How do you go from an 11-acre farm to a thriving and innovative craft brewery? Just ask the owners of Persephone Brewing, a microbrewery that has helped put the Sunshine Coast on the map - the BC Ale Trail to be exact.
Vancouver-based business partners Mark Brand and Brian Smith didn’t just want to build another craft brewery in East Van. They wanted to create a socially conscious business and tap into a new and emerging community beyond the Metro Vancouver region.
”The impetus behind it was a love of craft beer and an interest in following a slightly different, more community-minded business model,” says Dion Whyte, General Manager of Persephone and one of their oldest employees.
What started as farmland, soon flourished into so much more. Now, the tasting room is a hub for community events, fundraisers and lazy Sunshine Coast tasting sessions set against the backdrop of rural landscape and live music. By transforming some of the land into hopyards Persephone has been able to service its growing need for hops - at least in part. Also, the team’s partnership with local farmers helps supply fresh local produce sold on site and at Farmer’s Markets in the area. The Farm to Feast food truck on site serves up mouth watering morsels, like house-made sausage, wood-oven fired pizza, tacos, and homemade perogies.
Even in the early stages of developing the business, the Persephone team wanted stay true to their mission to run a community-minded business and partnered with Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living (SCACL) , an organization that helps and advocates for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Through the partnership, funds have been raised to support SCACL and Persephone also employs SCACL members throughout the organization.
Currently, Persephone - which was recently registered as a certified B-Corporation - is on track to produce about 6,000 hectolitres in 2017. They’re not going to stop there, though. The farm has capacity to produce 10,000 hectolitres annually. Now, that’s a lot of beer!
In preparation for growth, the team has also recently cleared another five acres of land to expand the hopyards, has planted apples in preparation for a cidery, and is looking at a second location in the Gibsons area.
Dion himself is a long-time local of the Sunshine Coast, having lived in the area for 16 years. He’s seen the community evolve from a lesser- known rural gem off the beaten track to a tourism destination. Nowadays, The Coast attracts a healthy mix of overseas and regional tourists - many of whom swing by for a beer or three.
What’s most exciting, he says, is how the business community rallies together to support entrepreneurship: “People on The Coast are a very sustainable. There’s a very strong stewardship approach. People are interested in better ways to do things; less impactful ways to do things. We are trying to be inclusive and welcoming of other people.”
“I think right now, there is a lot of opportunity for people who are bringing energy and enthusiasm and a community mindset to new, interesting and fun business models,” Dion says.
One tip Dion has for future Sunshine Coast entrepreneurs in the service industry is to maintain the energy and innovation through the winter months. While Sunshine Coast is bustling with tourists during the summer, winter can be quieter. So, he explains, it’s even more important to facilitate and nurture community connection during shoulder season. And, by all accounts, it looks like Persephone has “tapped” the secret recipe for success.
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