Last year, the U.S. brewing industry contributed over $250 billion to the economy and is still growing. With 90% of the beer made by only 11 breweries, you could say that this is a tough market to crack.
However, one company is ready to take on the challenge and is poised for much success. This company is New Orleans based, Cajun Fire Brewing Company. We chatted with Jon Renthrope, the founder and here is what he had to say:
SB: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Jon: My name is Jon Renthrope, I am a husband, father, and entrepreneur. I am a brewer by trade and founder of Cajun Fire Brewing Company. Born and raised in New Orleans.
SB: You and your family were in New Orleans when Katrina hit. How did that disastrous event influence you?
Jon: Katrina was a breaking point for many. In a span of ten years I have seen my community destroyed and all but forgotten. For the sake of perspective, I was 17 when the storm hit.
It is ten years since that incident. Knowing what I know now, it is truly unfortunate that the truth has never received critical or empathetic thinking. ‘Til this day, the event influences me to reinforce and advocate entrepreneurship.
SB: Out of over 3400 breweries in the U.S., less than five are Black owned. That would discourage some people from even considering this market. What gave you the motivation and confidance to pursue this venture?
Jon: What gave me the motivation was the effort and commitment I made to focus research with a plan of action in mind. Maintaining a discipline and reading other Black business pioneer chronicles and interviews eases most doubts.
The support is definitely appreciated and helps. When digesting the statistics, I must say it can be daunting given the odds of success and the economic/demographic data available in the palm of your hand these days.
However, the main push from day to day comes from within. You have to put yourself to action and go for what you want.
SB: You operate the business with four friends. What advice do you have about successfully mixing business and friendship?
Jon: Operating a business in general is difficult. Working with friends and family can further complicate those difficulties if you or your business models are ill-prepared.
Setting protocols in advance can save your company in situations when emotions and passion take precedence. However, with the right discipline and plan of action in place, the loyalty and altruism that comes with working with a team that values one another past their pay check is invaluable to not only the efficiency of the business but also the psyche of those involved on the team.
SB: What would you say has been the biggest obstacle in your business journey so far?
Jon: Ensuring that all of state, federal, and local permits and licensing are valid and in place. Manufacturing alcohol is a highly regulated industry and it is critical that all your licensing and permits are current up to date and have not lapsed.
SB: Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Jon: I am hopeful that I am in good health. I see myself being a more seasoned professional in my crafts and Cajun Fire maintaining unique brand direction and delivering evolving experiences in the craft beer industry.
SB: Who has been your greatest inspiration in life or in business?
Jon: My grandmother, Annie Simpson-Bruner. Her experiences and struggles paved the way for my opportunity. She is a very strong person and being exposed to her courage has definitely left lasting impressions on my personal character.
Jon: Entrepreneurship is a journey that breads sustainability. As mentally and physically engaging of a battle entrepreneurship can be it is without a doubt in my opinion one of the most fulfilling experiences you are likely to take part in.
Ultimately, it is the single most effective economic method to create a healthy and competitive community. The most successful ideas are rarely validated in their infancy. Proactive self determination is key to empowering your unique ideas.