Oral history interview with Jackie Hudspeth, 2018

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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0:00 - Opening credits / interview introduction

0:33 - Background and introduction to the brewing industry

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Partial Transcript: So Jackie just to start with, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get here?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth, a North Carolina native, notes that she was a stay-at-home mother who was friends with the other two co-owners of Bombshell prior to going into business together. Her flexible schedule allowed the other two co-owners to continue their full-time jobs while opening the brewery.

2:10 - Role at Bombshell

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Partial Transcript: So what is your responsibility? What pieces do you manage of the puzzle here?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth describes her role at Bombshell as the facilities manager and the distribution coordinator.

2:52 - Challenges in opening the brewery

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the challenges that you guys faced when you were first getting started?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth notes that the co-owners faced a steep learning curve, particularly in regards to facility maintenance. She discusses the support they received from others in the industry to help them at opening.

Keywords: Leah Wong Ashburn; Oscar Wong

4:49 - Typical week at the brewery

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Partial Transcript: So, do you ... How would you describe your typical week around the brewery if there is such a thing?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth outlines the roles that the three co-owners of Bombshell have taken. She discusses more details of her work in managing facilities and distribution.

6:45 - Mission of Bombshell Beer Company

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Partial Transcript: How would you personally define the mission of Bombshell?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth notes that Bombshell's mission has evolved in the four years they have been opened. While they initially focused on approachable beers, they have changed to include a focus on special, one-off beers in order to meet customer demand and expectations.

Keywords: Community

8:04 - Charity and community engagement work

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned that you were the person who kind of coordinates a lot of the charity work.

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth discusses the charity and community engagement work that Bombshell does, including their First Friday fundraisers and donating to events and auctions.

Keywords: Community; Community engagement

10:01 - Expectations at opening versus today

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Partial Transcript: Kind of looking back at your expectations when the brewery first opened, or when y'all were first planning the brewery even, are there any big surprises that kind of stand out?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth notes that the time commitment for owning a brewery was greater than she initially anticipated. She also talks about the local community's support for the brewery.

11:05 - Plans for future growth

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Partial Transcript: Looking forward, how do you see Bombshell, how would you want to see it growing in the future?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth notes that she hopes to grow Bombshell's distribution network statewide as well as its production capacity.

12:18 - Challenges and benefits of a woman-owned brewery

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Partial Transcript: Bombshell is one of very few 100% women owned breweries, particularly here in North Carolina.

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth notes the steep learning curve she faced. She also discusses how their name and backstory as a 100% woman owned brewery helps them stand out.

13:56 - Advice for a woman looking to open a brewery

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Partial Transcript: If another women wandered in right now and said she was interested in opening a brewery, what kind of advice would you give to her?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth encourages a woman interested in opening a brewery to do extensive research and talk to people in the industry.

14:52 - Future of the North Carolina beer industry

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Partial Transcript: And also kind of thinking about that bigger picture, where do you see like North Carolina beer, the industry across the state, where do you see it kind of trending towards in the next five or 10 years?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth discusses her fear of market saturation in many parts of North Carolina. She talks about challenges related to tap space and shelf space as the number of breweries grows.

16:37 - Favorite part of working in the North Carolina beer industry

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Partial Transcript: Aside from the challenges, what's your favorite part about working in the North Carolina, in the beer industry?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth talks about how the brewery contributes to the local community.

17:27 - Favorite Bombshell Beer Company beer

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Partial Transcript: We have a few fun questions that we always like to kind of end the interview with.

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth talks about Bombshell's Pirate Queen IPA, a seasonal beer using a powderized hop.

18:17 - Favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than Bombshell

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Partial Transcript: So, what about a favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your own?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth discusses IPAs from New Belgium and Foothills.

19:12 - Introduction to craft beer

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember ... Were those also kind of your first intro to craft beer?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth talks about Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs as her initial introduction to craft beer.

20:10 - Hobbies and interests away from the brewery

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Partial Transcript: So when you're not working here at the brewery, what are some of your favorite things to do? What do you do in your free time?

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth discusses her interest in golf, tennis, and home improvement projects.

20:59 - Origin of the name "Bombshell" and the brewery logo

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Partial Transcript: Maybe. This isn't a big thing, but the word Bombshell, a lot of people ask us, "Where'd you get that name? Why Bombshell?"

Segment Synopsis: Hudspeth discusses the origin of the brewery's name and logo.

22:33 - Interview conclusion / closing credits

0:00

Erin Lawrimore: To start, can we have you say and spell your name.

Jackie Hudspeth: Jackie Hudspeth, J-A-C-K-I-E H-U-D-S-P-E-T-H.

Erin Lawrimore: Awesome. Well today is Thursday, July 26th, and we are at Bombshell Beer Company in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Jackie, just to start with can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get here?

Jackie Hudspeth: Okay, sure. I'm a native of North Carolina as you can probably tell. I grew up in this area. I went to college at Appalachian, and when I graduated I worked in the medical field for about 10 years, in the sales part of it. Then I was a stay at home mom for about 20 years. I live right here in Holly Springs, and am now part owner of a brewery.

1:00

Erin Lawrimore: Well how did you get involved in the opening of the brewery?

Jackie Hudspeth: Okay, all three of us live in the same neighborhood, and we were friends, we played golf together, we hung out at the club and of course enjoy drinking beer together, so we kind of formed a friendship. I had heard that they were thinking of opening a brewery, so I started talking to them a little bit more about it, and they were home brewing on the weekends and I'd go over to their house and hang out and home brew. At that time they worked full time in the corporate world, and like I said I was a stay at home mom, and they got to thinking that I would be a good fit. You know, we all have different qualities and talents that we bring to the business, and I'm real hands-on, a worker bee, do everything myself around the house, plumbing, electrical, painting. The fact that I was a stay at home mom was a perfect idea for them because they continued to work their full-time jobs when we were opening the 2:00business. Once we sat down and ironed out some of the nitty-gritty business arrangements I was all in.

Erin Lawrimore: What is your responsibility? What pieces do you manage of the puzzle here?

Jackie Hudspeth: Right, okay. I'm the facility manager and I'm in charge of distribution, so I made all the delivers myself the first two years. I have lots of bruises and scars to show for it, and you won't believe the looks I would get when they see this little hundred-pound lady bringing a half barrel of beer in the kitchen. But that's what you do when you first open a business, you have to do a lot of work yourself. Now I have two full-time drivers and I coordinate their routes for them, get invoices ready, and also when they get back we have to bring in the invoices and process them.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the challenges that you guys faced when you were first getting started?

3:00

Jackie Hudspeth: There were a lot. It was a huge learning curve for all three of us, and being ladies we certainly didn't know much about the electrical components or the plumbing or any of the work that had to be done in the brewery, so we had to rely on contractors to do all of the work, and that was a bit of a challenge. Our first brewer had a lot of experience in knowing how to actually build a brewery from ground up, hook it all up and everything, so he did a lot of that work. Then there was a challenge of hiring salespeople. Do we want full-time, part-time, how do we start this? We didn't want to just send people out there and all of a sudden we run out of beer. It was a big learning curve in the beginning just trying to ease into it not too fast but do it slowly and do it right.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Are there particular people or groups or resources that you all drew on when you were opening and growing?

Jackie Hudspeth: Somewhat, yes. One of my fondest memories, I think we'd just 4:00barely been open, and the owners of Highland Brewery, Oscar and Leah his daughter, they stopped by to see us, and gosh, like oh it was so cool, because I love that brewery. They've been around a long time, and they gave us a lot of advice: don't try to grow too fast too quick, self-distribute for as long as you can, make sure you make really good, solid, quality beers before you just start trying to make too many beers. That's just what I remember the most, is their advice and looking up to them and appreciating them coming by.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. How would you describe your typical week around the brewery, if there is such a thing?

Jackie Hudspeth: Yeah, it's pretty much at this point ... In the beginning I was 5:00all over the place. We were still doing painting here and painting there and flying by the seat of our pants. But now that we've been open four and a half years things have settled down to the point where we all pretty much have a regular routine each day. Ellen's the business manager and Michelle's the sales manager and does social media, and like I said I come in each day and get my delivery team on the road, make sure all the product is good to go. If we have a stopped-up toilet I have to take care of that, take care of the facility. I replace light bulbs, I paint little places on the wall. I'm also in charge of the charities that come to us for contributions. I get a lot of emails, I spend a lot of time getting back in touch with them and seeing what we can do to contribute and how we can help. As far as the community goes, I'm in charge of a lot of activities that go on here.

Jackie Hudspeth: My typical day while the guys are out on the road would 6:00probably be emailing, sending out paperwork, and also like I said just doing whatever has to be done. A lot of times I have to make emergency deliveries. Our team's already on the road and all of a sudden a sales rep calls and goes, "Can it please go out today? They really need it," and I'm like, "I got it." Throw it in my Tahoe and off I go. I get a lot of those kind of days too. I have to take the vans and get them inspected and get work done on them, and one's broke down and I got to figure out how we're going to solve for that. That's kind of my life around here. And I help in the back, I help in the brewery cleaning kegs and just organizing and doing whatever Devin asks. I'm always glad to help.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. How would you define the mission of Bombshell?

Jackie Hudspeth: Well, it has evolved over the last four years. When we first opened our mission or our goal was to make very approachable beers that a lot of 7:00people who weren't really into craft beer but they kind of wanted to be a part of the scene, make beers that a lot of light beer drinkers would enjoy, but also have a full range of other beers as well. I guess our mission in the beginning was to make, like I said, very light, approachable beers, but now we've realized that you've kind of got to make what the market asks for or what will sell. We know we have to do a lot of special beers, a lot of one-offs, and we've been doing a lot of special IPAs every month. We just wanted to be a really friendly community place for all of our friends and neighbors, and people come to enjoy our beer. I guess our mission is still to be considered the brewery that makes really good, solid, approachable beers, and to provide a place where people can come and enjoy it and make friends and bring their dogs and their kids.

8:00

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. You mentioned that you were the person who coordinates a lot of the charity work. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of working with those charities and community engagement work that's done here.

Jackie Hudspeth: Sure. Well, we hold events weekly. We do what we call the First Friday, and that's when charitable organizations come in, we set it up ahead of time, we print special glassware so you get a commemorative glass to keep, and 10% of the money we raise goes toward that. We usually have a band, and we make it a real fun night. A lot of charities have loved to do that. Like I said, I get a lot of emails, and the whole year filled up really fast. We did that the first Friday of the month, and now we've gotten so many requests that we're also now doing another one called Fundraiser Friday, and that's on the third Fridays 9:00of the month I think. Having events here is a big part of it.

Jackie Hudspeth: Probably the biggest part of the charity type thing is donating something to their ... Say they're having a golf tournament or they're having a gala or some kind of big function at a country club, and so we'll donate beer to those type things, or we'll donate something for their silent auction. I'm always putting together these packages and say what day they can come pick it up or would you like me to bring it to you.

Jackie Hudspeth: We try to give as much as we can. It's hard when you're a small business, but we feel like it's important. Especially anything that involves cancer, terminal illnesses. We've held events here for particular families that are suffering a personal crisis, and they're very successful. We've raised a lot of money for people here in our community.

Erin Lawrimore: Right. Looking back at your expectations when the brewery first 10:00opened, or when you were all first planning the brewery even, are there any big surprises that stand out, anything that you didn't anticipate back then?

Jackie Hudspeth: Well, having to work seven days a week, eight hours a day. That was a big surprise. I came from a stay at home mom. The timing was right because my two boys had just gone off to college, so I did have the time, but I was very surprised at how much work was involved when you're an owner. I've never owned my own business, so that was a big surprise for me. It was also a big surprise as to how welcoming the community made us feel. So many friends would come up all the time and go, "Oh, I love your place. Your beer's great. You're doing a great job," so it made me feel good and it was rewarding to see that all of our hard work was paying off. It was just a surprise I guess to know exactly how 11:00much work would be involved in this.

Erin Lawrimore: Right. Looking forward, how do you see Bombshell, how would you want to see it growing in the future?

Jackie Hudspeth: I'd like to continue growing, maybe at a little faster pace. We of course want to be in every bar and restaurant all over the state, that would be awesome. We are in a lot of grocery stores now, and we would love to be in every single one of them. That's where I'm hoping to see us. We've just expanded our barrelage capacity, so we will have the ability to make lots and lots of beers. I would like to see us go with a distributor at some point, maybe self-distribute in some areas but use a distributor for the further-outlying areas. I think that would help us grow a little faster, so I'd like to see us do that. Like I said, to grow is our goal. There are a lot of breweries that really don't want to get big, they're very happy to have a small in-house operation and 12:00deliver just a few places. But definitely for the future I'd like to be the next New Belgium. That's a big dream. That's one of my favorite breweries. I love that place.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Bombshell is one of very few 100% owned women-owned breweries.

Jackie Hudspeth: That is true.

Erin Lawrimore: Particularly here in North Carolina. Can you talk about maybe some challenges but also some benefits that come from that kind of setup?

Jackie Hudspeth: Yes. I'd say the challenges are, like I said in the beginning not knowing how to do a lot of the work. I've been to other breweries in the area and the owner, the head brewer, he did almost all the work himself. They know how to do all that, where we had to hire it out. But it's been very successful because a lot of people admire what we're doing. We get a lot of people telling us, "Oh, that's so cool. I can't believe three women own a 13:00brewery." I think we get a lot of people come to the bar, they see us on our website and they're going, oh I've got to go check that out, I can't believe three women own a brewery. Then the name Bombshell itself, I think a lot of people think that's great, our logo and our color scheme.

Jackie Hudspeth: We've only had a few instances where claiming this is a all female-owned brewery has kind of not set well with some people. Some people think that's a little sexist. We've heard a couple of our accounts, people have come in and said, "I don't really care if they're all female-owned or not. I mean why do I care about that? All I want is good beer, and the fact that they're all female owners, that's not important to me." But it has probably helped us a whole lot more, given us more advantages than it has hindered us.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. If another woman wandered in right now and said she was interested in opening a brewery, what kind of advice would you give to her?

14:00

Jackie Hudspeth: Think about it long and hard. Do a lot of research, do your homework. Talk to a lot of breweries that are currently in Wake County right now and see if the time is right, or if they've missed the mark. I would certainly encourage it. I think that would be great to see more women-owned breweries, and I feel it's growing. But just do your homework, kind of see what the market is like in the area. I don't know what town it would be or what state or what city, because it varies. Some areas are saturated and some it's just now starting to take off. I would suggest looking at a market that has a lot more open space for another brewery.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Also thinking of that bigger picture, where do you see North Carolina beer, the industry across the state? Where do you see it trending 15:00towards in the next 5 or 10 years?

Jackie Hudspeth: I don't know how much more it can grow. There's over 40 in Wake County alone, and then all over the state as well. I do see it continuing to grow. We get people coming here all the time saying they're thinking about opening a brewery. I see it definitely growing. There's not but so much room on the shelf in the grocery stores or the bottle shops, there's not but so many taps in the local bars, and there's a lot of good beer in this state.

Jackie Hudspeth: That's the challenge with our sales reps. They go in and they get an account, the beer's great, they love it, it sold out in a week. So you want to get the next order, they're like, "Well we're rotating, we're going to let somebody else have this tap." I understand it, bars want to keep their beers fresh just like we do. Every time you come in you want to try something new or different. But there are a lot of rotating taps out there, and I just see it 16:00getting worse I guess in the next 10 years, unless a lot more restaurants can open. Unfortunately, a good handful of our accounts that have opened have closed, they've gone out of business, because the restaurant industry, as you know, is very competitive. Hopefully it'll just keep growing, but that is a challenge for this state I think, is the number of breweries trying to get on tap and trying to get on the shelf at the grocery store, and stay there.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Well aside from the challenges, what's your favorite part about working in the North Carolina, in the beer industry?

Jackie Hudspeth: I'm proud to be a part of it. It's very rewarding. Like I said, I've lived in this town for 25 years, we have a lot of friends, and it's just very rewarding when all my friends go, "Hey, let's go to Bombshell Friday night, I love that place." Because there's not that many places in this area to go, and 17:00five years ago there was only like two bars in town, and we were the third. So we were very, very busy every night during the first two years. It just makes me feel so good when I come in and see all these people having a good time. It just makes me feel very satisfied that all the hard work that we've put into it is paying off.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. Well, we have a few fun questions that we always like to end the interview with. What's your favorite Bombshell beer?

Jackie Hudspeth: Mmm, that's very easy. My favorite Bombshell beer is currently not on tap. We had it last year, and it's called Pirate Queen. Pirate Queen was an IPA that was made with a new hop called cryo hop, it's a powderized hop. It gives the beer a lot of flavor without a lot of bitterness. This beer was so good. Ellen and I were loving it, which can kind of be a bad thing. Pirate 18:00Queen, that was named after a famous lady pirate in North Carolina and her name was Anne Bonny. That's my favorite Bombshell beer. I want it to come back, I'm ready for it. Maybe this fall.

Erin Lawrimore: There you go. What about a favorite beer from a North Carolina brewery other than your own?

Jackie Hudspeth: Whoo. Honestly, I don't get around to a lot of the other local breweries to try their beers enough to find a favorite. I like a lot of the beers in this area, but, I mean I hate to say it again, but I love New Belgium. I love their beers, they're all good, Citradelic. I like Foothills too. Those two, probably Foothills and New Belgium are my two favorite breweries. When I first started here I liked Bud Light. I was not a craft beer drinker, I will be honest. But it didn't take very long. The more craft beer you drink the more your palate craves more flavor. I think it's almost like addicting. So I 19:00migrated away from Bud Light really quick. The first real bitter hoppy beer that I started liking was a Foothills Hoppyum. It's probably that, and New Belgium.

Erin Lawrimore: Do you remember, were those also your first intro to craft beer?

Jackie Hudspeth: Well, now, somewhat. We have a brewery here in town, Carolina Brewery, that's been open for 23 years, and I used to go to their brewery tours all the time and drink their beer, and I liked them a lot. They were like the only place in town where you go buy a fresh keg of beer and have it at your party, so a lot of my friends and neighbors had their beers on tap, so I started liking their beer a lot too. That was probably one of the first craft beers that I really started enjoying. Now I love all of mine. When we go out, my husband's always biased, he's like, "You know what, I don't see a single beer over there that I would buy over our beer." You grow to love your beers. You're proud of them, and you know what goes into them, you know the ingredients and you know 20:00how long it took to make it. It's great when you love your own beer.

Erin Lawrimore: Yeah. When you're not working here at the brewery, what are some of your favorite things to do? What do you do in your free time?

Jackie Hudspeth: I used to play a lot of golf and tennis. I haven't had time for that. I have a dog that I love very much and I like to walk her two or three times a day. I like to work in the yard as my exercise. I don't mind mowing grass, I don't mind weeding. I'm a big stay at home mom, right, so I love to do projects. I like to paint a bedroom and refurnish it, and that's satisfying to me. I love summer sports. We boat a lot, we go boating, and in the winter we like to go snow skiing, so we stay pretty active.

Erin Lawrimore: That pretty well covers the questions I came with. Is there anything else in terms of your piece of the puzzle here, your story, that we didn't cover, that you would want to touch on?

Jackie Hudspeth: Maybe. This isn't a big thing, but the word Bombshell, a lot of 21:00people ask us, where'd you get that name, why Bombshell? When we first started brewing beer at home, home brewing, we would take free samples up to the club and have them out on the golf course, and people just started calling them the Bombshells, because Ellen and Michelle are both blonde and they love their beer. When we started the brewery we were trying to decide if we wanted it to be a modern day bombshell, like some of the ones in the media today, or did we want it to be a older, vintage bombshell? We decided to stay with the older vintage bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and those ladies.

Jackie Hudspeth: But when we designed our logo, and we looked at a lot, a lot of them were pictures of women, their faces and their hair. We would look at those pictures and go, well I don't know if that really represents us. We didn't 22:00really want to go the real military bombshell girl lookalike, because there was already other companies out there going that direction. We decided to make our girl a silhouette so that she could be whoever you want her to be. She could be a modern day bombshell or a vintage bombshell. A lot of people say, "Oh, who's that up there?" I go, "Well that's your wife, or that's your girlfriend. That's who that is." I just like to explain a little bit about our logo and why we chose it and what it really means.

Erin Lawrimore: Oh, very cool. Awesome.

Jackie Hudspeth: Thank you.

Erin Lawrimore: Well, thank you very much.

Jackie Hudspeth: You're welcome, I enjoyed it.

Erin Lawrimore: Thank you.

Jackie Hudspeth: Thank you.