National Small Business Week Spotlight: Mike Kennedy And Sibling Revelry Brewing

Now in its 53rd year, National Small Business Week celebrates the positive impact entrepreneurs and small businesses have on the economy. In honor of this week, we’ll be profiling a group of local scaleup businesses that are connected to our work. These scaleups are established small businesses who have made it through the difficult startup stage and are now pursuing continued growth through innovation.

The Kennedy family may be fresh faces in the craft brewing industry, but they are veteran businessmen. In fact, the large family behind Sibling Revelry Brewing has an extensive history of pursuing new and different business interests on both sides of the Cuyahoga River—everything from labeling and packaging to equipment leasing and technology hardware deployment/recovery.

Recently, we spoke with Michael Kennedy of The Kennedy Group as he explained his family’s latest pursuit, what it took to get the doors open and how adversity can have a positive influence on the future.

Tell us about why you started your business?
We are a Westlake-based craft brewer, founded by brothers and cousins, but enjoyed by friends. The idea was originally discussed during our annual holiday lunch — it was my youngest cousin Sean’s idea. He felt there was a gap in the marketplace that he believed we could fill. We are a very close family — our cousins are like brothers, and we saw this as an opportunity to combine the east and west side Kennedys to share our love of beer with family and friends.

How has your business grown or evolved since you first opened your doors?
The brewery has only been open for two months, but things have been very active around here and we are growing rapidly. The acceptance of our brand and concept by the surrounding community has been overwhelming. Every day we get to show beer lovers the quality of our beers.

What kind of challenges have you faced as a small business owner?
One of the greatest challenges has been government regulation and the number of agencies involved when getting this type of facility up and running and delivering product to the consumer. There are many different layers of state and federal agencies, and the related work that needed to be completed was significant. The hurdles are constant, and figuring out how to overcome them is a challenge every day.

What will your business look like in the next five years?
We positioned our infrastructure for growth from the beginning.  In five years, we believe we will be making some of the best craft beers in the area, and will become a leading brand in the craft space. We really want our beers to appeal to beer aficionados, but we also want to offer quality beers that are drinkable and interesting for the average consumer.

Why did you choose to start your business in Northeast Ohio?
From a business standpoint, our basic premise was that we were in an underserved market. Our research indicated this was a very strong market that would allow our business to thrive. And since all of us involved already lived here, that made it even easier.

We ask all the entrepreneurs we profile to give us examples of failures or setbacks they experienced in order to inspire others and show them that every business deals with adversity. Anything come to mind for you?
Twenty five years ago, I licensed a technology that we thought was terrific. We made the product, tested it and started marketing. We built a trade show booth, went to a show, and spent four days trying to sell this product. We did not get one follow up call after that show. It appeared we were the only people who liked this idea, so we do things differently now.

I think if someone never fails, they are either not pushing themselves hard enough or not telling you the whole story. Sometimes good ideas just don’t find a home right away. Other times they take too long and cost too much to get to market. You just keep trying and working hard, and sometimes good things come from the unexpected.