In 2012 U.S. microbreweries were on the rise.
For Justin “Gus” Bays, chef at the Grand Central Hotel in Cottonwood Falls, this was the right time to explore an opportunity. He approached his friend and nascent brewer Jeremy “J.J.” Johns about the idea to open a brewpub in historic downtown Emporia, Kansas. Emporia, the county seat of Lyon County and home to Emporia State University was undergoing a renaissance.
Bays and Johns began putting out feelers to learn if the Emporia, Kansas, market was ready for a microbrewery. Together they sought out the local Kansas SBDC at Emporia State University (ESU) and began meeting with SBDC regional director, Lisa Brumbaugh, to talk about their plans. Brumbaugh pulled in SBDC business advisor, Jim Stephens, to help with the process.
Since a brewpub was a relatively new business model for the area, it took some creative funding to get the business started. Bays and Johns worked not only with the SBDC, but also with Emporia Main Street and NetWork Kansas, to secure loans they needed. To ensure the business model would thrive, the team crowdsourced a critical piece of the funding. Bays and Johns put out a call for private investors willing to lend $5,000 with creative terms: The principal is repaid in full in cash after seven years, and interest is paid in the form of $30 monthly food credits at Radius Brewing Company, LLC.
The funding model worked.
Radius began producing beer in January 2014, and began selling it for off-site consumption in February while construction of the restaurant wrapped up. Radius completed their team towards the end of construction by adding Chad Swift to the team. Swift had just graduated from Wichita State with a business degree and filled the role of General Manager, adding some much needed business knowledge, and “Front of House” aka bar experience.
On April 24th of 2014 they opened their doors for full restaurant and bar service. More than 4,500 customers were served in the pub’s first 10 days according to Johns.
Swift became a co-owner in 2015 joining Johns and Bays to complete the Radius team.
Since their start, Radius has drawn in numerous customers from outside the area with a few famous customers visiting as well. In June of 2015 William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk/Star Trek aka Denny Crane/Boston Legal) stopped in with a film group to taste the local fare.
More about Radius Brewing Company
Kansas SBDC Advisors
Jim Stephens, ESU
Lisa Brumbaugh. ESU
From Jim Stephens, SBDC business advisor: For me as a business advisor, I believe a business plan is a living instrument that creates success.
Sometimes creating a business plan can be a grueling process for startups as they want to ‘just get it done.’ Most have an idea of a plan in their head. The key is to get it out and make it concrete in order to follow it. With Radius we worked together to dig deeper and deeper into what became a working plan. The guys persisted and ended up with a plan that gave them a road map to success. That road map, according to Justin and J.J. was still used a year ago rather than sitting on a shelf.