Craig Theisen is a notable figure in the beverage industry as the co-owner of Peak Organic Brewing Company, which is headquartered in Portland, Maine. Recognizing a gap in the market for sustainably and organically produced beer, Craig, along with his co-founder Jon Cadoux, embarked on a mission to establish Peak. Craig's educational background includes an MBA from Babson College, providing him with the knowledge and skills necessary to bring his vision to life.
Peak differentiates itself within the beer market by sourcing their raw ingredients exclusively from organic farms. Craig and his team ensure that their hops, barley, wheat, and other essential components are cultivated without the use of harmful pesticides, chemicals, or fertilizers. While building this successful venture, Craig leaned into community for capital fundraising and to build brand loyalty. He spoke with us about how community helped him in the early stages of his business, and shared tips about entering a saturated market.
EKOS: How were you able to get Peak off the ground?
Craig: “Our capital fundraising came from our community of family and friends – that was how we started the business. We did a very small round to be able to get the brand started and our community took a big risk on us. We had the confidence that we could put Peak Organic on the map, but there was still stress everyday of thinking that if we did not succeed, we would let those that supported us down. Fortunately, when we reached out to the people in our communities for capital, they believed in us as well, and it's been successful. Building a loyal community and hearing their feedback has played a huge role in our success. Our way of engaging with and growing our community is by constantly being in touch with our consumers, communicating who we are and what we’re doing and sincerely listening to their feedback. You always have to keep moving and figuring out what the next big thing is and also not be a follower. You don't want to be 10th to market. So if you see a trend that's working, or hear good feedback from your customers, you need to try to dive into that as quickly as you can."
EKOS: What was your strategy about building a community around Peak when you first launched?
Craig: “The name of our company, "Peak," stemmed from the idea of celebrating peak experiences in your life. When we launched, we wanted to engage with our customers from day one and we asked them to submit photos of their peak experiences – a super happy time or memory. So it would be a family walking their dog on the top of a mountain, or kayaking down a river – the submissions were all over the map. People were submitting tons of photos, so when we came out with three beers in the first year, we would put the submitted photos on the bottles. We began to build a community within Peak because people were constantly engaging with us by sending photos of their peak experiences to be put on the bottle. If your photo was submitted and is now on a beer bottle, people loved it and would share the beer within their circles. This strategy also allowed us to grow our community and stay true to our company mission of getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors."
EKOS: What advice do you have for an entrepreneur entering a saturated market?
Craig: “First, identify your unique value proposition. What do you bring to the table that is underrepresented or different? Second, conduct market research. It's important to understand who you’re going up against and what's successful for them and what's not. Third is always be out there as the face of the company continuing to figure out who your customer is, and what they’re looking for. Educate your customers well on what you’re doing that is new and different, and let them know where they can find your product. This leads into the fourth tip of developing good relationships with retailers to get your product in a sensible or high traffic spot in a store. Fifth, keep your head down, plug away and know you’re going to make errors. If you make a large investment in your business that doesn’t pan out, don’t let it get you down. Instead, learn from it and continue making educated decisions moving forward with that new knowledge. Sixth is to build your brand with a focus on quality to gain the trust of your customers and new customers. Lastly, be patient and persistent. You're your own boss and you're pushing hard, so you can't blame anybody else except yourself. You have to look in the mirror every day and say, “Hey, what can I be doing better?” I think if you have that mentality and that drive, then anything is possible."
1) Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends within your community when trying to get a business off the ground.
2) Use a strategy that will spark word of mouth advertising among your consumers.
3) Clearly communicate what makes you different when entering a saturated market.
We are so grateful to Craig for sharing his journey on how he was able to successfully launch Peak Organic Brewing Company and grow a loyal consumer base.
If you’re thinking about launching your own business, follow your passion and do it!
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