Oral history interview with Michelle Miniutti, 2018

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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0:00 - Opening credits / interview introduction

0:14 - Background, introduction to business partners, and move to Raleigh-Durham

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Partial Transcript: So to start can you say and spell your name?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses her history in Maine, move South, and meeting her business partner Ellen Joyner. She touches upon the Raleigh craft beer scene in 2003 and reasons for starting Bombshell

Keywords: Pop the Cap Movement

3:26 - Initial idea for and process of opening Bombshell Beer Company

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Partial Transcript: When would you say kind of the seeds for Bombshell first popped up?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti elaborates upon the seeds of the idea and process of opening a microbrewery in 2010. She discusses the journey to the opening, including taste testing and comparison studies. She talks about the brewery as a 100% women-owned business.

9:02 - Building permits and codes

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Partial Transcript: Well one of the other things that's popped up in some of the interviews we've done in terms of kind of asking folks about their opening is issues with permitting.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses challenges in opening the brewery, including the necessity for a firewall, building codes, and cost overruns.

Keywords: Legislation; Licensing

11:31 - Home brewing

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Partial Transcript: I'm gonna back up a minute because you were talking about before you actually opened you started brewing out of the garage.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses her past as a home brewer, and how those skills translated to the professional brewing world. She talks about her current responsibilities in sales and marketing and a recent beer she brewed with Ellen Joyner for the Pink Boots Society

Keywords: Ellen Joyner; Pink Boots Society

16:00 - Comparing corporate and NC brewing culture

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Partial Transcript: I think that kind of that transferable skill piece is an important piece to think about when going from one industry to another.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the similarities and differences between the two business communities, as well as transferable skillsets. She talks about the need for being agile in the beer industry, beer packaging and canning, and brewery logistics.

20:51 - The Bombshell name and logo

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Partial Transcript: So speaking of the can and logos, can you talk a little bit about kind of how you guys decided on the name, but also the logo.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the origin and reasons for both the name and logo of the business, including the meaning and importance of their being female-centric. She also briefly delves into Bombshell's mission and logic within their beer portfolio.

26:03 - The mission of Bombshell Beer Company

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about how you would define the main mission for Bombshell?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the main mission of the company, fundraising activities, and their community focus.

Keywords: Community; Gigi’s Playhouse

29:15 - Comparing Bombshell Beer Co. at opening to the present day

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about both the size of the brewery now, the production and everything, but also kind of where you were when you first opened versus where you are now?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti notes changes in Bombshell's barrel capacity, and their current market penetration.

31:04 - Changes in the Triangle brewing scene

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Partial Transcript: So, you know, the Triangle brewing scene has changed dramatically since you first opened.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the Triangle brewing scene before Bombshell opened and how it looks now.

Keywords: Beer Army Beer Wars Commercial Beer Competition; World Beer Cup

33:30 - Bombshell Beer Company's flagship beer

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about the beer.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti selects the Head Over Hops IPA, and also talks about their legacy beers, Our Dirty Secret coconut stout, Citra Pale Ale, and others.

36:12 - A typical workday or week

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about a typical day or week here at the brewery for you?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses her workflow and schedules. She delves into the importance of a team environment and related responsibilities, and talks about the unique challenges of working in a small business.

39:16 - Bombshell Beer Company's employees

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Partial Transcript: Well you mentioned your team too. Can you talk a little bit about how many folks you guys have?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the number of employees at Bombshell, how that number has grown, and advice received from Oscar Wong.

40:37 - Biggest challenges since the opening of the brewery

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Partial Transcript: So, you've touched on a number of these already, but what were some of the biggest challenges that came through kind of after you opened, the development of the brewery, to the, you know you've talked about the growth.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses many of the challenges of running a small business, including managed growth and cashflow, as well as employees and the physical demands within a brewery.

43:18 - Community engagement

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Partial Transcript: So to go back to what you had mentioned a minute ago that we put a pin in.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the community engagement initiatives at Bombshell, including their First Friday and Third Friday events.

45:06 - Surprises along the way and hopes for Bombshell going forward

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Partial Transcript: So looking back at kind of your hopes and dreams when you guys first opened versus today, are there big surprises that kind stand out to you?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses her outlook and perspectives on the business, and what she's learned along the way. She notes a potential expansion, and some of the factors that must be considered in its evaluation.

48:15 - Bombshell as a 100% woman-owned brewery

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Partial Transcript: Well you've mentioned that Bombshell is 100% woman owned and craft brewing is definitely an industry that is today still stereotypically thought of as a male industry.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the ways that being a 100% woman owned brewery has impacted their business. This includes potential challenges as well as benefits. She talks about the fight against large distributors and discrimination in favor of major distributors. The importance of serving a wide demographic is also touched upon.

51:40 - Advice for a woman looking to open a brewery

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Partial Transcript: What advice would you give if a woman came up and was like, "I want to open my own brewery."

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti stresses the importance of a good business plan. She talks about the demands upon your time, and the high upfront capital requirements for opening a brewery.

53:54 - Future of the North Carolina beer industry

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Partial Transcript: To put your forward thinking hat on again, where do you see the industry going?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses the growing emphasis on hyperlocal breweries, being community oriented, and a focus upon on-premise services. She touches upon concern related to larger distributors and marketing.

57:05 - Favorite part of working in the NC craft beer industry

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Partial Transcript: So what would you say is your favorite part about working in the North Carolina craft brewing industry?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti talks about working with other breweries and "coopetition"

58:28 - Favorite beer from Bombshell

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Partial Transcript: So now we're going to move on to the couple of fun questions to end.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti talks about a number of Bombshell beers, including the Citra Pale Ale, Lady in Red, and Dirty Little Secret coconut stout. She mentions her head brewer Devin and his history.

59:45 - Favorite beer from a NC brewery other than Bombshell

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Partial Transcript: And you mentioned you don't get a chance to enjoy beer from other places very often, but do you have a favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your own?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti selects Carolina Brewing's New England IPA and Lynnwood's berliner weisse.

60:43 - Hobbies and interests away from the brewery

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Partial Transcript: You probably don't have much in the way of free time anymore, but when you're not here at work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti talks about her interest in golf and family.

61:39 - Interview conclusion / closing credits

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Partial Transcript: Well that pretty much wraps up the list of prepared questions that I had.

Segment Synopsis: Miniutti discusses her dreams for Bombshell in the future as an empoyee-owned or B company


Erin Lawrimore: To start, can you say and spell your name?

M. Miniutti: Sure. Michelle, M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E Miniutti, M-I-N-I-U-T-T-I.

Erin Lawrimore: Awesome. Today is Thursday July 26th, we are at Bombshell Brewing in Holly Springs North Carolina. We are doing an interview for the Well Crafted NC project. Michelle, first can we start by having you just tell us about your background, where are you from and how did you get here?

M. Miniutti: Absolutely. I grew up in Maine. And Maine had kind of an earlier craft beer scene than a lot of other states in the country. I started getting exposed to craft beer shortly after I turned 21 in the late 80s and the early 1:0090s, and lived in Maine until the time I was 30, moved down to Georgia, got relocated with a former corporate job here at the Raleigh?Durham area, and met one of my business partners Ellen Joyner. We both worked in corporate America, and we became golf buddies. That's kind of how Bombshell got started was when we couldn't golf on the weekends when it was raining, we would go out to local bars, restaurants, craft breweries, and drink craft beer and have a good time.

M. Miniutti: One day we had gone out and we were just talking about, "There is not many women in the craft brewing industry. And we had also been discussing for a long time about what are the opportunities to get out of corporate America, and start an entrepreneurial venture. It dawned on us at that point 2:00that, why don't we look into starting our own craft brewery? Ellen had actually been a home brewer as well for about 10 years prior to us coming up with the concept of starting a brewery.

M. Miniutti: It was kind of a really good mesh between we knew craft beer, she'd been a brewer for quite some time, and we were looking for a nice entrepreneurial opportunity. I think one of the strongest things was there is no women, or very few women in the craft brewing industry and we wanted to changed that. That was one of the kind of the founding reasons that we started Bombshell.

Erin Lawrimore: When did you move to the Raleigh?Durham area?

M. Miniutti: 2003.

Erin Lawrimore: There wasn't an awful lot going on in the craft beer scene at that point in North Carolina, was there?

M. Miniutti: No, Carolina Brewing was actually in Holly Springs, they started 3:00brewing in 1997, but there was a law that you couldn't have beer over, I believe it was 5.5 or 5% and there were a number of people that were instrumental in getting that law changed. Once the pop the cap law was repealed that's when the microbrewing industry really kind of took off in North Carolina.

Erin Lawrimore: When would you say kind of the seeds for Bombshell first popped up?

M. Miniutti: 2010 was really, Ellen and I as I mentioned, we had been golfing together, and we were really enjoying a lot of the craft beer that was emerging at that time. That's when we floated the concept of, "Hey, let's look at starting our own microbrewery," and we did a lot of investigative work around it. I think one of the things that was the most shocking to us, as we explored getting, trying to start the craft brewing, our craft brewery was that very very 4:00few women actually owned a craft brewery, and we were only able to determine that there were at the time, four craft breweries in the country that were 100% women owned.

M. Miniutti: Bombshell to this day is still 100% women owned, it's myself, Ellen my business partner, and Jackie. We don't have any outside investors, and that's a blessing and a curse at the same time, and we can talk about that further down the line. We are still North Carolina's only 100% women owned microbrewery. There are some that are majority owned but not 100%.

Erin Lawrimore: Let's talk about kind of the process that went into opening Bombshell, you said 2010 was about the time when the seeds started getting planted. Let's talk about the process from we have an idea to we've opened the 5:00doors to the brewery.

M. Miniutti: It was a journey, it certainly was a journey. The first year after we coined let's go out and open our own craft brewery, we did a lot of brewing. My house became the brewery. We had a 3-vessel brew sculpture. It's funny in hindsight a lot of my neighbors, "When we drove by we wondered what the heck you guys were doing." Because we'd be out there sometimes as soon as we could after work and brewing until 11 o'clock at night, or on the weekends always brewing.

M. Miniutti: One of the things that we wanted to do is really kind of go out there and test just people's palate. We would take a lot of our beer and kind of do blind taste testing at parties, or different events that we would go to. We would bring growlers and we'd label them, A, B, C, D. And sometimes what we 6:00would do is we would take beer from other breweries, and we would have people rate things, because we wanted to see how were we doing?

M. Miniutti: A lot of times we'd have 40, 50 surveys. We had a pale ale recipe that we would kind of benchmark, or put up against a lot of the other benchmark pale ales in the industry. We got very favorable results. A lot of times we would win, which was kind of interesting. That was kind of the first year, along with trying to source our equipment, find a location. That's another thing, why Holly Springs. Both Ellen, both of us, Ellen, and I, and Jackie all live in Holly Springs. We were very tied to the community, we love this community, and we really wanted to be able to open the brewery here in Holly Springs.

M. Miniutti: It wasn't a deal breaker, but it was definitely a preference. We 7:00started working during that initial year of concept development on trying to find a location in Holly Springs, and we came across this building and signed a lease. Then for the next nine months after that we worked on building out the brewery. I think that's one of the things that really differs now, it's a lot easier to build out a brewery. One of the things that held us up was our process piping that we have. We have a steam fired kettle, and we had to have a low pressure boiler installed. And we had a real difficult time getting that bid in place. We had budgeted $18,000 for the installation of our process piping, because we felt since our boiler cost $26,000, $18,000 should be sufficient.

M. Miniutti: Well, the first estimate that we got was 15,000, so we were really 8:00excited because it was well under 18,000. The second estimate that we got was 60,000. We were like, "What's going on?" Then we get one that's 30,000, then we get one that's 45,000. We had to go back and forth over the cost of several months, because there weren't a lot of tradesmen in this area that actually had experience installing these low pressure steam boilers. They can be dangerous.

M. Miniutti: That was one of the things when we were building up that's really frustrating. What's changed about that now is that with the advent of so many breweries being built in the area, that skilled tradesman, whether it's in installing glycol lines, or your boiler, or any trench trains, any of that, there is really a local go to market for that. That really helps I think speed up the process for anybody that's looking at building up their brewery right now.


Erin Lawrimore: One of the other things that's popped up in some of the interviews we've done in terms of asking folks about their opening is issues with permitting. Did you run, did you guys run into anything?

M. Miniutti: That's a great question. Actually, not really. The only thing that we ran into that was different. A lot of people ask. Why do you have a wall that separates the taproom from the brewery. That was a city of Holly Springs mandated code. They considered that manufacturing environment, and you have to have a one hour firewall. If you go into the brewery you'll see it, it says, one hour firewall. That separates the taproom, the retail space from the manufacturing environment.

M. Miniutti: We would have loved to have left it open. It really would have created a nice atmosphere, but it wasn't something that was feasible according to code. The second thing that we ran into was the town really not understanding 10:00mill. We built a mill room that has exhaust fan, but when the fire chief came he was looking at it and saying, "Well, these walls aren't fireproof." It was going to potentially be this whole aspect of having to dismantle that. We had to convince him that we weren't milling down to a fine powder that can cause spontaneous combustion, and the electrical spark generation and what have you.

M. Miniutti: Those were two things that were kind of a pain, but the boiler was the thing that slowed down the build out process the most, because it was a lot of money. It was something that came in way over budget. We ended up spending about $30,000 on the process piping. Anyway, that whole build out occurred, we started in January of 2013. Then we did our first brew in November of 2013, sold 11:00our first keg the last part of November. Then the taproom opened up in January of 2014. We are kind of encroaching on our five year anniversary of operations. We are an LLC, and we actually formed our LLC officially in September of 2012.

Erin Lawrimore: Very cool. I'm going to back up a minute, because you were talking about kind of before you actually opened you started brewing out of the garage. I want to talk a little bit more about that. How did you learn the home brewing skill, and how did it transfer into operating a brewery?

M. Miniutti: That's a great question. Ellen had a lot of recipes, and sometimes we would go back and redo those recipes. We also hired our first brew master 12:00about, I think we brought him on eight months before we actually opened. At the time he was living in Pittsburgh, and we would fly him back for brew days, back and forth from Pittsburgh to Raleigh, it's pretty economical on, I think it was Southwest. We'd get pretty cheap plane tickets. We'd all do brew weekends, where we'd be brewing.

M. Miniutti: I had five chest freezers in my bonus room. We would be brewing somewhere in the areas of, we'd do about six, one barrel batches over the weekend. It was just constant. That's part of what we would do from a brewing standpoint, different recipes, we'd tinker with different yeast, in the same 13:00wort. Unfortunately, one of the things now that I own the brewery is I don't get to brew very often anymore, because I take care of sales, our outside sales team. I do a lot of the marketing, the advertising.

M. Miniutti: A lot of my responsibilities within the world of running this business take me away from brewing. It's kind of, it's unfortunate because I love to brew, but we have an awesome head brewer, Devin Singley is our head brewer here. He does a great job. Ellen does more of the brewing operations. Although Ellen and I did brew a special beer for the Pink Boots Society, International Women's Brew Day back in March, that we called it Pinky Brewster.


M. Miniutti: It was a pale ale, and it used a special blend of hops that some of the ladies from the National Pink Boots Society developed with YCH Hop Farms. It was really tasty, we got great reviews on it. In terms of giving back what we've done is we are almost through, we are through with the batch, but we are going to give five bucks for every keg of beer that we sold back of house to the Pink Boots Society for their scholarship program.

Erin Lawrimore: Very cool. During those early years, the early processes, are the particular processes that you leaned on to kind of grow as a brewer or even learn about the industry a bit more?

M. Miniutti: In terms of that, going to some of the brew conferences, reading books, pro-brewer, new brewer. Just talking to other brewers about what they are 15:00doing from recipe, and strategic market direction. We have a really wonderful guild here in North Carolina, and that's I think really helped to help us develop our business as well as many of the other breweries that are here in North Carolina. Also leaning on my professional corporate background which was in sales and marketing, way back before I got into sales and marketing I was also in finance.

M. Miniutti: I do a lot of the long term capital strategy planning, what's our business structure going to be, what's our finance structure going to be? Those are things that I focus on for the business. Relying on that professional background to do a lot of the day in and day out operations as well as a lot of the strategic planning. There is never enough hours in the day.

Erin Lawrimore: Of course not.

M. Miniutti: Ever.

Erin Lawrimore: I think that transferrable skill piece is an important piece to 16:00think about when going from one industry to another. Can you talk a little bit more about kind of corporate world versus the brewery world? I'm assuming there are lots of similarities, but also lots of differences.

M. Miniutti: There are. I think one of the things. I was at a director level in corporate America. I was at a pretty good level. I still kind of was an armchair quarterback. If I own this company I might do it this way. The last company that I worked for was Siemens Healthcare. Siemens as an organization is actually a global top 40 company. An organization that is very process oriented, very accounting centric. That's how they make their decisions. One of the things that 17:00Ellen and I talked about as we were starting the business is, we are going to do things this way.

M. Miniutti: Sometimes we've been able to do that, but not always. When the rubber hits the road, sometimes it's a different story. It's constant adaptation, and adjustment, and being nimble, because the marketplace changes so quickly.

Erin Lawrimore: Can you talk a little bit more about that? Can you think of an example where you were heading in one direction, and you had to make that switch?

M. Miniutti: I think when we started looking at packaging our beer into what package orientation were you going to go to? About seven years ago, bombers were kind of the thing to do. That really dissipated pretty quickly. Very few places want that format. Our capacity prior to that wasn't such that we could really go 18:00into alternate packaging forms. We didn't do any bombers. We kind of made a conscious decision that you know what? It's changing, where is it going? We evolved into canning.

M. Miniutti: We've used mobile canning now for approximately two years. We actually have a canning line on order. We have a twin monkeys scanning line that will be coming early to mid September. At least that's the date they are telling us. We are excited about that. That's going to allow us to do a lot of different things that we haven't been able to do. Going back to canning when we were first starting at it, you can go the route of painted cans, but you have to have a certain volume to do that.

M. Miniutti: The other thing that a lot of people do are shrink wraps on their 19:00cans. We chose to go, after doing a lot of market research and testing, market audiences, we decided to go with an adhesive label. One of the reasons we chose that was it allows us to be really nimble and quick, because we can do a graphic design on it. We can get with our graphic designer, he can push through a design in maybe a week or two. Then when we get that we can send it to our printer, and then in a week we can have a label. The lead time is really short, which is important if you are kind of doing like a specialty batch and you just want, it might be a one-and-done.

M. Miniutti: You can't really do that with shrink wraps. It's not an easy process, and it's about a six to eight week lead time to even get it into production. By the time you get it your beer is basically already moved through your brewery, or you have to have foresight way ahead of the time. One of the 20:00challenges is that you have approval of your label with your ABV on it. There is a lot of things that are very challenging. We feel that going to the adhesive label was something that necessarily we didn't want to do at first, because we really like the look of shrink wrap cans.

M. Miniutti: We found it was definitely better for the brewery from a logistic standpoint. When we did test market our various audiences, it wasn't something that was material to them as to whether or not on the shoulder of the can you could see the aluminum versus having the wrap that goes all the way to where the lid has been placed and sealed on the can.

Erin Lawrimore: Speaking of the can and logos, can you talk a little bit about how you guys decided on the name, but also the logo?

M. Miniutti: I would love to. Our logo is sometimes a point of controversy with 21:00people. Some people feel that it sexually objectifies women. We never intended it to be in that way. I think in this day and age sometimes when your intentions don't always match how people interpret things. First off, I'll come back to that, but I'll start with Bombshell as a name. As I mentioned, Ellen and I were golfers. When we were younger and perhaps a bit slimmer, after we'd get done golfing, the group of people that would be hanging out at the golf course would say, "Here come the blonde bombshells."

M. Miniutti: As we kind of searched for, we've got this craft brewery, what are we going to name it? Are we going to name it Holly Springs Brewery? Some of the more clever names. We were like, somehow Bombshell floated to the top, because we are 100% women owned. There are several definitions to Bombshell. One of 22:00those definitions is it's an unexpected surprise. That was the definition that we hung on to as far as Bombshell, because we were, "Hey look, we are a group of women that are opening our own microbrewery, and there is not very many women involved in the craft brewing industry. Isn't that a wonderful surprise?"

M. Miniutti: That's the definition that we clung to as far as Bombshell was concerned. Our logo, we worked with a designer out of South Carolina. It's a logo that tested really well among both males and females. We didn't want, we wanted something that was female centric as far as our logo, but we didn't necessarily want it to embrace white or some person in general. That's why we 23:00chose the silhouette, because who is it? What race is that? It's not important for us. One of the things that we also set out as part of our mission was to make sure that we were producing beers that would get people to drink craft beer.

M. Miniutti: More easy drinking styles that a lot of times people, not so much now, because most people have in fact, had craft beer. When we were getting started there were still a lot of people that were craft naive. A lot of times what happened, you might go out and somebody, you would say, "What are you drinking?" And they are like, "I'm drinking craft beer." "Let me taste it." It happened to be an IPA. If you don't drink hoppy IPAs, the first sip of an IPA might be a bit bold for you. We really said, we want to make sure that in our beer portfolio that we have styles that can appeal to a wide range of drinkers, 24:00whether you are a hoppy IPA lover, or you are somebody that's new, we want to make something that can have you, or allow you to enjoy something that's been locally produced. That is crafty and that mannerism.

M. Miniutti: The other thing about the logo is we wanted it to stand for female empowerment, and that's what that motion is about. It's like, hey, I'm doing this. I've got it nailed, I'm going out and no one's stopping me. That's the other part of our logo personification. It is disappointing, she is very shapely, and I think one of the funny stories about the logo is Ellen went out to eat and she went to a restaurant, and they were bringing out the birthday cake, and the chef decided that he was going to make the logo out of chocolate 25:00sauce. In the kitchen he did it, and by the time it got to the table the logo had spread and we were like, "It looks just like us now."

M. Miniutti: That's kind of a funny thing is people always ask, "Who posed for it?" None of us posed for it. I was like, "Oh yeah. That was in an earlier day." I wish. I think that's the other part of it. It's being fun. Society I think is really moving, if you don't agree with what I agree with then you are wrong. Are we really moving towards more tolerance, or is it your opinion is different than mine. Help me to understand why your opinion is different. Okay, I might not agree with that but thank you for sharing it, and I can respect that.


Erin Lawrimore: You touched on this, but can you talk a little bit about how you would define the main mission for Bombshell?

M. Miniutti: Our main mission is to produce easy drinking well crafted beers at a very level. We want people to when they see our tap handle, or they see our product in the store. We want them to know, they make good to great beer. That's our first goal. The second thing is I really want to have an environment for my employees where we have a great family. We work together to achieve higher objectives. Then the third thing that I think the company really centers on is being a good community steward. We do a lot of fundraising activities, which focus on both the first Friday and the third Friday of each month. We give 10% 27:00of profits back to a charitable entity or a philanthropic focus that's localized in our community.

M. Miniutti: It's a win-win. It gives that organization exposure to what their cause is. It helps us, it brings in oftentimes new customers that may not have been here before. We had one event last year that raised more than $8,000. And we wrote a pretty nice check to them for the day's 10% of profit. That's something that's really for me at the end of the day after all the hard work, when my head hits the pillow, I think I feel really great about being involved in the community like that. Just yesterday I gave my favorite brew tour. And I've been doing brew tours now for five years. I had a group of young inspiring 28:00adults from Gigi's Playhouse, which is an organization in Raleigh that works with down syndrome people.

M. Miniutti: They came over, they were primarily like 18 to 21 years of age. We did a brew tour, and we had lunch. They asked great questions. We had tons of fun. It's part of what they call exploration week. I felt really honored and privileged that they chose a brewery and they chose our brewery to come and partake in that. Those are the types of things. I made eight new friends yesterday. It was really rewarding. I like those aspects. You are out someplace and somebody says, "Oh, Bombshell. I've had your beer, I love your beer, I've heard about some of the things that you do for the community." Those are all just really cool and very rewarding, and as we become a bigger and better 29:00brewery those are things that I and my business partners want to expand on.

Erin Lawrimore: We'll come back to that. We'll put a pin in that for now and come back to it.

M. Miniutti: All right.

Erin Lawrimore: Can you talk a little bit about, both the size of the brewery now, the production and everything, but also kind of where you were when you first opened versus where you are now.

M. Miniutti: When we first opened, our first year we did I think just under 800 barrels. Last year we did right around 1,800 barrels. We are on target this year to do someplace around 19. We just added some more capacity, and we are going to be hopefully getting into some new markets in the fall, that will help to open up volume for us.

Erin Lawrimore: Can you talk about the markets that you are in right now?

M. Miniutti: We are a self distributing brewery. We've tried to focus primarily on growing our business in the greater triangle area. We also go out to 30:00Greensboro, and Winston-Salem, and basically through the 40 corridor, just from logistics, and aspects of our drivers still being in within OSHA compliance and what have you. Now adding some more capacity we are actually talking to potentially some distributors about bringing our beer into different areas.

M. Miniutti: We have a lot of people that come here into the brewery to pick up beer and bring it to their bottle shop. We've had a lot of requests, I think the coolest one was we got a request from a theater in New York City that had a play that was like Bombshells on Fire. They wanted our beer in New York City to market with their play. We only distribute in the state right now. That wasn't an option, but it was a pretty cool request.


Erin Lawrimore: That is a pretty cool request. The triangle brewing scene has changed dramatically since you first opened.

M. Miniutti: Yes.

Erin Lawrimore: Can you talk a little bit about like what it looked like then and how it looks now?

M. Miniutti: I think when we were starting there were 11 microbreweries in Wake County. I think we are embarking upon 49. That's a lot, but I think the thing to keep in context is the model that each of those breweries employs. Not all of those breweries are distribution breweries. A lot of them focus on just on premise as their pathway. That's definitely, there is obviously increased "cooperitition," as we call it in North Carolina. You just have to keep making 32:00great beer, and have the beer speak for itself, and have great representation out on the streets to let everybody know about what you are doing, and what's new at Bombshell. Winning a few medals here and there.

M. Miniutti: We are hoping for a big one. We've won a lot of the, we've won a number of medals in the State Brewers Competition. We won a few at the Beer Army Competition. Actually that's an international competition. We received word with the World Beer Cup Awards that just came back, one of our beers made it to the medal evaluation round. Sometimes competitions are kind of luck of the draw, and they are becoming. There is more and more entries. I don't want to say it's just a roll of the dice. It's not just that. There is some element of being in the right place at the right time with those. It's always a great plus.


M. Miniutti: Lynnwood Brewing is just, they've won a bunch of medals in both World Beer Cup and GABF and I think in the triangle they've got the ... And Lonerider also has, but I think they have the most medals in some of the big competitions. Kudos to Bill and Ted and their crew over at Lynnwood.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Let's talk about the beer. What do you consider, do you have a beer that you consider to be your flagship beer?

M. Miniutti: Our biggest seller is our Head Over Hops IPA. Probably most of the breweries that you talk to, an IPA is going to be their beer centric. Statistically IPA sales in the pie represent about 60% of overall beer sales. It's just logical that IPA is probably one of your best sellers. We have another 34:00beer that sells very well for us, it's a seasonal called strawberries and cream. That is a beer that a lot of people have a love-hate relationship with. A hophead like myself not their favorite beer. People that are new to craft love that beer. It's refreshing, it's a great poolside or beach-side beer, but it's not necessarily my go to beer, but people love it.

Erin Lawrimore: Do you have any of the beers still today that are legacies from when you guys were first getting going?

M. Miniutti: We actually have one, and its namesake only. Our Dirty Secret coconut stout was a beer that we had that we brewed the first year that we were open. We brewed it in 2014. That beer is still currently in seasonal production. 35:00We've changed the recipe a lot. We do all natural coconut, it's not like an extract or anything of that nature. We've changed the way that we infuse the actual flaked and shredded coconut into the brewing processing to kind of bring more flavor out. I think that's one thing is just, one of the big trends, there is a trend for pilsners and lagers right now, crisp beer that is technically very difficult to brew, because there is not like a bunch of hops hiding behind, or hops to hide behind.

M. Miniutti: Then also just other beers just more flavor oriented with ... We just did a variant that I'm drinking right now which is our Citra Pale Ale, and we did it with mango infusion. We used some mango puree and then we also peeled and chopped up dozens and dozens of mangoes. It's very tasty.


Erin Lawrimore: It's a lot of work but sometimes, you know, it pays off in the end. Can you talk a little bit about a typical day or week here at the brewery for you?

M. Miniutti: A typical day is more atypical than typical. Sometimes I'm up at four o'clock doing emails. Sometimes I might not get up as soon, but for me I'm getting up, I'm looking at what's come in overnight, looking at sales results, maybe getting sales data out to my team. Looking at trends, inventories, thinking strategically. I like to do a lot of that stuff in the morning, my head is a lot clearer. That's after a couple cups of coffee to get me started. It's less interrupted than any other point in time during the day before the phone 37:00starts ringing or questions start happening.

M. Miniutti: In a small business you really work as a team. There is lots going on. Mondays is our production meeting, we have a production meeting every Monday. We look at what's happened in the past week, and then do our forecasting and our planning for what new things look like. Right now we are actually starting to plan for January. It's a long process, forward looking process, sometimes the days don't end until midnight. If we have an event going on outside or whether it's a festival. By the time you are packing it up and bringing it back to the brewery and cleaning it all up, at this point in time we are still doing a lot of those tasks.

M. Miniutti: It's jack of all trades, do what you need to do. We are having an 38:00event and the bathroom isn't working properly. All right, put your plumber hat on and walk in there and get that fixed. You are constantly changing those hats through the course of the day. Some days, a lot is going on. That's good. Then other days like everything is breaking loose. We had a bit of a plumbing incident two weeks ago when we were installing a new tank. A fitting came off that wasn't supposed to came off, and an entire batch of Head Over Hops proceeded to spew across the brewery.

M. Miniutti: That's why you have good insurance. Then we have to go about how do we manage inventory? We have customers that are going to be, they have been on tap on a regular basis. How do we work through that supply challenge? You take 39:00immediate measures. No new accounts can have this beer. You are shuffling things all around. That's pretty typical. It's just solving what are today's challenges? And having fun.

Erin Lawrimore: You mentioned your team too. Can you talk a little bit about how many folks you guys have?

M. Miniutti: Sure. We have 13 employees right now, or 13 positions. We have a vacancy right now in the triad, in our sales capacity. We have five full-time employees. Plus owners. That's interesting seeing that it went from, we had some wait stuff that worked here in the taproom, we had three people that were on a part-time basis when we first opened, and a head brewer.

M. Miniutti: Now we've grown substantially. The goal, we are actually looking, we've been trying to fill our assistant brewer role and find the right match for 40:00that. It was interesting because I had a great conversation with Oscar Wong. I think it was the first six months that we were open and he said, "Hire slow and fire fast." Make sure everybody is the right fit. Have I heeded his advice always? No, and unfortunately I suffered some of the consequences. We are actually going slow and making sure we have the right fit.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. You've touched on a number of these already. But what were some of the biggest challenges that came through kind of after you had opened the development of the brewery? You've talked about the growth. I'm assuming that it was not all smooth sailing.

M. Miniutti: I think in any business, cashflow can be a challenge. We take raw 41:00materials and we turn them into beer, and then converting your assets into cash to go back and pay the bills. Most terms are 30 days. My bills are going to be due before I've sold my beer. That's always kind of a challenge. As I alluded to, we are a bootstrapped company. Me, Jackie and Ellen are the people that funded this business. We don't have any outside investors. We are very proud of the fact that our people have always been paid on the day that they ... In the past five years that we've been in business, payroll has always happened.

M. Miniutti: I think that's one of the things that maybe sometimes can be challenging is just managing the finances, but this year has been a really great year for us, and the other thing that makes that difficult is you are always looking at reinvesting in the business. We've funded a lot of our capital 42:00expenditures through operating cash, we need to buy a new fermenter. We are going to write a check out of our operating cash, because we are not going to the bank to get another loan. Just balancing a lot of those financial aspects can be challenging in that regard.

M. Miniutti: The other thing too is somebody calls in sick. Now what? We have delivery drivers, and we have awesome-awesome delivery drivers. It's so critical that they are dependable, not like "I have a hang nail. I can't come into work today," because if they don't go and do deliveries, guess who puts the delivery hat on for that day? Me.

M. Miniutti: One of the other things that's challenging in any brewery is lifting half barrels. If you talk to most of the brewers, everybody has bad backs, because they do things that they shouldn't, which is lift half barrels by 43:00yourself. Six, there is no problem, but getting a half barrel in and out of a delivery van as a female is a challenge.

Erin Lawrimore: We have the same problem in our archives with people lifting really heavy boxes all the time when they shouldn't.

M. Miniutti: Exactly.

Erin Lawrimore: To go back to what you had mentioned a minute ago that we put a pin in. Community engagement, and that work. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the specific, particularly the Fridays, the first and third Friday events that you guys do, and how that came to be?

M. Miniutti: Again, we had done periodic like, here is an event that we are going to do. Every day we probably get at least three to four requests for some type of charitable contribution. We'd be out of business if we donated to every single one of them, even if it's just like a growler fill and a t-shirt. We are 44:00inundated with requests. Although we'd love to as I said support everybody, we have to make some choices. We just said, "How are we going to respond to people? What's going to be our policy?" That's where we decided, let's have it focused on a Friday.

M. Miniutti: What's happened now is we are doing it once a month, those Fridays are all booked up for like the next year. Then we have people lined up for next year. Then we said, let's look at adding a second date to that. Those are pretty full right now too. That's kind of how we focused on that. We do lots of get a free growler filled, bring this certificate in. People are having their silent auction, they want little prize pack. Jackie evaluates most of those and decides 45:00what we are going to do.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. So looking back at your hopes and dreams when you guys first opened versus today. Are there big surprises that kind of stand out to you? Anything you just really didn't anticipate?

M. Miniutti: I had a pretty realistic outlook on things. I think perhaps the actual number of hours that it takes to run a business. Oftentimes when I've done brew tours, people ask me, "How does this job differ than your corporate job?" I say, "Well, I'm working more hours, but the difference is I get to pick my hours a lot more." I work mostly all the days that end in Y. Yes, seven days. Also, it might be I escape for five hours. I don't have inherently 46:00accountability to someone to say, "No, you can't go there because you need to be available," or something of that nature. There is some flexibility there with the number of hours that you are working.

Erin Lawrimore: Looking forward, what plans, what hopes and dreams do you have for Bombshell going forward?

M. Miniutti: We are in the middle right now of strategic evaluation of expansion, primarily for our tap room. Holly Springs is a growing community, and we get asked at least three to four, five times a week for private events space. We can't fulfill that. We used to occasionally have the brewery as a place that people could have events. We can still do it, but we just added several new tanks. We've taken more cooperages, our business has bought more cooperage, and 47:00we just don't have floor space, and the disruption to the production process to host events.

M. Miniutti: We are looking for what's next in terms of the taproom, whether we go to another building, and set up a small production facility that might be focused on sours in that location. And then turn this whole and barrels in that secondary location and focus just on production here in this building, or maybe we go and take production, what large scale production someplace else, where we are looking at the most cost effective space per square foot for production. There is a lot of money in moving, money and disruption in moving your existing production facility. Some breweries have done that, and it's been very 48:00detrimental to their financial wellbeing long term, because there is always something that comes up, and doesn't go as smoothly as you've planned, and that can be something that's very difficult to recover from.

Erin Lawrimore: You've mentioned that Bombshell is 100% woman owned, craft brewing is definitely an industry that today is still kind of stereotypically thought of as a male industry. Do you feel that there are challenges that you guys have faced in opening and operating your own brewery?

M. Miniutti: Not from a discrimination standpoint. I don't think that's played into it at all. I think probably one of the biggest challenges that we've had as a smaller self distributing brewery is fighting against the big distributorships. I think that's one of the big things is just that whole 49:00concept of pay to play, and industry practices that by ABC and law are actually prohibited but are done. I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges when you go into a bar or a restaurant, and this doesn't happen very often, but it's kind of a real stinker when it does, and they are like, "This distributing company owns these taps, and they own these taps."

M. Miniutti: You can kind of size it up when you walk in there as to whether or not they work with self distributing breweries. I think that's probably one of the things if I could say there is one thing that you could change for craft brewing in North Carolina, would really be just the I guess the bully, the big 50:00bully, because not all distributors are like that. We are actually looking at them. So it's not necessarily fear to put them all in that box. I just think that everybody playing nice in the sandbox would be good.

Erin Lawrimore: I think not facing discrimination is one thing, but are there particular benefits, things that you think as three women going into an industry where there aren't a lot of women, any particular backgrounds or mindsets that you guys brought that you think kind of maybe even gave you a leg-up and let you, helped you in growing to where you are today?

M. Miniutti: And I think it goes back to capturing a wide demographic. It's just not, "Hey bro, let's drink some beer." More women beer drinkers or people of 51:00ethnicity. I think we have worked in corporate America, where we've had a lot of training around inclusiveness, and I think we can bring that to the table. Having diversity among a lot of different aspects, sexual orientation, race. That's important for me is that people recognize Bombshell as somebody that embraces everyone.

Erin Lawrimore: What advice would you give if a woman came up and was like, "I want to open my own brewery." What advice would you give her?

M. Miniutti: Have a business plan and really understand what you are getting yourself into, is very very important. One of the things that I would say, what's something else that's really changed from the time before you opened up 52:00the brewery is, unfortunately I don't drink as much other craft beer as I used to. In a way that kind of sounds very narcissistic and small minded, but your schedule gets so busy. People always joke about, you get to drink free beer. And I'm like, "No, it's not free. This is like million dollar beer," because it takes a lot of money to operate a brewery of our size.

M. Miniutti: Every little pipe, every stainless steel pipe costs $200, and new fermenters several tens of thousands of dollars. Understand what you are getting into. I think I see a lot of people looking at opening businesses. Make sure you understand what model you are trying to open your business under. Are you an on 53:00premise, is equipment sized properly? Do you have the right location to facilitate that? Are you going to be a production facility that's shipping out your beer? Are you right sized for that, do you have enough cooperage? Are you going with a distributor? Do you have a sales structure?

M. Miniutti: We've seen a couple of breweries change ownership because they didn't have perhaps the right sales force, they went to a distributorship in an effort to solve getting beer out of their door. Then ultimately that relationship didn't prove to be the best thing for them, and it hurt them a lot financially. Just understand your business model, and make sure that you have done your research, and you have a really solid plan.

Erin Lawrimore: To put your forward thinking hat on, where do you see the industry going? Again, we can look back and there have been massive changes over 54:00the last five or six years. Where do you envision going over the next five or six?

M. Miniutti: So, I think you are going to continue to see that this trend of hyperlocal and on premise. People in general are always looking for an experience. What experience does your taproom provide for them? Community orientation is really important. Are you a member of the community? Can people identify with your brand. I think continuing to focus on on-premise, whether that also means having food on premise, or maybe a combination of food on-premise and occasional food truck, which is what we are kind of looking. Casual walkup dining type service, where you order and then it's brought to your table, not just full table side service.

M. Miniutti: We are looking at partnering with somebody for that, because restauranting is not in my core competency. I know now that's just not something 55:00that I would remotely get involved in. I think that's part of where it's going. I think that whole regional brewery model is going to become more difficult to get into and to sustain. We've seen a lot of changes with some big breweries that maybe were out in the west coast and expanded to the east coast, and now have pulled back, or closed up shop, it wasn't working.

M. Miniutti: I think we see that trend in general. You see the distributors perhaps ink a deal with somebody from another location, and you see all kinds of promotional effort focused on bringing that beer to market, and then three months later the distributor has another new brewery that they are working with. Your focus is kind of going by the wayside. As I've said, that's one of the 56:00reasons that we haven't really looked too much at a distributorship model for being our primary way of selling our back of house beer, because we just don't feel that we can get the sales representation in the way, shape and form that we like. The cost of having them just handle logistics doesn't make sense for us.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. What would you say is your favorite part of working in the North Carolina beer industry?

M. Miniutti: It's not a typical day. I don't know if you guys heard that.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. I was going to say. That was a scary sound. You were talking about how much the pipes cost, and then you hear a crash.

M. Miniutti: Yeah. Actually it's just a fitting, they are doing some cleaning in the brewery now. We do monthly we wipe down our tanks and everything. I think it was just a fitting that they had taken off that may have tumbled on the ground. Stainless is pretty tough, that's a good thing.


Erin Lawrimore: It's not as scary as it sounds.

M. Miniutti: Hopefully it wasn't a side glass.

Erin Lawrimore: No.

Erin Lawrimore: What would you say is your favorite part about working in the North Carolina craft beer industry?

M. Miniutti: The coopetition. I used that word a little earlier. Here in Holly Springs, we have another brewery Carolina Brewing. Those guys paved the way starting back in, I think it was 1996. If we have something that we are running into that's unfamiliar here, we have each others numbers. We text each other like, "Hey, can you come by? Hey, I thought we had 55 pounds of this, but we don't. Can I run over and borrow?" We are like that. We go to their taproom and drink, and they come to our taproom and drink.

M. Miniutti: That's a pretty cool thing. Just that friendly exchanged, we had a meeting up at Lynnwood last week just talking to Ted and his staff. They are 58:00building out a restaurant, just talking about some of the challenges. People are always open to helping you grow and talking about how can we help each other? Yet still we have friendly competition. It's kind of like sibling rivalry.

Erin Lawrimore: I like that.

Erin Lawrimore: Now we are going to move onto the couple of fun questions to end. What's your favorite Bombshell beer?

M. Miniutti: Great question. I get asked that all the time. One of my responses is, it's like my children. I love them all equally, but on some days I like some more than others. Right now I'm digging on our Citra Pale Ale with mango. We just ran out of our bourbon barrel aged dirty secret coconut stout. I love a lot of dark beers, but probably my go to beer right now, I'm kind of craving this 59:00beer is our Lady In Red. That's one of Devin's mastermind beer recipes.

M. Miniutti: He trained at Red Oak Brewing, early on, and he has a German background to him, from a family standpoint. He really loves to do more German style lagers. Lady In Red, it's an ale. It leans in towards a lot of that lager style, and it's really a tasty beer. He's won a couple of medals with it. It's a good go to.

Erin Lawrimore: You mentioned you don't get a chance to enjoy beer from other places very often, but do you have a favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery, other than your own?

M. Miniutti: I have a lot. That's the thing. There is so much beer out there, it's hard to drink it all. One that I really like a lot lately is Like Mike that 60:00Carolina Brewing just did for their anniversary. It's a New England style IPA. Everybody knows here at the brewery that I love New England style IPAs. I really mean that. I'm probably the one that likes them the most here. We could never produce enough of them. It's not everybody else's favorite style. I really enjoy that a lot. I was up in Lynnwood last week they had a really nice berliner weisse that was pretty cool.

Erin Lawrimore: You probably don't have much in the way of free time anymore, but when you are not here at work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

M. Miniutti: I still like to golf occasionally. That's always fun. I have a family. My kids are in college, but they are home for the summer. Sadly, this is 61:00probably going to be the last summer that they stay at home, because they've moved into apartments that are more year round oriented, and some want to travel abroad for studies next year. Just trying to focus more on the family.

M. Miniutti: My parents are getting older, trying to see them more often and they live out of state. My fiance's mother lives out of state. Going in those directions. Unfortunately, our parents in an age where they can travel too, we have to go to them. It's all good.

Erin Lawrimore: That pretty much wraps up the list of prepared questions I had. Is there anything we didn't talk about that you wanted to make sure that we get in terms of the whole story?

M. Miniutti: I think just maybe kind of what's next for Bombshell? I think my ultimate dream for the company were to become an employee owned corporation, or a B corporation at some point. I think that would be really-really cool. If I 62:00won the lottery this weekend that might be something that I'd try to make happen.

Erin Lawrimore: That's a very interesting ... There aren't a lot of breweries I don't think that have that set up, are there?

M. Miniutti: There might be a few that are out of state?

Erin Lawrimore: I think New Belgium maybe is set up like that as one of the bigger ones.

M. Miniutti: Employee owned yeah, but as far as B corporations. I think there's been one or two that are kind of set up initially with that mindset.

Erin Lawrimore: Interesting. Very cool. Well, thank you very much.

M. Miniutti: Thank you.

Erin Lawrimore: We really appreciate it.