Terry Rostic (left) and Jamal Ewing won $20,000 for their brewery at Start Garden’s 100 Ideas pitch competition last week. Photo by Ehren Wynder
Michigan’s first African-American-owned brewery was one of last week’s winners of Start Garden’s 100 Ideas. And a $20,000 cash prize is bringing the vision closer to opening day.
“The love and support we got was amazing,” said Terry Rostic, founder of Kings Brewing Company. “Everybody we talked to was so supportive. Brewers were in the building saying, ‘Man, go for it,’ It was amazing.”
Rostic admitted he was never into craft beer or beer in general despite spending his whole life in Grand Rapids, but his first visit to Brewery Vivant changed his perspective.
“I couldn’t help think about how cool it was,” he said. “I started getting into craft beer, and it was really different from Budweiser.”
Now a craft beer enthusiast, and a regular of Brewery Vivant, Rostic has a mission to open his first brewery with inclusivity at its core.
He said his first experience inspired him to visit numerous breweries throughout West Michigan, but being an African-American male, he couldn’t help notice there were very few pub-goers who looked like him. Desiring a more inclusive craft beer community led Rostic to want to create Kings Brewing Company.
Rostic went on several craft brewery tours to expand his knowledge of the industry, understand the brewing process and learn about other brewers’ struggles when they started.
His endeavor led him to interact with local brewers who have been willing to provide mentorship. Coming full circle, Brewery Vivant co-owner Kris Spaulding met Rostic at Start Garden during a meetup for food and beverage startups.
“He’s a really cool guy,” Spaulding said. “His idea is opening a brewery in 49507 (Boston Square), which, any kind of investment there is what our community needs.”
During a couple meetings with Kris and Jason Spaulding, the couple helped Rostic go over his business plan, including setting up a physical space, financing and acquiring brewing equipment.
Spaulding also said Rostic’s mission is similar to her and her husband’s with Brewery Vivant, considering both of their business models focus on impacting their communities beyond just serving food and beverages.
Rostic is well equipped to start his own business, having achieved his B.A. in business from Cornerstone University and his M.B.A. from Davenport University.
While working for Davenport University in 2015, he also founded and directed Alpha League, a mentorship program for first-generation minority male college students.
Being a leader for underprivileged students also was part of his inspiration for forming the brewery with a similar mission, he said.
“I started thinking, why couldn’t I do that with craft beer; create a brewery with this inclusive environment?” Rostic said.
He knew if he were to start a brewery, he would want it to be in his neighborhood. Growing up in Boston Square in southeast Grand Rapids, he was familiar with the need for more opportunities in that area.
“Of course, southeast Grand Rapids — the 49507 zip code — raised me. We have had issues as far as opportunities, employment, postsecondary education — it’s no secret,” Rostic said. “It’s my hope to create opportunities in education and employment that can last a long time.”
One of the opportunities Rostic plans to offer once he gets his business running is to send young people in the area through Grand Rapids Community College’s brewing program, a seven-week program designed to teach students the basics of working in a brewery and, hopefully, open career paths in craft brewing.
The program graduated 22 students in its first year, and some have secured internships with Harmony Brewing, Hideout Brewing, The Mitten Brewing and Schmohz Brewing in Grand Rapids, according to a 2017 Business Journal report.
The theme of serving communities and creating opportunities is manifest in the brewery’s name, Rostic said. He envisions the brewery being a gathering place for “kings of their communities.”
“The job of a king is to provide for the community,” Rostic said. “All these kings get together and do great things. That was my idea. I hope we all come together and become great kings.”
Currently, Rostic and his business partner, Jamal Ewing, are working on securing a location for the business. They already have purchased logos and are working with marketing professionals to promote their message.
Kings Brewing already has a few signature recipes, including an IPA, a lager and a glitter beer, as well as plans to deliver a menu full of Cajun-style dishes like alligator nachos.
Now with an added $20,000 in their pockets, Rostic and Ewing plan to be open between mid-March and late April next year.
Rostic said the money would go toward legal fees, as he and Ewing meet with attorneys before they approach their investors, as well as help shore up the rest of their business plan.