StartUP panel communicates with new city entrepreneurs

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Bristol StartUP Task Force held a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22, to facilitate a discussion between themselves and local entrepreneurs.

Executive Director of the Bristol Development Authority, Justin Malley, explained that the StartUP Task Force is in the process of “reinventing itself, and looking on how it can best serve startups, entrepreneurs, new business owners in the City of Bristol.”

Rachel and Michael Haseltine, founders of Better Half Brewing, and Eduardo Garces, owner of Cafe Real, discussed how they began their businesses and some of the challenges they faced along their journey.

Garces, who had previously taken over Latino’s Restaurant, said there are plenty of challenges to being an entrepreneur. The first is “having the right idea,” and the second is “differentiating between a business and a passion.”

“A lot of people are really passionate about what they do or their product, but if it really doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint, I think those have got to be weeded out first,” said Garces. “As a beginner, you need help with that, you need somebody that knows the numbers and has run businesses to say, ‘You know what, you can’t make money with this.’ And, it’s kind of hard to hear it from other people, but, that’s probably the third element that helps an entrepreneur, is when you tell them, ‘No.’”

One of the biggest challenges that Garces and the Haseltine’s agreed on, was the financial aspect.

“So, you have this great idea, you know it’s going to make money, people believe it, you believe it – it’s really hard to go sell it,” said Garces. “And as an entrepreneur, even if you have somebody to buy the idea or back it, it’s almost like you’re giving in to the money, to the financial [aspect].”

“The one hurdle for us that we’re facing right now is just getting going – all of those upfront costs; the renovations, paying different contractors between architectural work or just having contractors to do the renovations themselves,” said Michael Haseltine.

He also described a situation where after discussing a possible location for their brewery, the property owner wanted “$7,000 a month, plus $3,000 common fees, so that’s $10,000 a month startup.”

Michael Haseltine said their desire to open a brewery stemmed from their search “for the pursuit of happiness,” and their love of traveling the country to visit craft breweries. Michael Haseltine has worked at ESPN for 13 years, and Rachel Haseltine works as a teacher in Hartford, having previously been a teacher in Bristol.

“When we decided to open a brewery, we did everything that we felt like we knew to do to be successful,” said Rachel Haseltine. “We did everything, brewing-wise, that we felt that we should do to be successful, I think that our struggles are coming with the business side of it because we do not have business backgrounds.”

Rachel Haseltine said there are resources available to that address struggles, such as how to create a business plan, drawing up balance sheets, and “all things that we didn’t even think of when we first started.”

Previously, the StartUP Bristol Task Force has hosted a business plan competition. It is described on the BDA website as being a competition “to encourage small business owners and entrepreneurs to locate in Bristol.” Participants hope to win up to $100,000 in grant funding to be used to make rent or lease payments, as working capital, and purchase equipment, among other things.

Three of the main requirements are that the business “be currently operating in Bristol; be operating outside of Bristol but willing to relocate to Bristol following award; or, be in the concept stage with no formal operations, but must commit to locating in Bristol following award and legal business formation.”

Michael and Rachel Haseltine said that they heard about StartUP Bristol through the business plan competition, but missed last summer’s deadline.

“It didn’t stop us, but it definitely forced us to do more to be ready for the next time around,” said Rachel Haseltine.

“A lot of what we’ve been discussing is how do we get the people to this step [inline with Better Half Brewing and Cafe Real],” said task force member, Lynn Hydock. “How do we get them ready so they get to this point? And then, how do we get them launched?” said Lynn Hydock.

All three entrepreneurs agreed that their personal drive is what motivates them to keep working for their businesses. But, having a support system of people who believe in their idea is especially important.

For more information regarding Garces’ Cafe Real, and the Haseltine’s Better Half Brewing, you can visit their websites, at www.cafereal.co, and, www.betterhalfbrewing.com, respectively. For information regarding StartUP Bristol, visit, www.ci.bristol.ct.us/474/StartUP-Bristol.