by Dean J. Miller
“The service delivered by our tap room staff is the cornerstone of what we built our brand on. We probably have the most well-known beer tenders in town; the staff deserves all the credit for the success of our brand,” said Red Leg Brewing Company owner Todd Baldwin.
And it’s a brand with great success: in December, Red Leg celebrated ground breaking of a new brewing facility, tap room and outdoor venue. The event included the mayor and other Colorado Springs officials taking part. “We were in a great spot,” said Todd. “We had great publicity; tap room revenue was strong – we were well-ahead in sales of where we normally were for that time of year.”
By early March, regional spread of COVID-19 brought the Governor’s order closing all restaurants, bars, gyms and more. It was a gut punch to the Red Leg team.
“As an entrepreneur, I’d never experienced a challenge I couldn’t overcome; yet, here we were – shut down. It was tough; I went through all the negative emotions – anger, sadness, despair,” said Todd.
With his entire business at risk, the Army Veteran-turned successful entrepreneur made two crucial decisions within 24 hours: there would be no ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, and his valued staff would be kept on as long as possible.
“We were transparent with our staff; we told them how long payroll funds would last and that our goal was to keep them all working as long as we could,” said Todd. “Then we went to work to figure out how to sell product in a new environment, keeping staff and customers safe.”
Social distancing regulation allowed tap room curbside sales and kept liquor stores open. This kept Red Leg’s diversified line flowing through drive-up tap room purchase and in-store sales of canned brew. But revenue was down significantly.
“Through SBA and our friends at Pikes Peak SBDC, we quickly learned about the Paycheck Protection Program,” said Todd. “By taking care of our staff – keeping them on the job — we were eligible for this incredible grant.”
Red Leg Brewery submitted their PPP application on a Friday and had $100K in hand by Tuesday.
“Very few times in business, can you demonstrate the importance of your employees, their families, and their well-being in such a tangible way,” said Todd. “This program allowed my staff to know their salary and benefits were safe and that was most important to me.”
Today, Red Leg is focused on increasing sales and returning to a sustainable business model with the knowledge their payroll is covered.
“The experts at SBDC helped us to quickly learn what program was best for us – the tax ramifications and other details – needed to make the right decision. They were critical in helping us weather the storm and the support of this community has been tremendous.”
Todd Baldwin has been affiliated with Pikes Peak SBDC since before Red Leg brewed its first beer: he attended classes, received mentorship and later returned as a volunteer sharing his experience and advice to regional entrepreneurs attending Pikes Peak SBDC programs. Learn more at redlegbrewing.com.