Learn from our community entrepreneurs! In this interview, Shea Martin shares the story of building and growing Brew Ninja Software, located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Breweries (especially new breweries) know they want to make beer. Running a brewery is hectic, and keeping track of inventory, sales, regulatory data, costs, accounts, etc., tends to fall behind as the brewery concentrates on keeping production running smoothly.
Brew Ninja is a cloud-based application that helps breweries track all the data that needs to be tracked in a brewery, including data required by federal and regional governments, production planning, sales planning, waste, and costs. Brew Ninja can even simplify your invoicing.
Brew Ninja can operate as a standalone system, or it can operate fully integrated with a brewery's accounting and point-of-sale system. This lets breweries track their finances in their existing accounting platforms but automates data entry in accordance with best practices for manufacturing-based accounting. Brew Ninja really becomes the information hub for your brewery!
Growing a business from a prototype to a viable business serving thousands is a lot of work with a lot of risks. I think the biggest accomplishment for Brew Ninja is that we have continued to march forward through good and bad times. We have had solid growth every year, and we have been able to grow our team and mature our revenues and product every year of our existence. While we have lost customers, our customer retention rate is much higher than the industry average, and I am very proud of that.
As someone who loves building systems that make customers' lives easier, the hardest thing is not being able to deliver every great solution immediately. We constantly talk to our customers and get a lot of great ideas from them. We also have many ideas for the product to make our customers' lives easier... but we can only implement so many of these ideas in each product iteration.
I find it very hard to be careful not to try and do it all at once. We have to very carefully weigh what features will give the most benefit to the most customers and prioritize accordingly. But it is still hard knowing that someone may have to wait for a feature that is third or fourth on the list when you know it could really benefit someone.
1. It will take more time, money, and work than you can imagine. So make sure it is your passion because that way, you will at least love the work. I know this is a cliche, but it is true, and it is worth repeating because if you know it to be true before you start, and you still want to go down the path, then you will be successful. The irony is that the people who do it for the sole purpose of getting rich tend to be the people who have the least chance of doing so.
2. Do it with a partner. There is a reason investors are more likely to invest in non-solo businesses because they are more successful, and there is less burnout. Yes, you will read about how it is best to have a partner that complements your weaknesses, and that is important. But as long as it is a partner that you work well with any trust, I would worry less about whether or not the skillset is complementary. In fact, I would not be considering taking investment money or quitting your job until you have found that person.
3. Find a mentor. Keep your eye open for someone who seems to have a passion for what you are doing and has experience starting and running businesses. Don't be afraid to explicitly ask them if they are interested and to formalize it with an agreement. I have found over the journey that I have had numerous offers to be mentored. Most just want to impart some wisdom and drift along. Whether they just want to feel good about dropping some pearls of wisdom, or sometimes they are just being polite by appearing interested in your idea. Make sure that the interest is real and that they are committed. Make sure that it is someone who is not afraid to give you the bad along with the good.
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