Success Story: Randy Ward
Randy Ward’s journey into the startup world began thirty-one years ago when he met his wife, Stephanie. They moved to Houston together and met a home-brewer who inspired Randy to take up the hobby. After tinkering with it for a while, he got pretty good and won a few awards for his beers. Then, he and his wife both decided they wanted to go back to school. That took priority over brewing for a while. After he got his masters, he started a career trading with Shell and wife looked for work as a professor. When she found a job at Saint Mary’s University, they decided to move to San Antonio. Randy worked out a situation with Shell where he could work from home three days a week and commute for the other two. With his newfound freedom, he got back into brewing.
Fourteen years later, Randy realized that trading was not what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He decided to update his brewing equipment to be as close to commercial as he could, then interned at breweries in Maine and California to see if he could make his hobby a business. Once he felt confident, he started looking for spaces for his brewery. His wife mentioned a culinary accelerator program, Break Fast and Launch (BFL), that LaunchSA had just started. He went to the first Dinner Day, a demo of the culinary businesses in the program, and was impressed with what he saw. While there, he met Boyan Kolusevic and Chris Mobley, who had a distillery downtown and were looking for someone to brew beer for them. They had a great conversation but didn’t keep in contact.
Randy went ahead and joined the next cohort of BFL and created HighWheel beer. One day, the program did a field trip to Dorcol, the distillery that Chris and Boyan owned, to learn about acting as your own independent contractor. They started talking in earnest that day. Randy eventually came on as an officer of the corporation. He was glad to collaborate. “BFL was directly responsible for me being here,” Randy says. “ I have two great partners. We’re married, if you will, so we have marriage issues, but they’re good people, honest, and we see eye to eye.”
Dorcol is five years old and HighWheel is three and a half and going strong. The brewery revenue is now a third or greater of the company. Looking back, Randy says BFL didn’t give a lot of technical information but it gave him what he needed. “I got less information than maybe I expected, but I didn’t really know what the program was about. Now that I know what I was supposed to get, I know I got that. I got a huge amount of industry connections, community contacts, and support.” He met people through BFL that he can call literally any time, like Vera at Kuenstler who now has a location close to Dorcol Brewery. Even if they have conflict between their businesses, they’re always there to help, vent, and support each other. Says Randy, “My advice is to go in it hard, be as big a part of it as you possibly can be, because you’ll meet great people and you’ll have a better relationship with those people.”