Four Firkins Relies on SCORE Advice
Alvey decided to open Four Firkins when he saw a line waiting to get into a micro brew event at Surdyks a Minneapolis liquor store. They had been whetting appetites for micro brews through a series of video podcasts exploring the world for micro brews. The podcasts demonstrated the surprising lack of a craft beer store here and the potential of such a store to be a hit.
Alvey spent 18 months drafting his business plan, getting a SBA loan commitment, getting a liquor license and finding a location. To survive in an economy like this, he felt he had to do something different. In his case doing something different includes:
1. Opening the Twin Cities first craft beer store and naming it after an Old English term for a quarter-barrel of beer, i.e., four firkins.
2. Stocking his shop, on any given day, with 700-750 micro brews from across the country and around the world.
3. Offering customer service more in the mode of high-end wine stores. Alvey and his sales staff hand-sell their specialty brews, learn customer tastes, offer recommendations and host frequent tastings.
4. Building a loyal community of regular customers, both through in-store service and through new media and social networking tools. Alvey and his staff upload online product review videos, tweet and email about new arrivals and post detailed descriptions of what's on their shelves. Check out the latest brews at their website. > >
Roy Burns and Dan Shidla, two of the SCORE Minneapolis mentors, have been there to counsel with Alvey on more than 16 occasions, depending on the need they were there. Burns has cautioned: "Trying to expand too fast, is often a mistake, and you can get expand beyond your cash flow. He has a unique niche and the more he can build on his brand, using electronic media, to reach out to the generation that is interested in his product, the better. In this market, it's going to take investment for somebody to try and copy him. So that gives him lead time in terms of his competitive advantage." Alvey will likely want to consider opening another location at some point. When he does, his SCORE mentors, say he will have to know more about his customers and what has made his storefront successful.
SCORE has helped by being there when a business question or snag arose. They helped me through my business relocation search, lease negotiations, business expansion and bank loan presentation. I used the accounting knowledge of one my mentors to rework the cash flow projections and help with the loan application.