#CLTInspreneurs: Justin and Sarah Brigham
Meet Justin and Sarah, founders of Sycamore Brewing
Meet Justin (a husband and father) and Sarah (creative and determined), founders and owners of Sycamore Brewing.
Justin: Sycamore sold its first beer on November 1, 2014, but the project is much older than that. My wife, Sarah, and I started working on Sycamore over six years ago. We are growing faster than I ever imagined, and so many great things are on the horizon. We just launched our North End production facility, which is considerably larger than our original taproom brewery in South End. Right now Sycamore is in a very exciting growth phase.
Sarah: We recently celebrated our 3 year anniversary. At Sycamore, we’re not afraid to think outside the box and evolve.
What is a typical day like for you?
Justin: My days are always different. Each day has some guarantees though. I always taste each batch at both of our breweries to make sure the beer is on point. I try and visit with most of our employees to ensure they have everything they need, and I try and get home in time for dinner and bedtime with my daughter.
Sarah: Wake up some time before sunrise, coffee, toddler wrangling, work, more toddler wrangling, more work, bed.
Favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Justin: The pride I take in Sycamore. We built this thing from scratch – from an idea, and unlike most breweries, we do so much of the work ourselves. When I walk through our facilities, my blood, sweat and tears are right there for me to see.
Sarah: The creativity it allows.
Justin: Finding balance can be tough. There was a period of time where I worked 18 hour days straight… for months. That is unsustainable, and learning to take time off was a really valuable turning point for me. The never-ending list will still be there after you rest and recharge.
Sarah: Balancing work life with family life.
What did you do before you went out on your own?
Justin: Many years ago, I worked at Coors Brewing. I have also designed and built a hydroponics laboratory, built homes with my father, worked on a boatyard and sold sailboats. For awhile, I ran my own web design company, and right before starting Sycamore, I worked in finance, specifically with emerging market equities. A lot…
Sarah: I worked in marketing.
Why did you pick Charlotte as the home of your business?
Justin: I am from Charlotte – born and raised. There is no place like home, and when it comes to craft beer, Charlotte is such an exciting market. This beer scene is so young, but we have such great beer!
Sarah: Charlotte is my (adopted) home. It’s a rapidly evolving, dynamic city. I love where Charlotte is now and I’m excited to see Charlotte’s future.
What inspired you to go out on your own?
Justin: I have had many unique jobs in the past, but right before we opened Sycamore, I held my only true desk job. I am a lot happier working with my hands and creating.
Sarah: The desire to create and have autonomy over my work.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Justin: Family time. We have a 20 month old daughter, and my best days are spent with Sarah and my little girl. I love to travel, although I rarely get to these days. I also love mountain biking, fly fishing, surfing and being outside.
Sarah: Spending time with my family.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being out on your own?
Justin: You cannot change people. If someone did not have self-discipline, problem solving skills or accountability to begin with, they aren’t going to suddenly turn it on by working at Sycamore.
Sarah: To trust my instincts.
Talk about a time you failed big time and what you did next.
Justin: I applied to law school my last year of undergrad. Ultimately, after being accepted, I deferred for a year and rode buses around Central America with a surfboard and a backpack. I got a lot of perspective on that trip, and when I decided to attend that next year, it was so obvious to me that it was an awful fit. It was such a hard decision at the time. Staying in school felt “safer”. In hindsight, it was the best thing I could have done.
Sarah: I failed to adequately communicate to the team. Just because something seems obvious to you, as the owner or manager, does not mean others will interpret things the same way. I’ve tried to think more about who I’m communicating with and how they will best absorb information.
Who do you look up to or look to for inspiration/advice?
Justin: My wife, Sarah. Second to that, and to be more industry specific, those friends I have made who have gone down the path in front of me.
Sarah: My husband and my parents.
What’s your motto, or some words you live by?
Sarah: The best way to predict your future is to create it.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
Justin: It may sound hackneyed, but be sure that what you are pursuing really inspires you. I do not know any way to success other than making your company a major part of your life. If you don’t love what you are doing, it will be a pretty rough existence.
Sarah: Passion is a necessity as your work will become your life.
Where can people stalk ya?
FB: Sycamore Brewing
What’s your “power color”?
Justin: Sycamore Brewing Green!
A Note from BW on Justin and Sarah…
We chose Sarah and Justin to represent the BEER space (Obviously, we’re in Charlotte, duh). They have created a stellar beer program, and more importantly, they’ve created a culture and a space. Through events they have garnered a true following and an authentic community (you know, one of those things any business wants/needs). On top, they are the most humble people you’ll ever meet and will do anything for their community. Oh, and did I mention… the beer?