On November 17th, Accion and the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program will host its fourth regional finals event for the program’s Pitch Room Competition in New York City. Culminating in the December 4th national finals, the competition is designed to help entrepreneurs across the country perfect the art of the sales pitch. Meet the entrepreneurs who are putting their stamp on the food and beverage industry with the help of mentoring and access to capital.
This is a story about passion and place. And craft beer.
The passion comes from brewer Nate Flatland who founded Mu Brewery earlier this year in Aurora, a suburb of Denver. The place is East Colfax Avenue, a stretch of I-40 with a checkered past and a new lease on life thanks to redevelopment funds from the city of Aurora. In early 2013, Aurora city officials approached Nate with their plan to revitalize the area through offering tax incentives to new businesses. “It was my opportunity to see my vision of a community driven brewery and I took it,” Nate says.
Before starting the business, Nate attended a speed coaching event as part of the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program. He talked with experts in the food and beverage industry about distribution and packaging, and networked with other area business owners including the owner of Dry Dock Brewing Company, the only microbrewery in Aurora at the time.
Over time, the connections he formed and the ideas he gained from speed coaching helped Nate put together his business plan. The plan helped him secure funds from the City of Aurora, and he worked with Accion to qualify for a loan through the Brewing the American Dream program for a much-needed equipment purchase to help open the business. “All the ideas I had up to that point were just vague and ‘sitting-up-in-the-clouds’ kinds of ideas,” Nate recalls. “All of a sudden, because I was able to pick the brains of professionals, I was able to turn those ideas into something solid.”
Mu had its grand opening in June of this year, an event that Nate describes as “a super exciting cloud nine moment.” Redevelopment dollars helped build out an 1800 square foot space in what was once a hardware store and tailor shop that Nate describes as an “extremely cool front tasting room with a huge garage door that opens onto a nice patio so it’s an inviting environment.” As part of Aurora’s East End Arts District, Mu hosts events with other neighborhood businesses, including theaters and art galleries, retail shops and ethnic restaurants. At the center of Mu’s success is of course the beer and Mu brews a Brown Ale, a Red Ale, an IPA, a Porter and a Wit.
Besides making outstanding craft beer, Nate’s focus is on helping grow his new community. Mu is an important piece of that growth, drawing beer aficionados from surrounding neighborhoods who are pleasantly surprised by the East Colfax Avenue transformation into one of Metro Denver’s trendier neighborhoods. Even with a full schedule at the brewery, Nate is a regular at city and chamber meetings to discuss work that still needs to be done. “We want to help get this area to be the downtown Aurora everyone hopes it will be,” Nate says.
An eight-year resident of Aurora, Nate was a hobby home brewer who was raised by entrepreneur parents who encouraged him to take a more traditional route. He doesn’t regret not listening but admits the road to opening Mu was often a rocky one. Setting up a brewery is capital intensive and without any commercial brewing experience, securing a loan to build out the space was difficult, he recalls.
Mu currently has one full time and four part time employees and Nate plans to beef up hiring in the coming year. “Next year, we’ll change out some equipment and then in five years there’s a building to the east of us that we can expand into and start distributing out of, “ Nate says. “After that it’s Denver and then we’ll go interstate. We’re lucky. We have a community that’s building behind us, but also the will of a city that wants us to succeed and that’s going to help us build up.”