Max Easton's journey starting at Alcoholic Ginger Beer company while at Brown.
What do an Old Pauline, a Boston surfer dude, and a goat farmer have in common? If you guessed “producing, distributing, and marketing Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer,” you’d be right on the money.
When Max Easton met Nico Enriquez as an undergraduate at Brown University, the two didn’t exactly seem destined to become business partners. “He’s a shorts, t-shirt and longboard kind of guy, while I’m more cords and button-down,” Easton admits. Despite their apparent differences, the two quickly bonded over their shared interest in entrepreneurship.
One evening in a dorm room, Enriquez mentioned an idea he’d gotten from his days playing beach volleyball on Cape Cod. There he’d met Willie Fenichel, who was a goat farmer by trade but whose real passion was brewing a sensational alcoholic ginger beer. After both Enriquez and Easton concurred that the idea had potential as a craft beverage, Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer was born.
With the help of a grant from a Brown startup incubator, Easton and Enriquez set to work making their idea into a reality. “It was a motley crew,” Easton explains, “a Brit, a guy who looks like he woke up on a beach, and a goat farmer.” Undeterred, the team made it work. Armed with Brown’s resources, the pair learned how to market, produce, research, and more. For two non-business majors – Easton studied Political Science while Enriquez was a Neuroscience major – the structure provided by Brown’s mentorship program was invaluable.
Even with the support and grant money from Brown, Easton and Enriquez had to put in plenty of sweat equity to get their business off the ground. The duo spent their final summer of college out on Cape Cod chopping ginger, designing cans, and going door-to-door selling their product at farmers’ markets and liquor stores all across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was a labour of love, but one that seems to be paying dividends, if the glowing reviews and press are any indication.
Today, after completing his degree and now working full-time at Farmer Willie’s, Easton still views the venture as an extension of his education. “If Farmer Willie’s failed tomorrow, it would still be extremely valuable,” he attests. Though that scenario hardly seems likely - Farmer Willie’s now has four distributors and just signed a contract with a new production facility.
His advice for any young Paulines with similar ambitions? “Don’t think of it as a plan to become a billionaire. View it as an education – it doesn’t need to be an instant success. You’re going to be learning so much that there is no downside, especially while in school or in college.”