Michelle Wilson, Executive Director at TriVillage Chamber Partnership and host of Business Inspires, welcomes Hernandez Posada, owner of Mill Street Distillery in Utica, OH and Endeavor Brewing Company in Grandview, OH to the podcast.
Hernandez Posada: Good morning Michele. Thank you.
Michelle Wilson: So glad to have you. It’s exciting. It’s an exciting time for you. You’ve just opened a new project and so we’ll talk about that. But what I really want to start with is what we asked the first question we have all of our guests is when you were little what did you want to be.
Hernandez Posada: That’s a great question. It’s funny Michele because my father is a physician by trade and so I knew after so many calls in the middle of night that it was not something that I was going to do at 3 o’clock in the morning and be getting a call and it was in the days where you know as a primary care physician you’d run off and have to go help somebody in the middle of the night and it was a difficult thing. So and as I got older and went through my education and into American politics I understood how regulated that industry became. So what I decided from the very beginning that it was that I wanted to do business. I’ve always loved business. I like finance like marketing and sales and I like interacting with people. So I got into government and from government I learned and had a tremendous opportunity to work with high ranking officials all over the state, in the country, in the world. And then from then I knew that once I left and made my contribution at least at some level that I wanted to get into business.
Michelle Wilson: So you spent how many years in government industry.
Hernandez Posada: In total almost 17 years. So I started underneath the Bush administration. I assisted in the Bush administration with a group called the United States Information Agency which is part of the State Department. And then I had the pleasure of working with, at that point Governor Celeste, that was developing a cabinet-level agency which would be the first of its kind in the nation to focus on drug and alcohol treatment and prevention. That was at the beginning of the crack baby epidemic. So I had the pleasure of working towards the latter part of his administration and then came into work for a wonderful gentleman who was really one of my favorite governors and that was Governor Voinovich who recently passed away. A fantastic man. And became one of the youngest deputy directors in the history of the state, which I’m very proud of, and had a chance to architect within a wonderful team and a super amount of support from both the House and Senate at that time, to create this agency that addressed the alcohol and drug addiction.
Michelle Wilson: And you were a direct part of that?
Hernandez Posada: I was. I had the ability and the team to develop clinical protocols for primarily pregnant women in their last trimester because it was a huge issue and the argument that we made really was a treatment was an economic issue. Whether you’re on the left politically or on the right politically, the point really was that we knew that if we successfully could treat individuals that those individuals could become taxpayers again. And it’s ironic that this entire cycle has not come to fruition again. We’re dealing with an epidemic in the state that I haven’t seen since I was in the field that long ago with respect to opiates and synthetic heroin.
Michelle Wilson: It’s frightening what’s going on right now but I’m so glad you’re clearly well versed in it. And it’s interesting that it’s kind of the the medical background of your father that kind of ties in to everything that you did with it within the government and writing legislation.
Hernandez Posada: You’re right. I think in retrospect as I think about it, and I haven’t really thought that much about that component, but truly while I didn’t get in to become an M.D., helping people was something that I always loved and interacting with individuals to try to help them in any way I could. And I was given that opportunity as so many of us were especially in that first class under the Voinovich administration. He was a unique politician because he set aside his ego and really concentrated on advancing the ball no matter whether you were going to support him or not really helping Ohioans. And so he understood that there was a careful balance relative to treatment and addiction. And as I said the argument of economics as taxpayers we all really needed to do something about that problem. So it was he had a heart obviously but he also had an economic mind and that combination which I think is a rarity in American politics today.
Michelle Wilson: Very cool that you got to be a part of that and be with him and spend time with somebody that you respected so much. And knowing you as I do, one of the things that has always stood out to me about your personality is that is your kindness
Hernandez Posada: Thank you.
Michelle Wilson: And your kindness for other people. And I think that clearly shows and I’m sure had something to do with your upbringing and what you do every day. So I appreciate that about you.
Hernandez Posada: That’s very kind of you.
Michelle Wilson: And gosh one of the first times I met you I was planning I think maybe the second Digfest and I was struggling with the getting my liquor permit for the event and you said “What can I do? How can I help you? I know some folks,” and you helped me. And it was great.
Hernandez Posada: It was my pleasure. And I always try to do my best to assist individuals in any way I can. And I thought what you were doing was a wonderful thing. It was a great opportunity. It was creative. And certainly if I could help by somebody such as yourself or whomever I try to jump in if I can.
Michelle Wilson: And you did, I appreciate it. Thank you. I think another interesting thing about your background is that now you are operating distilleries.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: Or a distillery and with multiple products and now you’re at the new brewery. So let’s talk first about the distillery that’s a few years old now.
Hernandez Posada: Sure.
Michelle Wilson: Three years.
Hernandez Posada: It is. It’s almost five how time flies right. It’s incredible. And it’s been a tremendous experience. I think, again, the thing that I love about it is the interaction and the intersection of regulatory issues along with business and how to kind of navigate that situation as best possible. And so I’m so proud of the fact that we’ve been able to not only get the business moving in the right direction, create a fantastic set of products, of course I’m biased, but also to be able to change Ohio law. We had several of the distilleries in central Ohio that were struggling relative to some changes that needed to be done. They were kind enough to approach me and say you know we understand your political background and your experience. Would you like to assist in spearheading an effort to change law? So I said absolutely and we were successful in making changes that now allow local businesses like Watershed and Middle West to include in restaurants at their location and expand their production capacity which historically was 10000 gallons per year. And now it’s 100000 gallons per year. And so again it’s kind of consistent with the argument that I made back in the day when I was in the substance abuse field. It was an economic argument. We came in and met with leadership and said we understand what we’re up against some of the largest alcohol producers in the world really don’t want the small businesses to be successful on some levels. And they throw a lot of money politically at issues such as this and we’ve had a fight on our hands. So what we really developed is an architecture for the plan was to say if we want to expand our business, we can’t attract investment if we can’t increase our production capacity. So and that in turn creates jobs and economic development issues and opportunities for Ohioans. We purchase our glass in Ohio our barrels in Ohio our grain in Ohio. Those are all things that are an up and coming business and vertical are increasingly important. Because as you know small and medium-sized businesses are really the economic engine of this country. So we wrapped ourselves with that argument, and the Ohio flag, and we were successful in passing legislation in about six months it was on the governor’s desk and signed by him.
Michelle Wilson: In six months.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: That’s amazing.
Hernandez Posada: Yes it was exciting.
Michelle Wilson: I mean had you expected it to go that quickly?
Hernandez Posada: No I really didn’t. I think the other distilleries were wrestling with it for a number of years. And so I decided to put down a few things that I was involved in and concentrate my efforts there. And I think as a team we really hit on all cylinders. We made our argument to the right people and within the administration and both within the House and Senate. And I applaud leadership in both the House and Senate to really support us and get it through. But it was it was a lot faster than I expected considering the resistance that we had in the past.
Michelle Wilson: Sure. And do you think that resistance softened a little just because of the change in industry that these were cropping up all over the country. And you know we didn’t want to be so far behind.
Hernandez Posada: I think it is. I think at a certain level, yes Michele, I think that helped quite a bit. It was almost as though we were catching a wave at the perfect time. And I think we also it’s hard to make an argument against creating Ohio jobs. And I always look at business and politics in such a way in which you need to make sure that you make a salient argument. As I said the intersection between economics and business also with a heart and passion. But you can’t just focus on one side of the equation or the other. I mean a lot of times, and I don’t mean to get on a political soapbox, but you see individuals or groups that are just pushing for a particular reason and this is the way that they feel. Well I think it you should try to ensure that you try to get in and cast your net as far as possible to get as much support as you can and sometimes individuals go beyond just what they feel it’s also how does it impact your wallet. How does it impact the economy. That philosophy has been effective for me when it comes to making an argument politically.
Michelle Wilson: It’s fascinating to me. I mean it goes so deep and I think that I remember when the distilleries were just popping up here in central Ohio and I think there maybe were a handful in the state and how many are there now, do you know?
Hernandez Posada: You know I think in total we have over 21 now. It’s amazing. We have 21 across the state. Our distillers’ guild alone I think has 17 members so it’s amazing and we anticipate to exceed 30 by year’s end so they’re popping up across the whole state.
Michelle Wilson: And there’s over 100 in our region.
Hernandez Posada: Yes. In the region the Midwest is over 100 and it’s just an ever-growing business. And so it really, I think it says a lot to, I think the Ohio public and the general public across the country where they want to be able to support local. And if you can provide a quality product that’s developed locally supporting the economy creating jobs they will be willing to pay maybe a little bit more because of course the volume isn’t there necessarily to to reduce the costs overall. And the equivalent to one of the larger distilleries from across the country. But that is the grand equalizer for us when it comes to marketing and it’s become extremely effective. The key is to be able to use it in such a way where you can use it with laser-like precision because just saying that your local isn’t enough you have to have a product to back it up. You have to have a team that can deliver a product where you can feel comfortable that you put aside any other product of its equivalency and its in it’s type and a person will say you know what I’ll drink this. I’ll drink it in comparison to anything else that’s on the shelf out there that is of equal price or value.
Michelle Wilson: Great. And so why Mill Street? What made you make that leap and say OK this is what I do and this is my next step and why the location.
Hernandez Posada: Well it’s funny. Mill Street, in particular, it was initially a heartfelt decision because my family is originally from Columbia, South America but I was born in the states of first generation. And Mom and Dad immigrated to go to medical school in Massachusetts. And then from there we moved to Pittsburgh and from Pittsburgh to Ohio. so I went from inner-city Pittsburgh to a tiny little town called Mount Vernon in Knox County. And talk about a huge shift right from the fourth grade to go for most enormous school to a small little country school. It’s primarily an agricultural community. So a good friend of my family’s had, he is a physician, and he knew that I had a background in politics and was considering developing this distillery and approached me and said listen would you be willing to put you know your background and experience in and helping us with marketing and all the processes necessary to get our federal and state licenses and I said sure I’d be happy to jump in and participate. And so for those that know me if I get into something I really don’t like to take a passive role. So I jumped in and helped develop the platform helped develop the product to get it out across the state. And there’s always struggles when you’re a small business. We’re always looking to expand production and that’s always an issue. But I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do. I think it’s an outstanding product set. And what’s also really nice is that the property itself is on the county line between Licking and Knox Counties and literally across from a restaurant called Watts that’s been there for over 100 years in the little community of Utica, Ohio it’s a village. And I’ve been going there since I was a kid I used to go there with my mom and dad and my sister when I was in the fourth grade. And on Sunday night they have these great fried chicken. And since then ownership has changed the restaurant but it remains the same. Wonderful food wonderful community and great support. So to have something out there like that has really helped the community bond. We have great neighbors. We have the Branstool Orchards right down the street from us and we have that the Danger family, they own Velvet Ice Cream, that’s over 100 years as well in age. And so it’s created a nice community in order for people to have something a little different to get out of the city and go and travel. It’s a beautiful area. And it’s nice to give back a little bit to the community that was so kind to us when we were kids and where we grew up.
Michelle Wilson: And people can tour?
Hernandez Posada: They can tour. They can come. We’re open six days a week. In particular on weekends a lot of people come in and tour. They can see how it’s made. They can see how the grains come in how the process takes place. And we also have a retail location. Many of the buildings on the several acres are over 100 years old. So it’s nostalgic. It’s, I think to a certain degree, original. One wonderful thing about it is not only the products that we develop but the people that come in and the stories they tell us. Relative to their grandmother making booze you know in the basement when they were kids or how they used to sell particular types of product that they would create on behalf of their families or on wines. The history of alcohol is something that I’m very passionate about and we researched it quite at some level both in the development of the brewery and then in the development of the distillery to see how deep the roots were in the Midwest and in Ohio. So for example, alcohol was a commodity for many many years and many of the laborers for example that created and built a number of the structures in that community did so and received payment by receiving alcohol for payment a product called Applejack was very popular at that point so it was an apple brandy because we had so many apples in the Midwest. And they would be received payment with Applejack. So to see that process and what happened with respect to prohibition and how that destroyed many of the smaller distilleries across the Midwest and to see this renaissance of what we at some level are participating in is really an exciting thing.
Michelle Wilson: It is. It’s just it’s a cool industry. I’m glad that legislation is supportive at least more supportive and I’m sure we have a ways to go.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: Still with things changing rapidly. But it’s great to see it moving along.
Hernandez Posada: It’s exciting.
Michelle Wilson: It is.
Hernandez Posada: People are so accepting of it and they’re so supportive of it and how creative they are.
Michelle Wilson: See the partnerships that are happening between distilleries and breweries and coffee shops and in the farms. I mean just the partnerships that are able to be farmed with spent grain.
Hernandez Posada: Yes those relationships and the creativity between small businesses is really exciting to see.
Michelle Wilson: It is.
Hernandez Posada: Especially with a newer industry that really needs to do that to be successful. There’s not the kind of working capital that you would have with a big industry or big companies. So you have to be creative and I think that’s also an exciting part of what we do.
Michelle Wilson: So tell our listeners how they can find Mill Street Distillery.
Hernandez Posada: Sure. Mill Street Distillery is in Utica, Ohio so it’s north east of New Albany about 20 minutes or so on Route 62 and it’s right in downtown Utica. The village of Utica. And you can look it up online as well and there is an Instagram account along with web presence through Facebook. In addition to that we have all of our retail products and there are three. There is a bourbon, whiskey in general, and grappa which is a brandy that has aged in American oak and we’re very proud of that product because it received national accolades. So those three products are available in most of your liquor stores in central Ohio all the Giant Eagles, Kroger’s, their state liquor stores and independent liquor stores as well.
Michelle Wilson: Now we’re going to transition into your newest project.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: Which is located, I’m proud to say in TriVillage area.
Hernandez Posada: Certainly is.
Michelle Wilson: It is Endeavor Brewing.
Hernandez Posada: That’s right.
Michelle Wilson: So let’s talk about Endeavor. How that came about. Just fill us in.
Hernandez Posada: Well it’s really amazing, from my perspective, amazing thing as to how it all came together. There’s a gentleman and good friend and business partner of mine by the name of Scott Talmage and he has a long pedigree in the Grandview area. Left to go to school in Colorado came back. His family has been successful in a number of different businesses. If I remember correctly I believe his mother taught as well in the Grandview School system. And Scott and I met through a project where I was reaching out to a number of local breweries in as far as developing relationships as you were mentioning earlier in the podcast about how small businesses get together. And we have a commodity by virtue of having our used bourbon barrels that can be used for a number of different purposes in particular. The thing that I was seeking was a business that was similar in nature and a philosophical business ideas with respect to putting beer in the bourbon barrels and in determining how we can create you know creative new businesses or products. And so through that relationship we’ve created a product called Wonder Barrel which, I’m biased, but it’s one of the best beers that I’ve ever had in my entire life. We actually had this beer placed in this barrel for about 90 days or so if I remember correctly and then I waited with baited breath with my friends and family and we tried it and it was just outstanding. And at that point the existing brewery that Scott was participating in that we were doing work together was having some difficulties. And Scott and I discussed the opportunity of purchasing the asset itself and turning it into a different direction. And that’s where the concept came together. We had looked at other breweries as well. The idea was that we wanted to develop a brewery and that based on my background that I had previously mentioned in Scott’s background that we really wanted to have something that was a little different with a little bit of a different twist. And so the creative idea that revolved around Endeavor as it began to evolve was to develop a series of beers that were not just regional in nature, meaning so many of the breweries concentrate for example on Belgian style ales or Germans ales. And because of my background coming from Latin America and the privileges that I received as I mentioned to you and working for the State Department and traveling all over the world, I had an opportunity to experience both alcohol products and retail products all over the world. As has Scott. Scott’s fluent in Spanish as am I. He happens to have a home in Chile so he travels back and forth from Latin America quite a bit and we ended up having a lot of commonalities between ourselves. And so we thought wouldn’t it be neat to develop a brewery of some sort, that concentrated on developing products from around the world. And that’s how Endeavor was born. So we knew we needed. I can’t change that oil in my car. So I mean if you left that to me really the beer would be atrocious. But we knew we needed a quality brewer. So we reached out to a gentleman by the name of Cameron Lloyd who is trained in Germany. He’s American. And he actually had produced some of the beers for our predecessor. And we interviewed him and talked to him along with several other brewers and said you know we really needed an anchor for production. Cameron was very pleased to jump in on the idea and we began to raise the capital to do the acquisition and create the business. And so as of just a few weeks ago we launched the new business and it’s been a wonderful response. Great feedback from the community.
Michelle Wilson: Your ratings are off the charts.
Hernandez Posada: And it’s so kind of you, so kind. It’s been you know as I said to have a team and it’s all about a wonderful team so the majority of the team that we have are individuals that were with the previous organization and we’ve established some very detailed standard operating procedures. I’m a huge, huge supporter of ensuring that you have basic business principles in place. It’s one thing about the enthusiasm of creating the business and moving forward. But I think all too often it’s easy to overlook developing standard protocol. So I’m a huge huge fan of an author by the name of Verne Harnish, and anybody that knows me well with regards to the business side of my equation, knows that I hand out a book called Mastering The Rockefeller Principles by Verne Harnish. And it really distills down, no pun intended, five key elements associated with business that are important for any business to be successful. He studied the top 100 American corporations over the last 150 years and determined that those five key principles are absolutely critical for success. And so we have implemented those protocols within our business to ensure that we try not to leave anything to chance with regards to our success. So the business itself is going in the right direction now. The whole concept is really about the opportunity to participate with us and we use our tagline as Embark With Us. So it’s really an adventure. People can come in. They don’t necessarily have to drink. They can come and get exposed to a variety of different things from around the world. We have food that’s being developed by local companies but against their international influence. So Black Radish Creamery, they’re good friends of mine, they have a wonderful spot over in the North Market. They make cheeses and these extravagant little dates that are stuffed with cheese and almond. I mean the stuff they make is just amazing. Yes so it’s it’s been that’s great. And it’s again it’s just the whole concept of engaging people to participate in something that maybe is a little bit outside of the norm. So in addition to that was so neat about it is that we started conversations early with our oldest distributor of beer in Ohio and that’s Columbus Distributing, and they have been just amazing. So if you can imagine we did our launch now I think it’s been three weeks ago or so. And then just yesterday we did our launch outside so it’s called “on-premise” and “off-premise” sales into restaurants and bars across central Ohio. And we had an outstanding day yesterday. We had so well-received by many of the largest restaurants and bars we’re now in 20 new bars and restaurants across central Ohio. If you can imagine you know how giddy you can be when you wake up in the morning and you go to the brewery and you see an 18 wheeler with Anheuser-Busch on the side of it, owned by one of the largest alcohol producers in the world, loading up your little brewery’s kegs in the back to go ship them out. I mean, it was exciting.
Michelle Wilson: It’s just going to be exciting to walk into some local restaurants and see your tap handles.
Hernandez Posada: Yeah it’s I’m sorry I get a little emotional about it so yeah.
Michelle Wilson: It’s great.
Hernandez Posada: It’s fun.
Michelle Wilson: So let alone the distillery industry that has taken off a bit in the past few years. Clearly the craft brew industry has just been crazy growth. And so how do you, I mean I think you’ve I think you’ve answered this question, but if there’s one clear thought that you can put out there as how do you distinguish yourself for longevity. I mean there’s a lot of great craft beer happening right now and being brewed and.
Hernandez Posada: Certainly there is.
Michelle Wilson: I don’t know how much of a trend it is and I don’t know how much of a wave, you know there is to ride. And how do you how do you set yourself apart.
Hernandez Posada: There are some fantastic craft breweries across Ohio. And I’m so proud to say that we’re a part of that now. And I wish them all the best. And we do as much as we possibly can to help them and they in turn support us. It’s a wonderful community. But we also understand that at a certain level there will be a process through attrition or otherwise where the businesses will begin to you know weed themselves out at some level. Some will be acquired. Some will close down. That happens in any business. So the best that we can do is really produce the highest quality products that we can possibly produce and get them out in individual’s hands so they can experience them. And so my perspective on it is that as long as you can ensure that you keep your eye on the ball in three particular areas and that is ensuring that you’ve got high-quality personnel they really care about what you’re doing and care about people because we’re all animals and we have instincts. We realize exactly whether a person cares that masquerade behind legitimately feeling like you can respond or care about what a person thinks doesn’t go very far if you’re not sincere. Secondarily I think the product the product is critical I mentioned that before you got to have a quality product. You have to ensure that’s going to be competitive with anybody in the world. You have to legitimately feel that you can do that. If you don’t feel that you can compete with other businesses at that level then the ability to scale it is really unrealistic. Lastly the process. And I mentioned it earlier. What’s the process that you have in place? What are the goals and objectives? What’s the mechanism that you’ve got in order to meet those goals? And just those three areas, the people, the product and the process are key. So over time some of them will not be successful. I wish them all the best but I think we have a great opportunity in the long run, in Ohio, to really excel across the country. We are producing some fantastic products in Ohio and I’m so proud to say that at least at some level I’ve been involved and to contribute towards it. So it’s wonderful to see that. I mean it hasn’t been that long since our state has made these changes in laws. So to say that in this short period of time we’ve been able to advance the ball as much as we have, is really a wonderful thing for all of us to be proud of.
Michelle Wilson: Absolutely. And first tell us where people can find Endeavor. We’ll wrap up with a final thought.
Hernandez Posada: Sure. Endeavor is located at 9 0 9 West Fifth Avenue right in the TriVillage area catty-corner from McDonalds and the Fortin Ironworks. We’re also right next to Goodwill and White Castle’s administrative offices. The product can be purchased there on site and we as I just mentioned were rolled out now to 20 new retail establishments over the last 48 hours. And so you can come to our website or any of our social media and we’ll begin to provide you information on where else you can pick up our beers. We’re in negotiations now for The Crew. So we expect to be in the Crew Stadium and a large presence for the new season next year. We are a soccer bar in particular so that’s a worldly type sport that is consistent with our adventure in our theme which is kind of exciting too. So we have a lot of people that follow a number of European International leagues. We do a lot with sports. So come on out anytime we embrace having you over and experiencing what we’re so excited about in Endeavor.
Michelle Wilson: Wonderful. Well, my favorite part of doing this podcast is that stories. We get the stories behind the businesses. You know this is a relatively small tight-knit community and you know people have shopped in these boutiques or eaten at these restaurants and that’s great. But hearing the story behind it I think is really special. And I think what’s really cool about you is we have the distillery you have the brewery but you have this incredible passion as a person and I love hearing all of that come together and the whys and the what’s behind all the stories. If you received somewhere along the lines in your life a great piece of advice that you would share with somebody just starting a business your business is your passion, what would you share as a parting thought.
Hernandez Posada: You know I think it’s overstated but you need to be passionate about what you’re doing. You really need this absorbs everything in your life. You will make tremendous sacrifices with your family members not being able to spend the time that you wish you could have with them. And you need to understand that if you don’t have the passion for what you’re doing it’s not worth doing. It’s better to spend time in a 9 to 5 job and it’s better to be able to share, from my perspective your life with your family members because as an entrepreneur you need to be realistic that you’re going to be pulled in lot of directions. And it goes back full circle to what you asked me about initially my dad would be called at 3 o’clock in the morning and I would say sincerely that would be a more legitimate reason than with the businesses that I’m involved in. He would be called him because he would go to try to save a life. But I get called all the time and you also need to set your parameters. You know your business can’t be everything to you. You have to understand your own priorities. So once you establish those priorities do your best to remain focused, objective, and passionate and share your time with your family as well because I have a 5-year-old little one and a 14-year-old little one. Time flies. Before you know it they’re out of the nest and you regret not spending time with them. So you’ve got to balance those things too.
Michelle Wilson: So passion and priorities.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: Great.
Hernandez Posada: Yes.
Michelle Wilson: Thank you so much for joining us everybody get out to Mill Street and certainly check Endeavor. DigFest is going to be one beer better this time of year.
Hernandez Posada: I look forward to that in the summer. It’s always such a great event. You guys do a wonderful job. So thank you all.
Michelle Wilson: Thanks for joining us.
Hernandez Posada: Thank you Michelle.