Plan Writers (PW): Thanks for taking the time to talk today. Here’s an easy question to start us off. What is your name and job title? Where are you from?
Kendall Greenleaf (KG): My name is Kendall Greenleaf. I am the owner and one of the brewers here at Big Delta Brewing Company. From Campton, Maine. I am also a City Manager and City Developer here in Southeast Fairbanks.
PW: What motivated you to get started in this industry?
KG: I’ve always loved brewing. I’ve been home brewing for about 10 years and served almost 34 years in the army before coming to Delta Junction, and I fell in love with the local town. I started thinking about the future and about potential businesses I could do to hand down to the kids. Naturally, I thought about brewing; there was something about sharing beer that you’d crafted, with others. While I was in the process of getting my Master’s in Business Administration from Southern New Hampshire University, we found out it could actually be feasible. We realized that it would really work, and we started to make it happen.
We chose to turn an older, existing restaurant into our production brewery and taproom. One day, I went down to the parking lot and counted about 1,200 cars pass through. It was then we decided to take another operational restaurant and rebrand it into our brewpub. The restaurant was already open, and we expanded from 8 seats to 40. Our plan for the future is to open a local bakery to provide more opportunities for employees in the community.
PW: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
KG: We’ve also organized several educational and sponsorship opportunities. We’ve set up three reading programs. We’re currently sponsoring two students in a culinary program and supporting another lady through a brewing program. We provide opportunities to learn about the craft for people who are interested in our line of work.
We’ve become one of the top two breweries in Alaska. The craft brew scene has exploded up here. Because of what we’ve done, the little town of Delta is now part of that fight. I love the fact that we provide a level of ownership within the community. The community is getting behind what we’re doing here, and it’s reflected in the locals who show up every day. We have people from all walks of life, coming together in one spot. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the BS going on in the world, and the Big Delta Brewing Co. provides that temporary escape for everyone who walks through our doors. We’ve created a safe space for everyone.
PW: Tell me about Big Delta Brewing? What makes Big Delta Brewing unique?
KG: We’re located in a little town 100 miles south of Fairbank. I first created the business in my head before mapping out the original business plan as part of an MBA project. We looked at the numbers and thought “This thing might actually work!”. Someone eventually contacted us and mentioned there was a restaurant space available. We bought it and soon realized that we needed a more structured plan. We were originally supposed to be just Craft Beer. And then COVID hit. We had to find a way to stay afloat, so we ended up generating a miraculous pizza crust. We started sampling pizza and eventually came up with a primarily barley-based pizza crust. And it took off! Delta Junction has always been an agriculturally centric community.
After seeing an increase in sales, we realized that we needed to expand. We were using a small brewing system and quickly realized we could not keep up. The demand was so huge and grew so fast that we had to refund over $3,000 in sales, simply because we didn’t have the manpower. We ended up buying two large pizza ovens. We went from five employees to 21. We’ve got a new head brewer from Bend, Oregon, and we grossed just under $700,000 in sales. Had we had the capacity, sales would have been closer to $1.3M. We’re now going through the acquisition of a second restaurant across the street from our brewery.
Having our initial Business Plan was great, but I think a Business Plan from the Plan Writers gave us more credibility as a Company. We came up with our original plan, but the Plan Writers took it and our business and structured it to look a lot better. This opened a lot of doors for us and allowed us to develop more business relationships. Between our two businesses, we could now be valued at around $2.4 million. Looking ahead, we’re now looking at remodeling our restaurant and expanding into commercial Barley growing. We’ll definitely be coming back to partner with the Plan Writers as we move toward a multi-company.
PW: Being out in Alaska, what marketing tactics do you find most effective for reaching new customers?
KG: As a tourism state, a lot of our traffic comes from the outside AND inside Alaska. We’ve done a lot of demographic work through Square and saw a 60% return customer base. Alaska has a lot of highways, so there are always tourists passing through.
PW: What would you say your mission is in the Craft Brew Industry?
KG: On top of offering products at a much more affordable price, we’re producing jobs for the community. We’ve created and maintained over 7 jobs. We also use local ingredients as much as possible. We’ve partnered with two local farms and use all locally-grown produce. The barley flour we use in our recipe is created locally. We’re completely involved in the entire farm-to-table process. Everything on our menu is made from scratch, fresh. We currently sell around 400 pizzas a day. Nothing is wasted and our waste is recycled. Our garbage and food waste are turned into fertilizer to grow mushrooms and our spring mix. We pride ourselves on being very sustainable and very eco-friendly.
You can see more about what we’re doing on the Community Link on our webpage.
PW: And what about yourself? What are some of the values that drive YOU?
KG: Transparency. Hard Transparency. Even when hard is hard to digest. I also value a good work ethic. We like to turn workers into managers. As the owner, I like to be first in and last out. I truly believe that nobody is too good to go and wash dishes.
PW: Is there any advice you would give first-time entrepreneurs?
KG: Figure out how much you’re going to spend, and then triple it. Spend the money, because if you don’t someone else will. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. “If you don't build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” ― Dhirubhai Ambani
PW: I love that. Now, out of all the beers you’ve had, do you have a favorite?
KG: My favourite beer is the Ivar’s Golden British Ale. It was actually inspired by my Great Dane. The Nistler IPA is amazing. I also enjoy the Kölsch Beer made by Bobby Wilken and the Hoodoo Brewery in Fairbanks.
PW: Do you have any favorite books that you’ve read?
KG: One of my favorite books is Brewing up a Business by Sam Callagione. It’s a fantastic book and I read it before the Delta Brewing Co. was started.
FOUNDER/DIRECTOR AND MARKETING MANAGER
Barbara Greenleaf holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master of Arts Degree in World History from Norwich University. Barbara has immense leadership experience from serving in the Army for over 12 years. She is also skilled in marketing, having assisted Fairbanks Horn House with their campaigns. Her past roles and responsibilities encompass managing company brands and promoting company’s services on various marketing channels as well as overseeing the planning, development, and execution of marketing and advertising initiatives. Barbara experience is further highlighted by her proven track record of increasing sales through successful marketing campaigns.