Brewery wins $50K business plan competition


Starving Artist Brewing Co. was founded by Andy Thomas in Scottville. Courtesy Sue Brown

A brewery’s business competition win could be good news for beer enthusiasts from Kalamazoo to Traverse City.

Starving Artist Brewing Co., a Scottville-based small batch brewery, was awarded $50,000 as the winning entrepreneurial business venture during Mason County’s inaugural Momentum Business Plan Competition earlier this month.

The brewery

The small batch brewery is located in a retrofitted barn on the home property of Andy Thomas, founder and operator of Starving Artist Brewing. The brewery officially opened for business on June 25 and is currently sixth in craft beer sales in the Ludington area, according to a press release.

Thomas, who also owns and operates an art gallery known as A.M. Galleries in Ludington, said the idea for Starving Artist Brewing was prompted after a discussion with his wife.

“I’ve been a business owner for 10 years. My wife and I were talking about the future and I have been a beer enthusiast and a home brewer just as long as I have been a business owner,” said Thomas. “We have a special land use (permit) from the county to use the near-turn-of-the-century barn on our property that we retrofitted to fit the needs of the brewery.”

Starving Artist Brewing currently produces eight different styles of beer, including two contract brews used at two Ludington-based restaurants: Blu Moon Bistro and the Chuck Wagon. The remaining six beers are brewed on Thomas’ property for local distribution and rotated based on seasonal flavors.

The business plan

As part of the requirements for the Momentum Business Plan Competition, individuals had to submit a detailed business plan to be considered among the final five presenters.

The first phase of Starving Artist Brewing’s business plan included generating local sales through the use of kegs and then securing the $50,000 from the competition to move into phase two of production, which included purchasing additional equipment to keep up with demand and expanding distribution beyond Mason County.

“We are going to close in the back of the barn, double our square footage, and buy the equipment we need to grow from a two-to-three-day brew week to a five-day brew week,” said Thomas.

Starving Artist Brewing has partnered with Grand Rapids-based Alliance Beverage Distributing, which will allow the Scottville-based brewery to distribute beer along the West Michigan lakeshore from Kalamazoo to Traverse City, and as far east as Lansing.

The impact

In response to winning the $50,000 in start-up funding, Thomas said he hasn’t fully processed it yet.

“I am greatly humbled by it that we have such a great opportunity and it is going to launch our business years into the future just after we started phase one, which will make our business that much more sustainable,” said Thomas. “It is an opportunity to be a good steward with the award and have a great success story to tell next year.”

The $50,000 will be allocated over a period of time in stages with involvement from the judges, according to Thomas.

“It would be great to start alternative packaging, so not just kegging, but canning and bottling, and eventually growing to the point where we have an option down the road to consider a beer garden,” said Thomas in reference to the long-term goal. “Right now that is in the distant future.”

Other ideas

The other business finalists included All Occasions, a full-service event planning and decorating company; LeFevre Corp., a designer and producer of a new line of tire recycling equipment; Stuart Family Organics, an organic wheat farm and bakery; and Makers’ Market, a community makers’ space and retail market for downtown Ludington.

Mason County economic development officials said Momentum Business Plan Competition will return in 2016.

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