#80. | Loowit Brewing Company, Part 1 | The right way to find opportunity in adversity
Business Over Beer Podcast Episode #80. | Loowit Brewing Company, Part 1
On this episode of the Business Over Beer podcast, we are lucky enough to be at Loowit Brewing Company, speaking with Co-Owner, Thomas Poffenroth, Head Brewer, Landon Smith and Sales Manager, Jason Green.
Thomas, and his longtime friend and Co-Owner, Devon Bray, were tired of going into Portland for great beer. So their idea was simple:
1. Open THE brewery serving the Washington side of the Columbia River,
2. Brew great beer.
Now, Vancouver and Southwest Washington have become its own unique craft beer destination, no longer standing in the shadow of its neighbor to the south, and frankly, where the best beer on the planet is being brewed.
As one of the true OGs of the North Bank, Loowit has continued to operate out of the same location in Downtown Vancouver, WA since 2012. And, make no mistake, it was Loowit who was at the forefront of the craft beer movement in Southwest Washington.
The right way to find opportunity in adversity
In the 20+ years since the internet revolution, it seems there is nearly nothing that hasn’t already been done before in some form or fashion. Try getting your first choice of an email address, a social media handle, or a website address if you want to know what I mean.
In a growing industry like craft beer, with so many new products coming out constantly, and worldwide, imagine the challenge to create a new beer name that has never been done before. And if you do choose a product name that’s been done before and it infringes on someone else’s trademark, you got problems. That’s what happened to Loowit Brewing Company with their flagship beer, Shadow Ninja, in 2015.
This beer defined their brand and had become so much a part of their identity, even being called “The Ninja Brewery” by some of their super fans. So when Loowit received a cease and desist letter from another brewery stating that it was infringing on the other brewery’s trademark, it was an understandably crushing feeling and, at first, they just couldn’t see how they could move ahead without their flagship.
They could have fought it, but as Co-Owner Thomas Poffenrock mentioned to us on the Business Over Beer Podcast, when you have a trademark, it’s your right and responsibility to defend the mark. Ultimately, fighting it would have been wasted energy that would be better spent on how to move forward.
Interestingly, they certainly wouldn’t have imagined back then that they’d actually be thankful that it happened.
A blessing in disguise
After the initial shock wore off, Loowit knew they had to try and turn this adversity into something positive. But how? What they know now, that they didn’t know then, was that the beer was ready for a refresh. This “crushing blow” was actually an opportunity to upgrade their brand and make a splash with the a re-launch.
Number 1, when an apparent crushing blow is dealt to your business, do not fold under the adversity. Be careful not to waste your time, energy and money sulking, pointing fingers, or looking for someone else to blame. Instead, believe that it is happening for a reason. Do not use it as an excuse to show anything other than resiliency and look for the opportunity within that challenge to improve your business.
Second, don’t wait for a crushing blow before you look for ways to refresh your brand, your products or your business. Complacency is one of the great threats to any business, and it’s an unseen threat, that oftentimes doesn’t reveal itself until outside conditions bring it to the surface.
So build into your normal practice ways you could blow things up a little that could reinvent the way you operate. Not that you should blow up your business on any kind of frequent basis, but thinking about, and discussing, new ways to look at your business can help you stay fresh, current, and relevant for the long term in a very crowded marketplace.
And, it’s way better that you have control of any explosions, instead of waiting for a cease and desist letter that forces your hand.