Tourists and locals alike in Asheville, especially those who love their craft beers, know about The Whale. The hot local craft beer spot offers guests a wide selection of carefully curated whales- those delicious and hard-to-find beers. Their assortment of beers comes from across the globe and features recognizable names as well as lesser-known gems. Some are on tap; others come in bottles and cans. In addition to fine craft beers, they also offer wines, ciders, meads, sakes, kombuchas to suit the tastes of all visitors.
Local owners Jesse and Ross, opened The Whale Craft Beer Collective in West Asheville in December of 2017 with the support and resources provided through their partnership with Mountain BizWorks.
A Passion for Craft Brews
Before opening The Whale, both Jesse and Ross found themselves happily engulfed in the craft beer industry. Ross had spent years working for another local brewery, with years on the road sharing and spreading the word about the brewery’s products. He quickly learned the ins and outs of what it takes to make a craft beer something recognizable and iconic, something unique to attract people to enjoy the drink.
Meanwhile, Jesse had entered the industry in a slightly less direct way- working as security for at the very same brewery as Ross. As Jesse began to learn all about the different types of beers and brews, he began providing unofficial guided tours simply out of his own passion. He was recognized by management for having just the right mix of industry knowledge and personability and was quickly promoted through the ranks, where he eventually connected with Ross. From there, the idea of their own craft brew spot quickly developed into a fully-fledged business plan with a little help from Mountain BizWorks.
A few years after opening their Asheville location, they expanded and were able to open a second location in Greenville, South Carolina. As they continue to expand and grow their business, Mountain BizWorks has been along for the journey, supporting them the entire way.
Adaptability and Flexibility Lead to Success
As most businesses were, The Whale was equally vulnerable to the challenges and trials brought on when Covid-19 hit. Ross and Jesse found themselves in a position to either succumb to the challenges or find a way to make things work. And make them work they did.
“One of the biggest challenges was adjusting to the government regulations as they changed every four to six weeks. We had to pivot all the time,” recalls Ross. They transformed their outdoor parking into an outdoor seating space. They continued focusing on social media to get word out about their brand. They held Zoom-led beer tastings online for large groups of customers. They transitioned to online sales. They kept their employees supported, engaged, and positive to keep the team strong. Whatever they could do to keep the business profitable and relevant, they did. Whatever they had to do to survive, they did.
The Value of Resources, Support, and Advice
In the early stages of their development of The Whale, Ross and Jesse took part in Mountain BizWorks’ coaching program to help them develop their business plan. They also completed a Financial Tools class and a social media seminar through Mountain BizWorks as well. In addition to these resources, they also received the loans they needed to get started as well as the support and guidance to use it all correctly.
Seeing everything they’ve worked hard for come to fruition has been rewarding. and Ross notes, “We’ve got a great relationship with Mountain BizWorks…The first move [for future business owners] would be to go through them…they can give you the resources to go get you to where you need to be.”
Ross, Jesse, and their 20 staff members across the two locations look eagerly to the future of the business and the exciting things that it holds.