Someone gives you a $50,000 grant to start your dream business…How does that feel? “Cloud nine. Coo-coo. Electric buzz,” says founder and head brewer Stephen Roginson.
Roginson and his Batch Brewing Company, as you may have guessed by now, are the effervescent winners of the 2013 Comerica Hatch Detroit contest. The HatchOff, which took place Thursday night at the M@adison Building downtown, proved why Roginson and his partners Jason Williams and Anthony O’Donnell deserved to win – he was poised, precise and profound during the judges’ grilling and beyond.
Now, no one is saying that Spielhaus Toys, HenriettaHaus Coffee Roasters or Corktown Cinema didn’t deserve the money, the opportunity or the priceless support the small-business experts at Comerica Bank will offer the Hatch winner. In fact, all three proved to be cool customers, wise business people and great public speakers. Each one earned the audience’s respect Thursday night, and I’d dare say a piece of our collective hearts as well. And they promise to open soon enough themselves.
But there was something more in Batch and its business plan that just convinced you that they had some good heads on their shoulders (yes, I’ll stop making beverage references now). Roginson during his HatchOff comments came in with a few classic lines, such as his belief in “altruistic capitalism” and the business ethos of running a nano-brewing business in Detroit.
He understood the importance of involving the community, like local artists, in his soon-to-be facility at 1444 E. Michigan Avenue. He talked about the “communal tables” and board-game competitions, tying directly into our modern-day desire to meet and connect offline. He spoke about working with food trucks and other pop-up restaurant concepts. I wanted him to succeed because he really spoke the language and realized what the public wants – beer drinkers or not.
He even got a big laugh out of the crowd when Roginson noted that other cities may have a bigger brewery reputation than Detroit. “We are coming for you, Grand Rapids!” he growled. You couldn’t help but root for Batch and its feisty spirit. And that’s what got votes. And that’s what gets $50,000.
So what won it for him? Roginson sayeth: “Constant hustling. Stressing social media. Turning friends into advocates.” If I were an MBA holder right now, I’d be blushing and asking him for a date.
Roginson and his future Corktown cronies know what makes Detroit a city worth visiting, and it’s great food, great drinks and great company. Yes, the city does need toys, bras and other treats. But what they also need is a business that will grow, take Detroit’s good name with it and be poured all over the nation. And Batch has that potential. In fact, I’d argue that you’ll see Batch beer all around the state and region sooner than some might think.
These guys have business sense and then some. They have tons of beverage background. They get what works with the public – after all, they’re going to be a business incubator and have a “feel-good tap” that donates some of that brew’s proceeds to charity. All good, but all even better for today’s touchy-feely craft beer drinkers.
So, cheers, Batch. You done good. Cheers, Hatch and Comerica. You’ve done us all a favor. You made us all root for business in Detroit. You gave us some August excitement. And you threw one hell of a party. Let’s hope Batch will do the same.