3 important lessons from the first women to create a beer brand in New York
In March 2021, a year after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson put their full trust to establish Talea Beer Co., becoming the first women to own and operate a beer company. operates a beer brand and a brasserie in Brooklyn, New York. Now, the two aim to diversify into the craft beer industry.
Both Darland and Hankinson were former colleagues and both left their jobs at the company to become business owners. Before starting his career, Darland served in the military for five years as a naval officer before joining Google and earning an MBA from UC Berkeley. Similarly, Hankinson also earned an MBA from the University of NYC. She was familiar with the beverage industry before starting her career because her parents worked in the industry. That familiarity is also the driving force for Hankinson to work on projects in the beverage and hospitality industry at university, even interning at Personal Wine Cellar during the summer.
LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson were the first women to own and run a beer brand and a brasserie in Brooklyn, New York. Image: Talea.
Darland and Hankinson met while working at Hopsy, a beer e-commerce startup, in April 2018, and they decided to combine their knowledge to create Talea. Believing in the uniqueness of the Talea brand, Darland and Hankinson spent eight months crafting a business plan and raising capital before launching craft beer door-to-door delivery across New York.
Currently, Talea Beer Co. has over 20 different draft beers, an online store and nearly 20,000 supporters across the social media platform. On May 10, this beer brand opened a new pop-up store in midtown Manhattan, outside Grand Central Station.
CNBC Make It spoke with the co-founders of Talea for the best career advice and the importance of leadership.
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress
Hankinson’s most important career advice is one that many have probably heard before: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.”
“It was a lesson we had to learn very hard,” said Hankinson. We spend all of our time, money and careers on running the business in the first place, so every decision matters a lot. Having to weigh decisions can slow you down. But sometimes, it’s better to just keep going than to hold back and think.”
According to Hankinson, this mindset is helpful not only to her and Darland, but to their entire staff. Despite their small size, all of Talea’s employees tend to put pressure on themselves to work quickly. Hankinson said she still considers Talea a startup and reminds herself every time something doesn’t go as planned.
What Colleges Don’t Teach
Darland shares that for those who prefer to build their own businesses, gaining experience is as important as a formal education, or even more important.
“With Hopsy, we have the opportunity to see clearly what a small company is like, and all the things you have to do, like setting up a general liability insurance system, workers’ compensation or filing pay wage. These are all things that university doesn’t teach you, but you have to learn and know when you want to start your own company.”
According to Darland, having practical experience also helps create credibility when you go to raise capital. So sacrificing your career at a big-name company to pursue your dreams will ultimately benefit you.
“I highly encourage you to quit your high-paying job, if you can, and join a startup where things are still messy and the staff size is small. That way, you can get a little experience of how to build a business before taking the leap of your own,” says Darland.
The power of a united leadership team
Many people hesitate to start a business with friends or family members, as it could put that relationship in jeopardy. However, the two Talea founders have learned to leverage their peers’ skills to complement each other, while allowing each to play to their strengths.
“We are interested and have expertise in different areas. For example, I love spreadsheets, but not quite as much as Leann’s love for financial modeling. I think that respecting each other in each other’s areas of expertise as well as trusting each other is the most important thing for businesses to survive and develop,” Hankinson shared.
Both women are equal in every aspect of Talea, from equity to salary… “We both quit our jobs and had no income at the same time. Both were delivering by van across New York City at the time, the hardest job ever, but both had to do. And I think we will continue to be like that in the future.”
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