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Meet Misty Sanford of Manhattan Project Beer Co in West Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Misty Sanford.

Misty, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Manhattan Project started as a passion and an expensive hobby. At that time, it was hard to find good craft beer in the state due to TABC laws, so my now husband and I found ourselves turning all of our weekends and vacations into beer trips. And then when we got engaged, we asked our good friend that homebrewed if he would make a beer for a wedding. Jeremy happily obliged and is now our business partner.

We took a very unconventional route to start the business. Most breweries start in their own space and have a taproom to help fund the production and build a brand. We did the exact opposite. When we began looking for real estate and speaking with investors, we quickly realized that we would have to make significant concessions if we took the usual route. Part of that was due to our lack of experience in the space.

But we found a loophole in the laws and were able to lease time at other breweries essentially. This allowed us to test the market and prove our concept and product for a year before we jumped into building our own production facility.

The lack of taproom was my only anxiety about starting the way we did. I thought I needed to physically see our end consumers every day to develop the experience and brand. But we quickly learned that every bar and restaurant is our taproom. We have 25 events this month, and this isn’t uncommon. We’re in the field as much as possible so we can get to know our end consumer and the buyers. It’s my favorite part of the job. We’ve also fully embraced social media to develop the relationships I thought we would miss out on. I spend a large portion of my day engaging with people and answering every question that comes our way, and we get some crazy questions!

We now own property in W Dallas that is under construction and expected to be open Oct 1. FINALLY!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The way we started has been both easier and harder than I expected. Mostly because contract brewing has gone on much longer than we anticipated and forecasted. The first year and a half were pretty excruciating because we were limited to 40 bbl per month. We could service only a couple dozen accounts, so it was tough to say no to new business again and again. But it allowed us to learn and make our mistakes on a much smaller stage. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

All three of us were brand new to the industry, and there is a considerable learning curve that happens in front of a very vocal craft beer crowd. For example, if a beer wasn’t perfect, we could dump it to maintain our reputation and not worry about the cost. We did that often. I don’t know how feasible that would have been if we were producing larger quantities and had investors with expectations.

When we made the move to a larger brewery’s space in Sept of 2018, we instantly had more production capacity than we planned to build into our own brewery, and we had access to a canning line. The only limitations we had were manpower and working capital. After having growth restrictions for so long, we ran with it and grew 800% in 6 months. We’re now at a comfortable production level that we can maintain without compromising quality. But we are planning another growth explosion Oct 1 with even more tanks and team members.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Manhattan Project Beer Co – what should we know?
I oversee sales, distribution, marketing, branding, and customer experience. In other words, I don’t make the beer or touch the finances! Both of those departments are way too black and white for me. My personal specialty is branding and relationship development. Design was my first career and original love, and now I enjoy relationship development with our consumers just as much.

We are known for releasing only excellent beer. If it’s not 100%, it doesn’t go out the door. We believe in this so passionately that we even wrote it in our company agreement that all three of us have to unanimously approve a beer before we sell it to the public. It keeps us accountable when the decision could be tough.

This does have some consequences, though. We’re in an industry that relies heavily on the next “new” thing to keep interest piqued, so it means we will never be the first to market with a new style. We’re okay with that. We’d rather be the best.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Integrity. It sounds like such a cliché, but I’ve quickly learned how important it is in a super competitive environment. The integrity we uphold with every decision and partner truly sets us apart from our competitors.

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