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Amy and Cam Wells helping a customer at Arable Brewing Company

“LivePlan made writing our business plan less intimidating.”

When it came to great beer, Amy Wells, her husband Cam, and their friend and colleague Chris Archer were no rookies. The three of them already worked at a nationally distributed brewery.

Head brewer Chris developed recipes and brewed batches. Cam understood facilities and equipment, and both could apply operations and logistics skills they'd learned in the U.S. Navy. Along with a knack for knowing what customers look for in their beer, brand, and tasting room experiences — Amy could manage finances.

After hours in Eugene, the three would gather in Amy and Cam's garage over a homebrewed pint. Conversation regularly turned to what it would be like to make their own beer for a living. Amy also understood the joy — and hard work — of running a small business having worked for her family's food cart in the 90s.

Customers smiling and enjoying drinks at Arable Brewing Company

Then the call came: A nearby small town wanted to recruit a startup craft brewery. And if this trio could shift from being employees to becoming entrepreneurs, that opportunity could be theirs for the taking.

“That was our push,” says Amy, “to decide are we going to go for it, or just keep talking about it for another ten years?”

Plans fizzle as a suitable space eludes the trio

Twenty minutes west of Eugene, Oregon, the small town of Veneta was pushing to revitalize its downtown and overall economy. Local breweries had gained a reputation for anchoring an area and drawing in visitors. In the neighboring city of Springfield, Plank Town Brewing had been a catalyst that led to new life, vibrancy, and small business ownership downtown. Communities such as Veneta now wanted to see if fostering craft beverage businesses could be a boon to their economies as well. Given the funding, regulatory, and capital requirements of brewing startups, the trio knew they would need a solid business plan.

“It wasn't enough to say we wanted to open the brewery,” explains Amy.

“People wanted to understand what we were going to provide and how we would do it. What made us different?”

As they investigated how to plan their startup,Chris found LivePlan, and the team quickly took to it.

“We had no trouble learning how to use LivePlan,” says Amy. “It is a great program for anyone trying to create a business plan and made it so easy.”

From what funders and lenders would look for to the nitty-gritty details, LivePlan guided the trio from concept to a ready-to-use plan. LivePlan's business plan writing tools resources also helped Amy hone in on what would make their business stand out.

“We leaned heavily on our team,” she explains. “The three of us had the capability, the different components, between us. We leaned on who we were and the experience we brought.”

With a usable business plan, Amy, Cam, and Chris approached Veneta and found a receptive audience. Veneta offered incentives, including a suitable building. The team continued reviewing their plan, adjusting numbers, and saw how their startup could find a sustainable, profitable home in Veneta. Momentum built.

“Then Covid put a halt to everything,” says Amy. “We had an SBA loan ready, and the bank pulled it. It was a nightmare. We realized Veneta wasn't going to work out and quickly pivoted.”

Shaken but determined, the trio worked in LivePlan to adapt their business plan while continuing their search. In 2021, another small community outside of Eugene expressed interest. The team learned about the area, what they offered, and the potential for a customer base. Ultimately, the team's plan and their judgment made them walk away.

“We were excited, and they were excited,” says Amy, “but the infrastructure just wasn't there.”

Does a larger space fit the numbers?

Behind the scenes in 2022, Amy continued diving into LivePlan. Pivoting from the collapse of a second potential home base, she examined scenarios and adjusted numbers.

What would it take to get the brewery established, operating, and open? The team brought their business plan to the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN). With RAIN's background in expert guidance and alternative financing options, Amy knew RAIN could identify opportunities or avenues that the trio might not have been aware of. RAIN helped them launch a Republic crowdfunding campaign. The network also put Amy, Cam, and Chris in contact with LivePlan's advisors and writers at Palo Alto Software in Eugene.

“We worked really closely with Palo Alto Software to fine-tune the business plan,” explains Amy. “They reviewed it, gave feedback, made it prettier, and helped it read better than it already did.”

Meanwhile, the trio worked with their realtor to continue viewing and evaluating properties, but nothing panned out. Finally, their realtor suggested they check out some spaces in Eugene.

The initial spot they looked at was too small. But they had noticed another available location a block away. Structurally, the space had the right floor, drainage, utilities, and infrastructure that a brewery would need. It was also bigger than they had planned for. However, being in an industrial area of western Eugene brought a more affordable square footage price tag.

Since Amy had been working on the business plan, she saw how it could still work.

Cam Wells walking through the brewing area

“Because the square footage was the price it was, we could work it into our financials,” she says. “And it gave us a great opportunity for growth. We made an offer that night.”

Brewing the right name

With a location secured, Amy, Cam, and Chris shifted their attention to building out the brewhouse, constructing a public-facing tasting room, and developing recipes that focused on small-batch, hand-crafted beers.

Besides serving as CEO, Cam would focus on process engineering and facilities management. Chris would lead brewing operations and recipe development. CFO Amy would manage marketing, sales, and bookkeeping.

They knew their roles. However, the brewery lacked a good name. A working concept no longer fit. Amy realized they needed something representing what they stood for as a brand.

“Chris has had the tagline ‘arable brewer’ for a long time,” explains Amy. “‘Arable’ means soil good for growing. Without farms, without hop farms, brewing wouldn't happen. Arable just made sense.”

Arable Brewing Company logo on a sign in front of the business

Their business plan helped them move forward even when times were tough

In 2023, Arable Brewing opened its doors.

Throughout their startup journey's ups, downs, and pivots, Amy focused on Arable's business plan and trusted they were on the right track. It helped that she could easily figure out LivePlan's tools instead of fighting with hard-to-use functions.

The app felt more like a partner. When they weren't sure what to do or where to start, LivePlan could guide them.

“What was incredibly helpful for us in the beginning was the examples and the how-to's,” she explains. “We wouldn't understand what a section needed or called for, since none of us had ever done a business plan. But we could click on a section and find examples, descriptions, and other information. That gave us a template for where to start.”

From there, Amy, Cam, and Chris would review the examples, and write up what they needed. Amy especially appreciated how the Forecast tool helped her visualize the impact different numbers could have on the overall plan.

“If we changed one number, it could calculate and change numbers throughout the other areas.”

LivePlan took Arable from a startup to a growing local business

Above all, Amy is glad they started building their business plan early. She advises other entrepreneurs to start their business plan long before they think they will ever need it. Even when a plan seems finished, it's a live document that can change as the business changes.

“I hope all new businesses know about LivePlan,” says Amy. “It's a great platform for making it easier to write a business plan. LivePlan made writing our business plan less intimidating and took away all that second guessing.”

Now, despite pivots and changes, the trio runs the brewery they started. Chris brews beers like Lazy River Days Pilsner, On and On Saison, and Smooth Criminal Double IPA.

Amy and Cam Wells smiling

But Amy knows that she'll be coming back to the business plan soon enough.

“We're going to need LivePlan down the road,” she says, “as we grow or as we go back to the bank again and do other things. We made our plan, and we'll be ready to change it.”

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Arable Brewing Company

The Arable team used LivePlan's planning and forecasting tools to adapt their startup brewery. What will you do?