What is your full name and title? And how long have you been in this role?
My name is Garnet Pratt Siddall, and I’m president and chief executive officer of Side Launch Brewing Co. Ltd., a startup craft brewery to be built in Collingwood, Ont.
I have been in the role since September, 2010.
What exactly do you do?
An easier question to answer might be: ‘What don’t you do?’ I have been with this project from the start, so I did the initial feasibility study, investigated the craft beer industry and the various business models we could pursue, and then made a recommendation to start from scratch and build a new facility.
From there, I looked for land, negotiated the land deal and began the process of obtaining both a severance and a minor zoning variance from the Town of Collingwood.
I have hired an architect, a project manager, a lawyer, and an accountant. As well, the head brewer and I researched, found and have been working with the brewery equipment engineers/manufacturers and the architect on the layout and design of the facility and I have recently opened office space in Collingwood from which I will be able to establish a local presence and oversee the construction process.
I have developed a detailed financial model and business plan that were put in use to raise the remaining capital needed for the project. I’m also working with a marketing firm, Dare, on our branding and marketing strategy.
Describe what you do on any given day.
Every day is very different. One minute I’m the CEO, thinking about our overall strategy and plan, then I am a human resources manager, the next minute, I’m the chief financial officer, raising money and organizing our finances and the next, I’m working on building plans and drawings. At this stage, things are moving so quickly that I have to stay focused so that the whole project stays on schedule.
What’s your background and education?
After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics at Queen’s University followed by an MBA at the University of Western Ontario (now the Richard Ivey School of Business), I spent about 11 years in investment banking in both New York and Toronto.
How did you get to your position?
When I left National Bank Financial in 2006, it was because I was having some medical issues that prevented me from being able to work full-time hours. During my “time off,” I pursued my lifelong passion for photography and ultimately had a gallery show. I also got more involved in my local community. However, it had become very clear to me that I would want to return to the world of business once the situation had passed.
The time I spent away from a “day job” gave me the opportunity to think about what I wanted to do. I ultimately concluded that I wanted to try to do something new.
Coincidentally, my husband and I had been part of a small group of people, who in 2008 had decided to create a craft brewery in Collingwood. For a number of reasons, including the financial crisis that began that fall, the plans were halted (I was not running the project at that time).
However, the idea stuck in my head. I kept thinking that it was a great idea, and more and more I wanted to be the one to lead it. We pulled the group back together in the late summer of 2010 and have been going strong ever since. No bump or obstacle along the way has dampened my enthusiasm for this project or my belief that we are creating something great.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the fact that I am working on a project that will create something tangible that people will be happy to buy and consume. A huge milestone for me will come the first day that I walk into a bar and see someone that I don’t know drinking our beer.
As well, the varied nature of my days is a constant and pleasant challenge. That kind of work environment suits my personality. I love having to switch gears every half hour and hate the drudgery of the “same.” I’ve truly never been happier.
What’s the worst part of your job?
Herding cats and being patient. I don’t love scheduling meetings with people with busy schedules and I get frustrated when I need or want something NOW and have to wait for input from someone else. Given the nature of my job, this happens a lot. Also, because we are a startup, I don’t yet have the support staff I got very used to when I worked for larger organizations.
What are your strengths in this role?
I love beer? I would say that I am a very good people person who is also very organized and I take my job very seriously. I am also endlessly curious and so all of the research I have had to do during the past two years has been a complete joy. I have taken a number of courses on the various aspects of brewing and make a point of understanding the more technical aspects of the production side. I research everything and always try to know as much as I can.
When working at a startup, you have to be flexible and eager to do just about anything from cleaning the floor in your new office, to developing the five-year strategic plan!
What are your weaknesses?
I’m humble enough to know that I have more than one. But in this job, I wish I was more able to detach so that when I do have some time off to relax, I could fully enjoy it.
What has been your best career move?
Definitely my best move was accepting the job offer with Lehman Brothers straight out of business school. Being a junior person in investment banking in the nineties wasn’t easy. I learned a lot about business but I also gained a keen appreciation for what it takes to be successful: very hard work, perseverance, diligence and commitment.
What has been your worst career move?
Not doing something like this sooner. No, seriously – I don’t have one. I make a point of never regretting anything I have done.
What’s your next big job goal?
I need to get our plan fully financed, get the building built on time and on schedule and get beer into people’s hands.
What’s your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?
Again with a cliché – but you really have to believe in yourself. Making a big change or starting something new is challenging and forces you to take many steps outside of your comfort zone.
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