Growing up, most of us are taught that while money is important, it is passion that drives us. That’s where we get that age old academic counseling inquiry, “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” The thing really is money though. What people fail to tell you is that while this is a great question, these days, pursuing your passion is like having a second job. More often, than not, your passions can’t pay the bills and that means burning the midnight oil and not reaping any financial reward. This Passion Project post is all about Mark Slattery, a man whose love for beer has enabled people to, well… make beer.
Mark Slattery was just like any other university grad. After finishing his high school career at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, he matriculated to the University of Michigan and graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies. He bounced around sports industry jobs and tried his hand at marketing, but then he decided that work was for pansies and BOOM, he and his wife quit their jobs to travel the country for a year. They set up a website (www.coupleofsports.com) and began their campaign. The two intrepid sojourners took to KickStarter.com to ask the internet for money to fund their cross country trip.
During this trip (the Internet says “You’re welcome,” Mark…), the couple visited over 150 breweries. After their trip came to a close and the couple ended up in Denver, CO, Mark rekindled his love for beer and let it grow there. By his own admission, it’s been quite a ride. He began a blog called DenverBeerGuy which started gaining traction and spawned its very own little off-spring Twitter account (@DenverBeerGuy). The site, if you haven’t figured out yet, is an homage to beer. In his own words, “Denver is a fantastic craft beer city, so I immersed myself in the culture and met anyone and everyone that I could in the Denver beer scene. Having visited so many breweries around the country, connections were made, and I felt the need to tell about those experiences, and Denver Beer Guy was born.” Since then, Mark has directed his passion for beer and writing into many unpaid posts on a variety of mediums including AmericanCraftBeer.com where he contributes as their Denver correspondent.
This is where the story gets really good… At the beginning of 2013, after the CEOs of Klout and SalesForce mentioned the @DenverBeerGuy Twitter account as an example of awesome craft beverage social media marketing, Mark’s phone started blowing up. Of all the calls he received, it was a call from Travis Benoit, a Pepperdine graduate with experience in managing funds and, more importantly, crowdfunding (the stuff KickStarter is known for) that presented the best opportunity for Mark. Together as partners, they co-founded CrowdBrewed, an amazing platform for a new type of crowdfunding.
CrowdBrewed utilizes both the traditional rewards model and a debt/equity model for funding. Unlike KickStarter which is purely reward-based (they offer products or prizes for donations), CrowdBrewed offers equity, meaning that your money, if the project proves to be successful, won’t just be money you’re donating, it will be money you are using to buy into the project. Basically, it allows for people that don’t have the capital necessary to offer venture funds to start ups, to do exactly that, at whatever level of commitment they feel comfortable with. Once again, thank you Internet. Now, not all these projects are what would be considered a “sure thing,” but if you believe in something, have a few bucks lying around and love beer, why not back a project that speaks to your passion?
Mark is still on his journey and we applaud his efforts to merge his passion with a venture that can actually pay some bills. I’m sure his wife would appreciate some fine dining, though I hear she is very much a pizza and beer type of gal anyway (a match made in heaven if ever there was one, right?). So what about Mark? What’s he been up to lately? Well, he still actively blogs, works as a digital marketing manager and, of course, is slaving away to get CrowdBrewed on the map. I did get a chance to speak with him a bit and as you probably guessed, we talked mostly about beer. So what’s Mark like? Humble, down to earth, (insert generic compliment here), etc. and a bit of a beer snob. However, when we asked him what makes the best beer? He said, “I still actively tell people to drink what they like. Everyone’s taste buds are different, and they’ll inevitably enjoy whatever tastes best to them. I can grandstand about craft beer politics and supporting local artisans all I want, but if it doesn’t taste good to you, you’re not gonna drink it.” Mark said, in perfect “cop out” fashion, and yet, we couldn’t help thinking that his outlook is what makes his blog popular.
As a special request, the NSB staff asked Mark what his top 3 beer discoveries were. Here’s what he had to say: “After traveling far down the beer nerd rabbit hole, my top 3 beer discoveries have mostly been about new styles and flavors. There’s a fantastic sour beer brewery here in town called Crooked Stave that opened my eyes to new and unique flavors, which I ended up seeking out in Belgium this summer by going to places like Cantillon Brasserie, to find the best of the best in sour beer. I also like the truly unique brews that use a barrel aging process. To me, those flavors, even unused oak barrels, give beer a flavor that really speaks to my tastebuds. Lastly, the science of beer has really intrigued me, especially on the microbial and yeast levels. I love analyzing different yeast strains and what flavors they give, especially with regard to Belgian yeast strains that I feel are some of the best and most flavorful in the world.”
We’ll keep our eyes on Mark as he traverses the tumultuous landscape of finance, and we’ll be rooting for him. Of course, we will also keep our eyes on CrowdBrewed, so we can find our very own little start up to invest in and keep the dream of retiring early alive! Until that day, this brew’s for you, Mark Slattery: Real Man of Genius.