Like a little girl on my hotel bed, I squeaked. Matt Greff, the co-founder of Arbor Brewing Company had responded to my email. As a new Ann Arbor resident, Arbor Brewing Company was significant to me from my German times. Without any knowledge of roads, areas and the city-center (or downtown, if you prefer), I would Google everything in reference to the Arbor Brewing Company. It was the center of my imaginary Ann Arbor world. Every house and apartment had to pass the test in reference to it. Meeting Rene Greff from the Arbor Brewing company was not an immediate plan, it just happened. I got lucky! 🙂
My husband has a massive issue with me working from home. He can’t understand it and usually suffers from extreme lack of energy if he’s not spending some of it by going outside. I like going outside, but I often get my creative highs at unusual times, so it’s not necessary that my mind is free to head out. The one day I did go to downtown taking theRide bus, I walked around and saw the Brewpub. It was the only thing I knew, so I went straight in for lunch. Now that I had taken the barstool route, I hoped that the bartender would speak with me, and I’d ask. Nothing happened. Eventually, at the moment I was about to leave, I asked, if I could meet someone from the company to speak with. I wanted to write about them. I was handed over a card that I never felt I’d get a response on. I did.
Side note: It may be highly ironic that being a non-beer drinker, I’ve been to the Brewpub on multiple occasions now without beer. I survived on great food with ice-y water. I love the mini-soup and sandwich meal in the lunchtime menu, please try!
I reach the Brewpub
For the third time in three weeks, I was at the Brewpub. I asked for Matt. The girl went in and I was informed that Matt could not be around, and I would need to meet Rene, the other co-founder. This sort of disappointed me, because I was quite set on meeting Matt. I imagined him to be this beer connoisseur who was going to share stories. Without further ado, I followed the girl in the backroom away from the bar. I have a disability with not being able to imagine much just by seeing a person. I need to see their emails. With a laptop in front of her, a dark tartan-ish/Burberry-ish print jacket and brown hair that shone in the dim light, I tried to imagine Rene. I introduced myself and repeated why I was there. Something about her demeanor said, no nonsense. I felt an inside urge to be precise, clear and basically not waste her time. I often face that when I meet powerful women, given how few exist.
Meeting Rene Greff from the Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arbor
There’s few women I know who inspire me or make me feel very business like. One of them is my mentor from McKinsey who I can forever try to impress (but that’s another story). When I started asking questions, Rene was upfront and even showed me a few charts. I had not sent in any questions beforehand, but that didn’t stop her from sharing just the exact set of data points. I felt I was in a client room. This unsettled me a little, were my questions too cliched?
We talked about how the Brewpub came into existence and moved over to the new plans for the company. Matt was gone to Ohio, I learned, it was a new distribution center. Arbor Brewing also had a new center in Bangalore, which had surprised me. Rene walked me through what it took to set up that as a branch.
I asked, what was the best part about setting up her own company. Without much thought, Rene said the relationships that she shared with her staff and community. Arbor brewing company is a big supporter of the local community. She explained how on ever dollar spent, local businesses tend to give back a lot more to the community. Local companies hired and sourced locally too. People who frequented the Brewpub would typically not be in Starbucks but Sweetwaters instead. There was a whole set of people who believed in keeping and promoting things that were local. This prompted me to say, it sounded like Europe. Ann Arbor was special, she said.
Women Who Inspire
With my work, I often meet many women who own their businesses and inspire me. Few leave a strong impression though, like Rene. It takes courage to run a business for 20 years. It takes even more to create a brand focused on relationships and communities, to think longterm. And be so aware of what the brand represents and intends to be. Rene was clear about wanting to remain a small business, a lifestyle company, not a 10X growth hacking unit.
There were no moments of hesitation. Just the sheer force of surety and assertiveness.
I could have spent the whole day talking but excused myself to get some images. There were tons of things my mind was buzzing with. I needed visual distract to pace them out. I came back to say thanks and leave. Rene was already hooked up onto her computer.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to be an all-business, overtly self-assured woman like that too. I wonder what I’ll write to myself 20 years from now.
Back home, I checked up the staff on the site. They seemed to be more quirky and fun than anyone I had met in years. That’s got to mean something 🙂