Eleventh Hour Brewing - Pittsburgh, PA
Matt McMahon was a home brewer for more than seven years before launching his business, Eleventh Hour Brewing, a Pittsburgh, PA-based full -scale brewery and taproom. We sat down with Matt to learn more about how he beat the odds to launch his dream business, and how SBA financing through The 504 Company played a critical role.
The 504 Company: What made you decide to transition from home brewing to a full-scale operation?
My wife, Keana, had originally bought me a home brewing kit for Christmas because she had run out of gift ideas. I was hooked and began brewing with my brother in our kitchen and in our front yard. Eventually my wife told me to start brewing elsewhere!
There was also market validation that what I was creating wouldn’t be just another beer. Our beers had done very well at several local festivals including the Beers of the Burgh and Steel City Big Pour. It’s possible to be successful without that validation, but it was a bonus that we had it.
It took more than four years for you to open the doors at Eleventh Hour from the day you got started writing the business plan. Tell us about that journey.
We hit a number of roadblocks in trying to get up and running. The first was with financing. We approached 13 or 14 different lending partners, all of which said no. I didn’t have enough personal capital to invest or enough experience to qualify for traditional loans.
We also had difficulty securing a building for the business; we went through three different buildings and therefore three different loan processes as different deals fell through. Ultimately we found a 144-year old building that was a complete blank slate. Once we got started with the renovation, we hit a problem with the design that contributed to a seven month delay. Our plans had to quickly change; things that we were going to pay someone to do we had to do ourselves. Suddenly I was installing ductwork and HVAC units and building our own tables and concrete bar top.
Our ability to eventually open came down to my ability to be flexible and find different approaches. The values of never giving up and to keep driving and fighting were instilled in me when I was young.
What ended up being the solution to finance the business?
We were introduced to The 504 Company by the Southwestern PA Corporation. Our loan officer brought in Indiana First Bank to complete our loan picture. Once we were able to find the right mix of lenders, everything seemed to move very smoothly. The application process was fairly seamless, as at that point I was a pro. There were definitely more hoops to jump through for an SBA loan, but due diligence on those requirements helped to embolden me on the prospects of success in this venture. Ultimately, we received a total of $490,000 in financing, $172,000 of which was through the 504 program.
Without SBA 504 funding through The 504 Company, I am not sure there would be an Eleventh Hour Brewing as it is built today. We may have needed to make compromises and adjust our plan, or have ended up in a completely different building with a different model of operations. As we approached the finish line we were on fumes, but we were able to get it done and push through. Through it all we knew that we had the support of our lenders and could finish the project with their support.
How has Eleventh Hour grown and what are your future plans for the brewery?
This business is a passion right now; it’s going really well but in order to make sure my family is doing OK I’m still working full time as a business intelligence consultant. A flexible schedule with my “day job” makes a 100 hour work week possible.
We’ve been growing taproom sales and this is supporting our operations. However, there are only so many seats we can fill in the taproom, so we are exploring other options, such as external sales, to fuel growth. We started with only five external accounts and have grown to more than 80 in just over a year, including larger grocers like Whole Goods and Giant Eagle. We’re trying to go as deep as we can in Pittsburgh before we branch out. We’ve also grown to employ 20 people full- and part time.