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Brewing Up Business

Over the last 11 years, the Bryan School has developed a strong relationship with North Carolina’s wine industry. Under the leadership of Sam Troy, Dr. Bonnie Canziani, and Dr. Erick Byrd, marketing and hospitality students have worked with many of the state’s family-owned vineyards and provided guidance to the state itself through the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council and the North Carolina Winegrower’s Association. Now, they are looking to do the same in the craft beer and distilled spirits industries.

HELPING TURN THE NORTH CAROLINA WINE BUSINESS INTO A $2 BILLION INDUSTRY

When the Bryan School first got involved with North Carolina winemakers, the industry was still in its infancy. There were a lot of small wineries making exceptional wine but, as with many small businesses, many of the owners had their hands full making the wine. They didn’t have the time or the expertise to focus on marketing or growing their businesses.

“We initially made a lot of assumptions about the industry, but what really helped us build a relationship with these winemakers was sitting back and listening,” says Troy. “We started going to the North Carolina Winegrower’s Association meetings, and they got used to having us there. They saw we were making a commitment, and that got them to open up and listen to our ideas. We started out by conducting needs assessments, and this led to a range of collaborative projects.”

In 2014, Troy, Byrd, and Canziani developed a report for the Winegrower’s Association, outlining how the growers and the government could work together to build the industry. Both the state and the winemakers took many of the recommendations in the report to heart, and the results speak for themselves. Total economic output for North Carolina’s wine industry hit nearly $2 billion in 2017, up from $1.71 billion just five years earlier, and the volume of wine produced has doubled as well. Now, the state has awarded the Bryan School with a contract to produce a new plan aimed at taking the North Carolina wine industry to new levels.

 

GETTING IN THE CRAFT BREW SPIRIT

Sam Troy (left) and Dr. Erick Byrd (right) enjoy a pint with Natty Greene’s co-founder and Bryan School alumnus Chris Lester (center).

With all the success the Bryan School experienced working with winemakers, supporting the craft brewing and spirits industries seemed like a natural fit. “We’ve learned a lot from working with winemakers that can be applied to the craft brewing and spirits industries,” says Byrd. “It’s also an area that is very exciting to our students. There are lots of different opportunities with individual brewers and within the industry as a whole to engage in different areas of the business. For example, students may get the opportunity to work on projects that include marketing plans, feasibility studies, distribution issues, or strategic planning.”

The outlook for the craft beer and spirits industries is also promising, which adds to the excitement. The number of craft brewers has more than tripled since 2010, and the total economic impact of the industry is about the same as that of the wine industry when the Bryan School started developing its relationship with winemakers. “It would be pretty incredible if we could have a similar impact on the craft beer and spirits industries,” says Troy.

As an informal kickoff to this budding relationship, the Bryan School has partnered with Natty Greene’s, a local brewery owned and operated by two UNCG alumni. The brewery sponsored a tasting on campus along with two local vineyards and participated in a panel discussion to talk about the state of the industry and partnership opportunities – some of which are already in the making.

 

MAKING AN ANGRY TROLL HAPPY

 When Angry Troll Brewing took over the restaurant space above its brewery, the business’s partners had some concerns about their new venture. Would it be part of the Angry Troll brand, or have a separate identity? How would the restaurant be integrated with the taproom and brewery? Should they have one website or two?

For Louis Jeroslow, Kevin Stainback, and the other partners at Angry Troll Brewing, their questions couldn’t have come at a better time. With Byrd and Troy looking to get the Bryan School more involved in the local beer industry, it was the perfect project for a few of their hospitality and tourism students.

“We were very enthusiastic about providing some of our students the opportunity to work with Angry Troll,” says Byrd. “We knew it would be a larger project with many different components and educational opportunities.”

Starting with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and an interview with Jeroslow and Stainback, the students began putting together their recommendations. “The whole process was really invaluable,” says Jeroslow. “We had three students working with us, and they gave us a lot of fresh insight and thoughtful suggestions.”

Jeroslow and his partners were so impressed, in fact, that they began implementing many of the team’s suggestions almost immediately and plan to implement others. The students helped develop brand standards, demonstrated a customer’s typical website visit, and devised a plan for Angry Troll Brewing to merge their online assets.

“One of the biggest things I learned was about our brand presence,” says Jeroslow. “We just took it for granted that people knew who we were, especially if people were already in the restaurant or the taproom. The students from the Bryan School helped me see that we needed to do a better job of getting our name in front of people as often as possible.”

It was also reassuring to hear some of the things Angry Troll was doing right, says Jeroslow. The restaurant’s décor, which highlights the history of the building and the Elkin community where Angry Troll is located, fits perfectly with the brand. It creates a rich, inviting atmosphere – something that was not lost on the students.

Now that the restaurant has been successfully relaunched, Jeroslow says the next step is to grow the brand by doing more local marketing for the restaurant and increase brand recognition for the brewing company across the state. “We would definitely welcome the opportunity to work with the Bryan School again,” says Jeroslow. “It was an all-around great experience and has definitely helped improve our business.”