What impresses me the most about those in Sonoma County’s business community is their indomitable entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit, along with the ability to create new and innovative enterprises, while also providing jobs for local residents and helping to elevate and enhance the economy.  Outcomes we need now more than ever.

This month the SCA invited three craft brewery leaders in the county to participate in a panel discussion focused on how their firms emerged, the current state of their businesses and what they see down the road for their companies and the industry at large.

Speakers included Ron Lindenbusch, chief marketing officer for the Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma; Collin McDonnell, CEO and co-founder of the Henhouse Brewing Company of Santa Rosa, and Andy Hooper, brewmaster and director of operations with Seismic Brewing Company also in Santa Rosa.

Local craft breweries are among the list of new commercial players showing others how to launch and thrive in a crowded marketplace. Undaunted by major obstacles and despite the odds associated with such uphill battles, they persevere and remain committed to their goals.

Another thing that impressed me is that all of our July speakers focus their business models on a commitment to giving back to the community — being sustainable, and with ethical business practices while producing quality products.

Their operational plans feature best practices and concern for the environment, resource conservation (water/energy) as well as a desire to take care of employees — key objectives supported by the Sonoma County Alliance.

Just think about the challenges these go-getters have faced from traditional beer companies, the wine industry, the hard cider market, flavored water providers (those with 5% alcohol content), kombucha producers (fermented tea) and other competitors in the crowded adult-oriented beverage marketplace.

Ask anyone involved in this field about barriers to entry. It’s not easy to start a small company, especially when up against well-established businesses with fine-tuned supply chains, well organized distribution systems and with strong customer acceptance at retail outlets – but it is happening!

Wine industry backgrounds and contacts, and prior brewing experience have helped some craft brewers gain traction, financing and assistance in jump-starting their firms, while others have dived into the deep end of the pool on their own and come out with success stories in a relatively brief time frame.