As a high school student Benjamin Craig's motto was, "Here's my plate, load it on." He brought that mentality with him to Emmanuel, where he has always been ready to take on a new opportunity.
Management major Jeremy Quaglia '12, co-owner of Homestead Hard Cider started the business in the basement of his parents' Attleboro, Mass., home.
A lot of "home" goes into every bottle of Homestead Hard Cider.
Home for Jeremy Quaglia '12 and UMass Amherst grad Kyle Schmitt is Attleboro, Mass., where the high-school friends first delved into cider brewing in the fall of 2012, setting up operations in the basement and on the balcony of Quaglia's parents' house on - where else - Homestead Lane. Today, the small craft cidery resides on the second floor of a commercial facility on West Street, just a few miles from its origin. Their meticulously honed original recipe is pressed from fresh apples grown at a local Massachusetts orchard. Another longtime friend, Eric MacDonald (University of New Hampshire), was brought on as a partner in July.
So, how do three recent college graduates build a successful small business without getting lost in the home brewing boom?
"There are local brewers guilds that offer 10-week courses on the ins and outs of home brewing," Quaglia said. "We didn't do it that way."
Though he was quick to defend home brewers who choose that route, he noted it wasn't right for them. Instead, he and Schmitt chose a truly do-it-yourself approach, researching the techniques and chemistry behind cider production on the Internet.
"There was a lot of trial and error, a lot of test batches, a couple of explosions and lot of screwing up while we were working to get better at it," Quaglia said. "It was certainly intimidating and we learned everything the hard way, but we just took the process one step at a time."
The process included brewing on off-hours while working full-time jobs - Quaglia as a custom drum kit builder for a company in Southbridge and Schmitt as a registered nurse. A lot of persistence and a little social media savvy went into promoting their $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, which was successfully funded in June 2013.
"It was a lot of long days and nights, but I was doing two things that I loved," he said. "We were seeing a lot of support from family and friends. It was a great lifestyle, really."
Homestead Hard Cider officially began production on January 1st of this year, with sales starting in one store and two restaurants. They have since grown to 25 stores, bars and restaurants, which consistently sell out of their inventory.
While Quaglia said he enjoys the autonomy that the company currently has with no involvement from outside investors or distributors, he's aware it might not be sustainable in the long run. The cidery's plans for growth aim to bring the taste of Attleboro to the masses.
"We'd love to expand into a bigger space and open up a tap room for tastings," he said. "Maybe introduce some new flavors. We're also hoping to break into the Boston area and reach the educated drinking crowd up there."
Quaglia's love for the craft brewing industry carries over into his other project, American Brewed, a free web series he co-created and produced with friend and filmmaker Shane Uriot. Each of the first season's seven episodes features a commercial craft beer company in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
"The series isn't just about the beer or about business side of things," he said. "It's also an in-depth look at the people behind the process and their stories."