John Frazee knows that business ownership is a science and an art, just like brewing beer. You must combine key elements in the right way to produce something great. John is a civil structural engineer by day and a craft brewer by night (and all other hours). He’s the founder of Gravity Brewing, a little gem tucked away in Louisville. John talked with me about how he got started in this industry and what keeps him going.
Growing up on a dairy farm, John learned what it was like to work in a small business environment and gained a “do things yourself” mentality. After 15+ years in corporate America, he decided to blaze his own path. John was inspired by Colorado’s vibrant craft beer scene and wanted to turn his passion for craft brewing into a business. At the time, there weren’t any breweries in Louisville or Lafayette, so he recognized a niche and seized the opportunity. As a result, he was the first of many breweries in East Boulder County.
John says that he loves getting to develop the mission for the brewery and see his vision in action every day. Brewing, like engineering, is a science that requires great attention to detail; but it also provides an awesome creative outlet, which balances out the analytical side of things. He says that it makes all the difference to you have a good team of employees because it makes the work environment fun and you know you have people to rely on.
Like many small business owners, John faces the challenge of prioritizing the many demands that are placed on him every day. In addition, there’s tons of competition in the craft beer industry, especially for small breweries. John says that it’s no longer, “make good beer and they will come.” In addition to having an outstanding product and a great tasting room, you have to be knowledgeable about marketing and sales to succeed.
Since the start, John’s goal for Gravity Brewing was for it to be the “neighborhood brewery” where people would build relationships by connecting with others in their community. One way that he promotes that idea is by hosting a family-friendly potluck every Tuesday night. People bring a dish to share and enjoy cold beer, delicious food and fun times with friends. Gravity also host fundraisers for local charities and provides the use of their space for community events.
John’s dad, who’s a lifelong small business owner, gave him some tough love about entrepreneurship, saying, “you don’t own the business, the business owns you.” John passes along the same insight and advises that when you own a business, it becomes your life. In other words, there’s no rest for the weary. He says that it’s crucial to be passionate about what you’re doing, or else you’ll quickly burn out.
John is the prime example of an entrepreneur. He recognized a niche that he could fulfill and turned his passion for craft beer into a business. Although it makes for a crazy schedule, he’s built the brewery while working his 9 to 5, proving that business ownership doesn’t have to be all or nothing. His story shows that you don’t need to quit your day job (just yet) but you do need to pursue something you love. Cheers to that!
Photo Credit: Gravity Brewing