Couple Behind NoFo Brewery Buys Two European Football Clubs | Entrepreneur - Latest Global News

Couple Behind NoFo Brewery Buys Two European Football Clubs | Entrepreneur

The last time I spoke to Bryan and Shannon Milesthe entrepreneurial couple was in the process of handing over leadership BACKUPthe remote team management company they founded in 2010.

They’ve appointed a CEO to continue running and growing their business, but sitting back and relaxing isn’t exactly in this couple’s DNA. So during that transition in 2019, they launched NoFo Brew Co, an idea brought to them by co-founder Joe Garcia. Garcia showed them forecasts that showed that this could not only be quite a lucrative business, but also bring real joy. After working in the virtual space for so many years, Bryan and Shannon were excited to run a physical business. A place intended to serve as a meeting point for the community who would like to be served delicious drinks. But no sooner had they opened their doors than the pandemic broke out. As Bryan told Entrepreneur, “Not the best way to start a new food and beverage business!”

But the couple and their team weren’t afraid to cut their losses. Instead, they adapted and persisted. “We promised employees that we would find a way to make sure no one lost their job and that everyone got paid,” says Shannon. They kept their promise, which helped workers in the short term and helped the company in the long term through incredible employee loyalty. “We haven’t had any staff furloughs in three years.”

Related: How two brothers revived their family’s Tennessee whiskey distillery

Today, the couple have expanded their business significantly – more locations, distilling their own signature spirit – and have grown immensely to become owners of two professional European soccer teams. Walsall FC in England and Drogheda United FC in Ireland.

I spoke with Bryan and Shannon to get the full story about how they went from serving beer to locals in Georgia to serving beer to thousands of rabid football fans across the pond. Below are some highlights from this conversation.

Expand consciously and responsibly

Shannon Miles: We’ve expanded to three locations in Georgia and are doing things most American craft breweries don’t do – we distill our own spirits. Many breweries claim they do this, but in reality they are just slapping their label on an existing product. We do it – vodka, gin, agave, rum, moonshine, bourbon, orange liqueur. Our distillers are like mad scientists and we gave them a big sandbox to play in. One of our guys comes from generations of distillers who were once moonshiners, and he jokes with his family that he’s gone real.

Bryan Miles: If you look at American craft breweries today, there are between 7,500 and 8,500 in our country. Most of them have a location. We move at breakneck speed compared to our competition. And part of the ability to grow is attracting and retaining talent. Only about 3 percent of breweries offer employee benefits. We offer benefits and have established a really nice culture – people want to work here.

Credit: Andy Brophy, OneNine Images

The really, really big step

BM: In the summer of 2021, we sold 82 percent of BELAY to a private equity firm in New York City and achieved a nine-figure exit. This created a liquidity event that allowed us to be the bank for NoFo’s expansion. And we also had the opportunity to do other things, including being co-investors in two football clubs in Europe: Walsall FC in England and Drogheda United FC in Ireland. It was amazing. Walsall FC Was began in 1888. We were the first Americans ever to invest. We also bought the stadium there, so there is a huge sense of responsibility and responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the stadium is maintained but it still meets today’s standards.

SM: There is something very beautiful and timeless about these clubs. They were going through tough times and needed an injection of outside capital, and we could help. It’s largely consistent with the way we approach our investments. That coupled with the fact that Bryan played soccer in college and has a deep love for the sport made this a great opportunity. What Does that go better together than beer and football?

BM: And it is a matter of course for NoFo to sponsor these clubs. Most American craft breweries don’t even have the ability to get beer there because they need a place to sell it. Well, we have a stadium where we can sell our beer. It’s the perfect Venn diagram.

Photo credit: Bryan Miles

The Wrexham Effect

BM: We bought Walsall FC in May 2022. And Wrexham, which as you know is co-owned by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, were promoted to our league and we promptly beat them! Wrexham have done so well and are actually out of our league now. There are many other American investors in these clubs, but it was great that Ryan and Rob made their ownership so public. It brought a lot of attention to the lower leagues. Premier League teams obviously have their huge global fan bases and Wrexham have proven that people can fall in love with lower league teams too.

SM: Being a part of it fills us with great pride. Walsall feels like my hometown in Ohio. It’s very working class. These are people who just worry about their work and want to go to you Great soccer game and have fun with your friends. It feels familiar, even if they are thousands of miles away.

See also: Charlie Day says you shouldn’t just do what makes you happy.

The long-term game plan

BM: We will continue to expand and invest where we can create value for others. This is the mantra we act by. And don’t get me wrong, we had some failures along the way. I’m not King Midas here! New opportunities come with risks, and we’ve trained our muscles to take calculated risks – there’s no way we would have ever brought our beer to Europe if we hadn’t cashed out our 401k to start BELAY many years ago.

SM: I examine new opportunities that come our way through a filter: “Does it help us move closer to our vision?” And that vision is that we are in love with each other and want to be with our children as they grow. New ventures can waste time and energy, so we only want to do things that help make the lives of those around us meaningful.

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