Editor’s note: “The Business of Beer at the Beach” in Wilmington drew a big crowd and ignites a spirited conversation about the challenges in North Carolina’s growing craft beer industry. Adam Shay is owner of Adam Shay CPA, PLLC, a CPA firm that focuses on working with entrepreneurs by utilizing technology, a fixed price approach, and custom options to partner with their clients. In addition, he is an entrepreneur in residence with Seahawk Innovation. Shay wrote about the beer event for ExitEvent.

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Beer. That one word, actually two—free beer—made it easy for UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) executive director Jim Roberts to draw a packed room to “The Business of Beer at the Beach” on Monday August 11th. There were a lot of new faces in the CIE for this event and it was great to feel the energy.

Some of the attendees traveled from all over the state to take part in the evening. Panelist Derek Allen of Ward and Smith law firm in Asheville, investor in Fortnight Brewing Company and panelist David Gardner from Cary, and Dino Radosto of White Street Brewing Company in Wake Forest. Slates Snider from the Rocky Mount Brewmill made the trip as well. Their willingness to travel is indicative of both the draw of the beach and the sense of camaraderie and giving found in North Carolina’s craft beer industry. That camaraderie was a recurring theme of the evening.

One of the interesting and unexpected revelations that evening was that two panelists have technology backgrounds. Gardner and Radosto both had successful exit events and felt the calling to invest in or start a craft brewery. It was apparent that their business skills really translate over to the brewery industry—it must be treated like a business and not just an artistic endeavor. While there is room for artistry, it all comes down to whether the numbers work—forecasts must continually be revised. I also believe that the persistence they’ve developed as entrepreneurs in other industries translates to the brewery industry.

The evening highlighted the many challenges in opening a craft brewery—enough that, even though I love craft beer and entrepreneurship, I would not consider starting nor investing in one. Part of the appeal of something like the Rocky Mount Brewmill is that it could lessen some of those challenges. But many of the attendees feel passionate enough that they are going to continue to pursue their dreams regardless. Some local brewers or breweries in attendance included Wilmington Home Brew, Fox & Crow, Good Hops and Waterline.

So what are those challenges?

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