In 1997, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers began operating Founders Brewing Co. out of a 9,800-square foot brewery in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Expanding on their initial plans, their taproom opened to the public soon after, with limited hours restricted to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Mike and Dave adopted their “Brewed for Us” philosophy that focuses on complex, flavorful ales, an abundance of aromatics and big body. It was the start to what has since helped to position Founders Brewing Co. as one of the most widely-recognized breweries in the United States. Ranked among the top breweries in the world, with several of their beers listed in the top 100, the team at Founders Brewing Co. continues to reinvent what it means to create world-class flavor, while acknowledging how important it is to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded market.
PURSUING THEIR PASSION
Enduring the initial struggles of starting a new brewery, the team at Founders recognized the importance of the additional, day-to-day operational details and what that meant to the ongoing success of their business model. Maintaining their brand and ensuring that it reached the widest audience possible, while having the tools and resources to assist in this process, was essential. The initial relationship between Boelter and Founders–one that primarily focused on smaller, drop shipment orders–transitioned in 2017 into a more comprehensive fulfillment program.
Designed to ease the overall burden associated with the various point of sale (POS) details, Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program freed up Founders to focus on what mattered the most–brewing beer.
As a result, Founders Brewing Co. has continued to make their mark within the craft beer industry
Promoting the Founders brand through a variety of related products is a primary objective of Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program. Whether it’s pint glasses and coasters, umbrellas, signage or anything new and creative, merchandising is a critical component to their ongoing success.
In order to prepare for each year’s sales and upcoming events, the team at Founders Brewing Co. meet to discuss and review new brand planning initiatives. Coordinating with their sales teams to better identify these objectives, Boelter’s branding teams provides the resources necessary to ensure that these objectives are met.
"Boelter has been an extremely valuable partner in helping Founders provide support products for our sales team and distributor partners."
– Amy Miller, POS Coordinator, Founders Brewing Co.
Working closely with Founders to review and identify the merchandising that will best support future campaigns, sourcing becomes a priority and an indispensable asset to their brand marketing plan. Boelter plays an integral part in this process and assists Founders with the delivery of their products through direct access to an extensive network of domestic and global suppliers. Extending well beyond the typical holiday-focused events of St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Founders takes into account every possible opportunity to continue promoting their brand and reaching new customers in creative ways.
Leaning on Boelter’s expertise, years of industry experience and high level of customer service has helped to guide Founders through the ins-and-outs of brand planning and product sourcing. These ongoing conversations have steered Founders in the right direction while, at the same time, shielded them from potential industry missteps.
A major pain point for Founders Brewing Co.–true of any craft brewery looking to get ahead in the industry–had to do with the various reporting requirements essential to maintaining their business at a level that was both profitable and focused on continued growth. As such, there was an immediate need for Boelter to develop a recurring inventory and sales report for Founders to work from. These reports included sell prices, co-op prices and 12-month sales reports, as well as an accurate list of inventory turn rates that helped to gauge the health of each piece of merchandising: how well it was selling compared against total inventory.
Prior to the availability of these Boelter-generated reports, maintaining their inventory and shipment data was both challenging and time consuming. Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program has allowed Founders to work from a more comprehensive and reliable data set, capable of detailing the information needed to drive their programs and increase productivity. These weekly reports provide a 12-month sales and inventory snapshot, giving Founders a historically-accurate view of their merchandising efforts.
As a result, Founders has enjoyed increased flexibility to plan future promotional initiatives more effectively and efficiently.
Through greater reporting accuracy, Founders is in a better position to quickly identify reorders, as well as have the required data needed when selecting specific items to be phased out. This, in turn, allows them to get a head start on the graphic design planning and development for any new and exciting merchandise.
It’s not uncommon for breweries to struggle with capacity issues. Most breweries don’t start with much space to begin with. Any growth they may benefit from generally results in the purchasing and installation of additional brewing equipment. Consequently, the warehousing space they may have initially reserved for merchandising is all but consumed by the need to continue brewing beer as a means to stay solvent.
As Founders Brewing Co. continued to grow, they also realized that space was a commodity. Working with Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program opened up the possibility of maintaining and safely storing their existing merchandising stock, while at the same time having an opportunity to expand that end of their business.
Boelter provides more than 85,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Pewaukee, Wisconsin location, with an additional 90,000 square feet of storage located at the Glendale, Wisconsin warehouse, allowing for ample overflow.
And for those excessively busy times of the year, Boelter has partnered with additional warehouse locations to ensure that all of our Total Fulfillment customers are able to store their merchandising appropriately. Boelter averages 350 less than truckload freight (LTL) shipments and 450 parcel packages each week, with these numbers doubling during busy months. Our largest shipments are staged in advance to ensure the product is loaded quickly, with standard shipping accomplished within 24-48 hours. Boelter conducts regular cycle counts to maintain correct inventory levels that consistently reflect 98% accuracy.
Working with Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program has helped Founders to free up the brewery’s warehouse space and capital to invest more exclusively in their product. Additionally, Boelter purchases all of the merchandising products to ensure that Founders’ cash flow remains focused on what is most important …. the beer.
"Their Fulfillment Program allows us a one-stop shop for sourcing, ordering, warehousing, shipping and invoicing, which allows us to focus more on brand planning and marketing execution."
– Amy Miller, POS Coordinator, Founders Brewing Co.
Boelter provides all the warehousing space Founders requires, as well as an e-commerce storefront designed to better manage, order and track their individual sales. This makes it possible for their distributors to place all of their merchandising orders directly from the Founders’ website.
Founders’ e-commerce portal is not only a reliable source for managing their inventory in an organized fashion, it can also be updated to better illustrate new products and inventive promotions. Offering a pre-order window has also helped to better gauge the potential success of new promotions before making the decision to go all-in with a campaign.
Planning for the upcoming year’s promotions, brand launches and seasonal programs is relevant to the ongoing success of Founders’ business. Having their own unique online ordering platform is a great resource for them to take advantage of when working toward upcoming events. Providing their distributors access made the process of managing and expanding their branding efforts a seamless activity. Boelter has working relationships with nearly every brewery distributor in the country. As such, all of Founders’ distributors’ net terms and credit checks were already established and verified. This made developing the Founders marketing e-commerce website a seamless process that never disrupted business.
A POSITIVE IMPACT
Founders’ merchandising efforts are directly connected to establishing their brand and helping their business thrive in an increasingly competitive market.
In 2016, their merchandising sales were just shy of $40,000. Working closely with Boelter’s Total Fulfillment Program, Founders has realized an impressive sales growth of more than $1.5 million in 2019.
Since this partnership began, the synergy between Founders and Boelter has created a scalable program for growth, allowing their products to reach customers more efficiently and leave lasting impressions. Providing Founders Brewing Co. with enhanced sourcing options has significantly reduced the overall amount of time spent working with suppliers. This has allowed the Founders team to continue focusing their efforts on developing new craft beers and enhancing those flavors that their faithful customers have come to know and love.
Whether it’s brand merchandising, logistics, warehousing or e-commerce, the multiple touch points of Boelter’s Fulfillment Team have provided the support needed for Founders to more effectively operate their business. By helping Founders maintain their focus, Founders has had greater opportunity to pursue their passion.
Julie Gingrass is the Craft Account Manager for founders since 2017. Ready to meeting with one of Boelter's expert's on developing your marketing and fulfillment strategy? Contact us today!
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