to make this decision, as other breweries without such a cushion have been forced to go into “survival mode”, lay off and leave staff or even leave. close their doors.
He also believes that being able to say he had kept all of his employees helped Red Leg’s request for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, intended to help small businesses weather the pandemic storm and better. position them to reopen once it has passed.
Red Leg received “just under $ 100,000” in the first round of loans in early April. If used for designated expenses, with at least 75% going to employees, the loan will be forfeited, he said.
“It turns into a grant, on our side,” said Baldwin, who applied for the loan through Pikes Peak National Bank, with advice from the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.
Baldwin said the loan, along with the Forge Road Brewery’s packaged and take-out beer sales, mean he’s able to continue the “math equation” of staying open, despite losing money. money every week and that the brewery is only operating at a fraction of its usual output.
“We are now in the middle of summer, generally producing at full capacity. We’re 30% producing now, ”Baldwin said.
At least he doesn’t have to worry about where the payroll money is coming from for a few more weeks. Hopefully by then the reopening, or a plan for it, will be on the horizon, he said.
“That’s what’s important with the PPP loan is to provide that stability. For our employees, so they can pay off their mortgages and shop and continue to be consumers, ”Baldwin said. “Also for the company, so when the doors open, we don’t start from scratch. We don’t have to retrain bar staff or brewers. These are the same employees you remember, and we’re ready and ready to make the switch.