10 years ago, Jeff Smith started making cider with his friend out of his tiny apartment in Gresham. After perfecting some thirst quenching creations, he built enough confidence to burst into the Portland scene.
Noticing a distinct lack of choices, he also decided to incorporate a small bottle shop and guest taps. In September of 2010, Bushwhacker Cider was born.
It became not only Portland’s first cidery, but also the first cider pub in the US.
What is your company?
How did you come up with the idea?
Honestly, it ended up being a hobby gone mad.
I was making cider at home for a few years, then noticed a pretty big gap in the Portland scene for locally made cider, and a good place to buy it.
Where did you find your first customer?
Our very first customer was Sean, owner at Beer Mongers.
Sean has been supportive since day one, literally. I was basically using the Mongers as a satellite office during our build out, and was one of their first customers as well.
How did you determine your target market?
It actually came pretty fast and furious – they found us. Our target market consisted of a lot of cider lovers that felt completely neglected by some of the bottle shops and bars. Once word of mouth got out, the pedal was to the metal ever since!
What are you currently doing to reach them?
We rely a lot on social media. Paid advertising has to be carefully thought out, as it’s usually pretty expensive, and it’s sometimes difficult to see any ROI.
How much did you start up with?
We were pretty conservative. We relied on our own personal savings, and a lot of customers that were patient with the way the place looked at first. We have always tended to shy away from investors of any kind.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
No, we grew naturally.
A revolving line of credit is all we have at the moment. Investors can be a tricky thing, and I have never felt comfortable giving up a part of the business to bring them on.
We’re proudly 100% independently owned, and everything you see at Bushwhacker is 100% owned, and paid for by us. It doesn’t guarantee a fast growth, but a solid one.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
Don’t worry about getting a bigger piece of the pie… simply make the pie bigger.
It’s an old Don Younger quote, but passed on to me through others. It has come back to me several times, especially as the cider market grows, and gets more competitive.
What are your keys to staying productive?
Writing things down, literally, not on a laptop or iPhone. I find that extremely useful when you have your own place, and don’t work for someone else. The temptation to be more liberal with your time is there, but I always treat myself as an employee, with a set schedule and tasks to be done at any given time.
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
Never, ever, ever, sign a lease without a lawyer looking it over.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
Book: The Great Good Place
Websites: Beervana and Pinterest for ideas on design.
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
I always feel lucky when we make it into national publications, like Food & Wine.
To this day, I am humbled that they even found us.
What does success mean to you?
Honestly, to be able to have a day off with my wife and know everything at Bushwhacker is 100% taken care of, and then to get no phone calls. Money is one thing, but enjoyment of life is so much more important.
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
I’d like to see a few more shops in places that I like to visit. Also, I’d like to provide more benefits for our employees. I absolutely love our staff, and we try our best to make sure we get them the best that we can.
How can people find you online?