Craft breweries are hugely popular across the island of Newfoundland, but the movement has yet to take off in Labrador.
Enter brothers Brian and Dave Hurley.
Their Labrador City-based Iron Rock Brewing Company is a joint effort between Brian, an MBA student at Memorial and a professional engineer, and his brother Dave, a Red Seal pipe fitter and experienced home-brewer.
Brian Hurley started his MBA with the goal of moving into a management position in his current field; entering the world of entrepreneurship wasn’t on his radar.
But, having kept an eye on the provincial business environment in recent years, he couldn’t help but be inspired.
“I look at leaders in the business community here in Newfoundland and Labrador, I hear them speak and I think, ‘That’s where I want to be in 10-15 years.’”
He says people always ask him when he decided to become an entrepreneur, but says he really doesn’t have an answer.
The brewery started as an idea, a conversation with his brother which grew over time into a possibility, and then into a plan of action.
“I think I’ve decided to do it now!” he said with a laugh.
Entrepreneurship Training Program
The Hurleys have benefited from the expertise of many at the Newfoundland & Labrador Craft Brewers Association, an organization that has been instrumental in navigating their venture. They have also recently secured a space in the Bruno Plaza at 118 Humphrey Rd.
Iron Rock Brewing Company is working towards its official opening, hopefully this summer.
Mr. Hurley says that, when he finally decided to make the plunge into operating a business, he realized he needed to take advantage of existing supports, such as Memorial’s Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP).
“It’s important to keep going and focus on the big picture.”
The ETP is an 8-16 week, free program operated by the School of Graduate Studies at Memorial that is open to graduate students interested in starting their own business. The program offers fundamental and practical information on the first steps required for any startup,
Grace Tatigian, the program’s co-ordinator, says ETP covers topics such as the elements of a business plan, how to find funding and what to look for in a mentor.
“The ETP is a great place to get started,” she said.
“Some who register come in with nothing more than a desire to be their own boss. Others, like Brian, come in with a startup already underway. And it’s flexible: in the fall semester, Brian completed the first portion of the ETP, Discover, online, so that he could participate in the program while working full time and working towards his MBA as a part-time student.”
The in-person program offers sessions with speakers from local businesses and organizations; the online program delivers the same content through Brightspace in the form of readings, links, videos and resources. The online program has allowed more students to complete the program than ever before, opening it up to students with busy work schedules or conflicting class times, distance students and others who want to learn on their own time.
Despite his already overloaded schedule, Mr. Hurley says he found the time to fit the second portion of the program, Develop, into his schedule in the winter semester.
He says he learned more about marketing, managing growth and financial management. But, he wasn’t just looking at what he could get from the program, he says. He also wanted to give back.
“I want to share my experiences with the class. If you’ve made the mistake, you want to share it so that others don’t make the same mistake.”
When asked what kind of advice he would like to share with his fellow students, he had a lot to say. One thing came to mind immediately, though.
“You never know what the week is going to bring. You can get good news on Monday and then expensive news on Tuesday. You don’t know where you’ll be on Friday, but it’s important to keep going and focus on the big picture and why you’re doing this. Success isn’t a straight line upwards.”