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Ken Malenstyn is one of the four owners of Barnside Brewing in Delta, B.C.SUPPLIED

Ken Malenstyn never planned on running a brewery. In 2016, the Delta, B.C. native was looking for a new crop to grow on the farm his family had run for generations – and he wondered if hops would make sense.

“At one time, B.C. was a really great hops-growing region,” he explains. “It had faded from existence over the past 50 years, but we were starting to see a resurgence with the proliferation of craft breweries.”

Malenstyn chatted about the idea with a neighbour, Brent Harris, who mentioned he and his wife, Shelly, had been growing malted grains as a rotational crop on their farm. It turned out another local, Sean Buhr, had recently been experimenting with home brewing using some of the Harris’ grain – and the results were pretty good.

What started out as casual conversations soon sparked a business idea: What if these long-standing neighbours partnered on a farm-based brewery that could produce a product unlike anything else on the market?

“It would give customers the chance to taste the true terroir of our area – our land, our farming practices, our brewing practices,” Malenstyn says.

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Barnside is a farm-based brewery in Delta, B.C.SUPPLIED

The best-laid plans

They decided to go for it. Over the next four years, the four partners divvied up business responsibilities based on their own strengths and experience, refined their recipes and learned the ins and outs of the alcohol business.

Barnside Brewing Co. opened its doors in January 2020. And then, of course, the pandemic hit. But they soon realized there were unique opportunities given the situation: Their outdoor space could easily accommodate social distancing, which meant when other restaurants closed their doors, pivoted to takeout or limited the number of guests they could host, Barnside could serve people their own beer, as well as delicious food made from locally grown ingredients – and in the process, create a place where the community could gather.

The Barnside team aren’t the only entrepreneurs who started a business during the pandemic. According to a 2022 Intuit QuickBooks report, one in four Canadian small business owners launched their company in the previous two years. And much like Malenstyn, the Harrises and Buhr, while their reasons were primarily economic, many were also motivated by challenging themselves and the freedom of owning their own business.

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Barnside Brewing Co. in Delta, B.C. was founded by four local farm families.SUPPLIED

Brewing success with the right tools

That’s not to say opening a business in the last four years didn’t have its challenges though. Unsurprisingly, Barnside Brewing’s founders soon realized they’d need some help navigating COVID-19 in an industry with already razor-thin profit margins. “COVID-19 threw all metrics out the window,” Malenstyn says. “We didn’t have any data and we couldn’t rely on any models that existed.” For example, pre-March 2020, there was data on how much draught beer breweries could expect to sell versus bottled or canned beer. This could help project revenue as draught beer typically has the highest profit margin. But, during the pandemic, those sales models no longer applied.

That’s where QuickBooks Online comes in. The founders review daily reports to get what Malenstyn calls a “snapshot of the financial health of the business.”

Even now with the lockdowns behind us, these insights remain vital to the health and growth of Barnside Brewing. They’re looking for early signs of trends that could spell trouble for the company like flagging sales or rising costs, as well as potential opportunities for growth.

“Without QuickBooks, it would be such a case of flying blind. You need really rigorous tools and you need to be constantly looking at your information to see what’s working and what isn’t working,” he says. “Some smaller businesses try to do this themselves, but… you can’t spreadsheet this business. That would be catastrophic.”

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Shelly Harris, one of the four owners of Barnside Brewing, using QuickBooks Online.SUPPLIED

One thing they’ve learned: their most marketable offering isn’t just their beer (though it has earned rave reviews). It’s the way the company provides a space for their community to gather, connect and enjoy “farm-sourced food and farm-fresh beer,” ideally for generations to come.

Behind every small business is a ‘big why’ – the reason they started their company in the first place and what motivates them to keep going, even when times get tough. Intuit QuickBooks is proud to support Canadian small businesses through every step of their journey and is pleased to celebrate companies doing remarkable things in this “Small Business, Big Why” series. Are you a Canadian business fuelled by passion and purpose? Share your business’s ‘big why’ on Instagram and TikTok using #SmallBizBigWhy for a chance to be featured by Intuit QuickBooks.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with QuickBooks. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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