In our Founder Feature Series, we chat with the founders of the 5th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys. They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community!
From friction comes the spark.
That line likely resonates with many entrepreneurs and it happens to be the tagline for Friction Beer Company, the focus of this week’s Founder Feature Series! We dug in a bit more to learn about the company and its Cofounders, Brent Anderson and Nathan Ryerson. It may come as no surprise that Friction Beer Company is a small production brewery and tap room with a model built to disrupt the status quo. There will be no distribution, just beer sold only on the premises and cans-to-go, focused on quality and freshness above all. Brent has gone through Kauffman’s FastTrac twice and is a skilled asset in the advertising world, while Nathan is a home brewer and runs an influential YouTube beer review channel. The Cofounders aim to connect all the dots of the brand in order to create a stronger emotional connection with drinkers.
What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?
My partner Nathan and I were in finance/sales and advertising/beer, respectively. We realized we had a mighty compatible combination of skills to be a good match in business together.
Why this startup? A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?
We were both super into craft beer, me having recently left Boulevard after some pivotal years and Nathan as a committed home brewer/beer reviewer. We were watching a soccer game together (another passion [of ours], and that’s much more enjoyable when considering our name is Friction and we support two different British teams), when the conversation turned to beer and he revealed he’d contemplated starting a brewery. By the end of the game, the deal was sealed. Strangely serendipitous, but in an undeniable way that left us feeling this was meant to be.
What was your first milestone/win that let you know you were on the right track to build this business?
Things started coming together so quickly after we created a business plan. It was designed to be disruptive, knowing the industry and local market as we do and wanting to do something different – both in terms of beer and business model. What really fueled us was the positive responses to our initial brews from even non beer-geeks.
Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?
Kansas City is such a great entrepreneurial community and we felt fortunate to have the opportunity to further embed ourselves in that. No matter how skilled you think you are, no matter how knowledgeable in a particular industry, there’s always something new to learn. Particularly when it comes to business, and the stark realities it brings to even the most romantic of pursuits. We knew this program could help expand our minds and universe.
What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?
Our mentor, Jason Gaikowski, Global Lead, Brand & Business Design at VML has been a valuable foil and source of knowledge. He always injects that thing we might not have considered that shifts the conversation in a great way. Plus it’s always beneficial to have other startup founders around that are going through the same throes you are in trying to start a business.
How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?
No easy feat that. I always say, “balance in everything.” Not that we always manage that. We know our pain points, when to let go for even a moment and take a break– even as parents. But we’re also “eyes-on-the-prize” grinders. We both love to travel and have our outlets. I drum and swim. Nathan’s a top golfer and bowler. It also doesn’t hurt to have good beer around all the time.
KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs. What are we still missing? What gaps do you think we need to fill?
As much as we’re a growing mid-size metropolis, it’s still a small town where you can easily network if you’re so motivated.
Honestly, having moved to KC after living in two other major metropolises, it’s hard to fault the support system here. We now have multiple co-working spaces, startups get press, the community wants to elevate everything local. I appreciate that Kansas City celebrates this and wants to build upon it.
If I had to pick, perhaps there could be clearer channels between startups and potential funding sources.
Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?
The Kauffman Foundation. I’ve now taken their FastTrac accelerated entrepreneurial course twice, for two different businesses (the second time for Friction). I love that they host the 1 Million Cups meetup every Wednesday morning, where two startups pitch their ideas and a like-minded audience gets involved, makes suggestions, offers contacts and networks. It’s become a great hub.
If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Patience. Admittedly not a strong suit. We came charging straight out of the gate and sometimes that rush of emotion overtakes logic. We’ve since slowed our initial rocket trajectory a bit to focus on getting our financing and structure solid so we can go big and do it right straight out of the gate. You only get one chance and we’re not going to blow it by rushing or forcing things.
Also published on Medium.