September 11-15, 2017

Founding a Success

After a rocky start, Founders Brewing Co. can barely keep up with demand.

Many young companies have their ups and downs when  first starting out. But for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Founders Brewing that is indeed an understatement. Since it’s founding in 1997 by Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens, the company has gone from having just days before the bank was going to foreclose on its brewery, to its current position of continuous multi-million dollar expansions to keep up with demand. Consider this: in 2007, the company sold around 5,000 barrels. By 2013, it predicts sales of around 300,000. All in all, it has averaged 72 percent growth each of the past four years, bringing its employee count from  17 to the 108 it has today. We recently asked Engbers and Stevens what was the secret of their runaway success.

Beverage World: What do you consider to be your best beer?
Dave Engbers: We take a lot of pride in that right now we don’t have a flagship beer. We have a really deep batch. Right now we’re brewing 15 different beers that we distribute throughout the year and sure we’ve got a couple of beers that are number-one sellers, but we don’t have one beer that is 50 percent or 75 percent of what we do. So I think we’ve got just a rock-solid lineup.

BW: How do your personalities work together as co-founders?
Mike Stevens: We’re a really good partnership. We have a more business-focused approach that comes from my abilities, and then we have a good face and a good personality out there that comes from Dave’s abilities. We complement each other well.

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