Growing up in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia, Rebecca Atkinson has always had a passion for food and drinks. After studying Tourism Management at the Nova Scotia Community College and Mount Saint University she had the opportunity to travel around Canada. However, she always found her way back to rural Nova Scotia.
Rebecca’s love for her community inspired her to create an opportunity for herself by starting Sober Island Brewing Company, a brewery inspired by an Oyster Stout she saw on tap while living in Wales two years ago. “I saw this beer on tap and thought we needed this in Nova Scotia,” she explained. “With great local oysters and a growing craft beer scene it felt to me like we were missing this style.”
Sober Island Brewing Company strives to craft unique ales using local ingredients, like local foraged mushrooms for a Mushroom Mild and local juniper berries for a Juniper Wheat Ale. On top of using local ingredients, Sober Island Brewing Company also collaborates with other small businesses to create products in different markets such as beer soap with the Soap Company of Nova Scotia and beer marmalade with HardyWares Preserves.
Launching not even a year ago in April 2016 with the help of Futurpreneur Canada and BDC, as well as other local organizations, Sober Island Brewing Company is already expanding and moving from a 50L system to a 1000L system. Brewing on a 50L system takes almost as long as a 1000L system but it’s less controlled, bringing lots of its own challenges. With this new system the brewery will be able to make more beer, creating jobs locally and bringing more people into their community.
Being from a small, collaborative and friendly community, Rebecca hasn’t experienced many challenges despite being a women in an industry largely dominated by males. However, she did have some tips and advice for other females and entrepreneurs who want to turn their passion into a business.
1) As a female in a male dominated industry my first piece of advice would be to use it to your advantage. In any small business if you want success you must give it your all, but if you feel as though there’s pressure because of your gender I would say to push even harder. Being a woman in business is a bonus, something you should be proud of and highlight.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for advice. Learning is a strength, not a weakness. I knew nothing about starting a brewery when I decided I was going all in on Sober Island Brewing Company. It was the passion and drive within me that forced me to make myself learn. I had never written a business plan, never built a brewery (trust me the construction side of things is not my forte) and never even thought I would start a business. Take in every free resource you can. Futurpreneur has excellent free financial panels, workshops etc. I went to all of those. If you don’t know something, learn it. Or ask someone that can help guide you.
3) Network, network, network. As I mentioned above, attending workshops, accelerator events, incubator courses, etc. you get to become involved in that entrepreneurial community. Andrew Button from Spark!MashupLab is all about being around “entrepreneurial people, doing entrepreneurial things” and that energy can really drive you. Networking is not only for meeting other entrepreneurs, there are great connections to be made in all sorts of industries and you never know when that connection may come in handy.
4) Tell people what you want to do, tell people your idea. I know its hard starting out as an entrepreneur because you want to keep your idea close to your chest but when you let it out things start to bloom. People are willing to help and are happy to make suggestions that may further your success. Never think you have it all figured out and don’t need to listen to other peoples’ thoughts, especially your customers.
Rebecca is just one of the many women entrepreneurs changing the face of entrepreneurship in Canada and both Futurpreneur Canada and BDC are so proud to help people like her turn their idea into reality. You can show your support for women entrepreneurs like Rebecca by sharing this story on social media and joining our Thunderclap campaign here for International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2017.
If you’re a woman looking to start your own business, visit our website to connect with one of our experts.
Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada