Ballad Brewing Company opened in Danville in 2017 with a plan to start small and grow from there.
“The first year we sold beer in our own tap room to learn what our customers liked and chose the beers we wanted to send to distribution,” Ballad Business Operations Manager Tim Meyers explains.
The brewery was an offshoot of a Danville River District project of developers Ross Fickenscher and Garrett Shifflett.
“Ross and Garrett had been working on this building as a third phase of their loft apartments project,” Meyers says. “Rather than rent the lower floor of the building, they decided to get into the brewery game themselves.”
Fickenscher and Shifflett, who also restored Farmville’s Hotel Weyanoke, had previously worked with the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC). When the brewery needed financing for its bottling line, SBDC was the logical place to go.
“I reached out to Longwood SBDC Executive Director Sheri McGuire, and she told us all the things SBDC had to offer,” Meyers relates.
Meyers and Ballad’s Creative Director Aly Fickenscher have been working consistently with the SBDC team ever since.
Along with financial assistance, Ballad received a wealth of advice with SBDC projections.
“SBDC consultant Brandon Hennessey did a fantastic job of helping us build a model that will tell how things will look as we grow,” Meyers adds. “It helped us analyze the types of beers we make and make recipe changes as well as when we should approach new markets.”
After the Hotel Weyanoke opened in May 2018, Ballad brought its beer to Farmville’s boutique hotel.
“Farmville is a small market, but it’s had higher volume than expected,” Meyers explains. “Now our bottles are for sale in the Food Lion in Farmville as well as several other restaurants.”
This distribution led to other markets for Ballad.
“After we went to Farmville, we added Danville, South Boston and Martinsville,” Meyers relates. “Just a few months ago we brought Lynchburg, Roanoke and Salem into the fold.”
Meyers plans to continue this gradual growth plan until the brewery reaches full capacity.
Meyers credits SBDC with guiding the new brewery through its gradual growth process.
“Our business has grown since we’ve been working with SBDC,” he adds. “They’ve been super helpful in giving us a roadmap so that the growth we’re experiencing is good growth.”
Meyers also appreciates the long-term relationship SBDC offers.
“When I first started working with SBDC, I assumed it would be a one-time deal. SBDC would help us get our things in order, and then we would be on our own,” he says. “What we found was exactly the opposite. I can send Brandon new financials any time I have them, and he’s ready to help.”
SBDC, Meyers found, was there to help with any business-related concern.
“I would absolutely recommend SBDC,” Meyers concludes. “They’ve been extremely helpful for a small startup business like ours. I can’t thank them enough for all the help they’ve given us.”