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STARTING WITH THE WHY
25 years old. Living in the city. Working my tail off in a job I didn’t care much about and waking up every morning with the same sinking feeling and thought racing through my brain, “Why?” I was in what I would later refer to as the “quarter life crisis”. I had proven to myself over 3 years that I could hack it on Wall Street and with that box checked off, I needed my heart to be in it to keep going. But it wasn’t. I didn’t care about the job or the money that came with it. My first job in my pre-teen years involved picking strawberries and pumpkins at my local farm. A few years later I was promoted to working the corn stand. From there, I worked as a dishwasher in multiple kitchens, then a banquet server, and then a painter. In college, I worked in maintenance one summer, started a painting business the next summer, and then worked a marketing internship the summer before landing a Wall Street investment banking job in New York City. I grew up spoiled and comfortable and new experiences kept me interested and motivated, not money. So why was I constantly grinding to make money? I knew that if I worked hard at whatever I did, I would be successful. But I wanted more. I wanted to be inspired, to be happy. And I was at a loss as to how to find a job that would give me that. So I thought back to that summer when I started the painting company with my twin brother. I had loved the “owning my own destiny” feeling you get when you are the one that is making everything happen. With this thought in mind, I started gathering with my friends at local bars on a regular basis to come up with business ideas. After dozens of these “beerstorming” sessions, and with no idea emerging as a clear winner, I realized it was time to make a change of pace. Thought I didn’t know what I was looking for, I knew I wasn’t going to find it with one foot still on Wall Street. So, I decided to leave.
MY BRIGHT IDEA
After a couple of months of planning for what would become a life-changing trip, I landed in Lima, Peru in August 2008. In tow were my fiancée Lindsay, her brother Andrew, and a 50-pound backpack filled with what I would need for the next 15 weeks. During that trip, I woke up early to catch a glimpse of Machu Pichu at sunrise, observed the afternoon maté ritual in Brazil, sampled fresh wine trail-side on a hike of Cinque Terre, and philosophized over liters of beers in Munich bier gardens. To me, those experiences made up real wealth. And in the middle of this cathartic period in my life, I stumbled upon what we refer to at Half Full as my “Bright Idea” that would forever change the direction of my life.
Sitting in a rented guest room in Prague on October 31, 2008, I experienced a confluence of events that sparked my Bright Idea. The realization that I’m most happy when I’m connecting with people, a push from a close friend and some unfortunate news from back home made me realize that from here on out, I was going to make life count. I wanted to wake up energized to go to work. I wanted to have my own “work utopia”. I was going to create something of my own, something I could be passionate about and that would make me happy, something that brought people together and was celebratory in nature. And then it hit me – “I’ll open a brewery”. This was one of the ideas I had come up with during an NYC “beerstorming” session and a few days later, on a train ride from Prague to Vienna, I laid everything out that I would need to learn about the beer business. I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted to be different, about how I wanted the brewery to stand for more than just beer. This brewery wasn’t going to be like other breweries, named after a person, a town, mountain, street, or an animal. No, I wanted to be a brewery that made people like me – those with that “why?” thought constantly running through their brains — think, philosophize, and feel inspired and optimistic. And so in my notebook, I wrote the following: Life is Half Full. And it hit me. I was traveling the world in an attempt to figure out life, not knowing how things would turn out, but believing that in the end, everything would work out for the best. My figurative glass was “Half Full” and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t the only one with this perspective, but I also knew that some people needed to be reminded of this glass-half-full concept from time to time. This would be the early mission of the Half Full Brewery – to constantly inspire optimism in ourselves and others.
PURSUIT OF PASSION
Now, I knew that there was a huge difference between dreamers and doers and mostly it had to do with blind conviction and ambition. Luckily, I was full of both and so I got right to work. I knew I needed to pursue two Masters degrees, one in business and one in beer, and so I pursued both. Ahead of enrolling in the full-time University of Connecticut (“UConn”) MBA program, I spent the summer learning everything I could about brewing from Rob Leonard at New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, CT. I soon began home-brewing with my uncle, sister, brothers, friends, and by myself and began brewing Half Full’s first Bright Ales. I spoke to anybody and everybody about beer and I also spoke to anybody and everybody who would listen to me about why I was compelled to open a craft brewery after the glass-half-full concept. On May 7th, 2011, I graduated from the UConn MBA program with my business plan and my initial capital, which I won in a business plan competition at UConn, in hand. On May 25th, 2011, nearly 2½ years after I had my “Bright Idea” for the Half Full Brewery, I began the arduous task of finding funding. And then on September 28th of that same year, with the help of my mother’s legal expertise, and with my expertise in running through walls, I reached my minimum fund raising goal. I will forever be indebted to the 51 individuals who originally believed in me. With the click of a button I moved the money from an escrow account into the official Half Full Brewery, Inc. account. I was officially in business.
Now the real work began. I procured equipment, hired a crew, and converted an old factory into the Half Full Brewery. And on August 7th, 2012, we poured our first beer at three local spots. Talk about surreal.
Building Half Full is a story about dreamers with ideas who became doers that made it happen. During the nearly four years it took from inception to opening, “me” became “we” as our crew expanded and together we marched onward through every obstacle to beat the odds. Along the way, we combated youth and inexperience with that blind ambition and overcame failures through our unwavering optimism. And we celebrated all of the victories, and the dreamers-turned-doers that made them happen, all along the way with many fist pumps and toasts. Luckily, we are just getting started.
So, cheers to those who believed in me from the beginning, philosophically and financially; to those like my mother and wife who have volunteered so much time; to those like Jordan who joined us since before day 1 and who believed in the concept of Half Full before it was real, doing whatever it took to help get the doors open; those on our current crew that help perpetuate the “beer-inspired optimism” perspective every day.; and most importantly, to those of you who continue to support us in our journey by picking up a glass of Half Full when you are out looking to find inspiration and optimism. We make a toast to you – that you seek out and entertain your own bright ideas, that you pursue those ideas with passion, that you take time to toast and celebrate all of the hard work along the way, and that you continue to march onward to that next and better bright idea time and time again. Cheers, and look forward to more…