Storage, fruit purees and concentrates, hops
A self-described "craft beer snob" since the early 1990s, Leedy developed her passion for the industry -- and skill for sourcing "the weird beer ingredients" -- while working at Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing as a collaboration liaison. It's also where she met McGovney.
"A couple times a year, I'd give local homebrewers access to our obsolete inventory -- leftover raw materials like hops, spices, or fruit," Leedy recalls. "I got to know a lot of them back then, and that's where I originally met Lavelle."
The two bumped into each other again in June 2015, after Leedy left her former post and was working as a sourcing consultant, and realized they stood a good chance of starting a successful business if they combined forces. "Lavelle's background and specialty is inventory control systems and accounting," Leedy says. "But she has a passion for craft brewing like I do, along with being incredibly smart, organized, and resourceful. When she got involved, this little idea became a reality."
Finding existing warehouse space was difficult, however. The two wound up purchasing land in an industrial park in Wellington and beginning the process of building their own warehouse. They planned to get rolling when their facility was complete, but in late 2015, Verboten Brewing & Barrel Project approached them. "They were in dire need of cold storage while they moved locations," Leedy says. "So, we rented a 1,200-square-foot warehouse in Fort Collins and have been operating there since November 2015."
The new warehouse should be operational in summer 2017. "It's 5,600 square feet and has three bays," Leedy explains. "One bay will be freezer and cold storage. The middle bay will be temperature-controlled for barrel aging. The third bay will be dry storage and our office."
Once their space quadruples, Leedy expects to be able to add even more breweries, meaderies, cideries, distilleries, and craft soda manufacturers to a client roster that already includes an impressive number of Colorado companies as well as several in New Mexico, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
While the fruit purees and concentrates she sources from areas as diverse as the Yakima Valley of Washington and the South American country of Colombia account for 52 percent of Source of Nature's sales, Leedy also supplies clients with a variety of hops, spices, and other ingredients as well as barrels and cold and dry storage. The ingredients are all purchased in large volumes, enabling her customers to benefit from lower costs.
And it's a market that's definitely growing. "Brewers are always pushing the envelope and looking for new and exciting ingredients," Leedy says. "And I love finding them."
Challenges: Sales, marketing, and advertising. "I'm a buyer by trade and a brewer at heart," Leedy laughs. "I'm not a salesperson. I basically suck at sales." Though much of Source of Nature's business so far has come by way of referral, Leedy recognizes that a stronger focus on marketing and sales will be necessary in the future. "I'd love to hire a salesperson," she says.
Opportunities: "Thanks to the growing craft beverage industry and the adventurous, innovative spirit of the people within it, our opportunities are hopefully endless," Leedy muses. If the company's current sales figures are any indication, it looks like she may be correct. While the company did $100,000 in total sales in 2016, it already surpassed the $50,000 mark in the first quarter of 2017. "We're making a conservative estimate of a 50 percent increase this year," she adds.
Needs: "More hours in the day," Leedy says. "I'm a single mom. Lavelle has another full-time job. And, of course, we're always looking for more funding. We'd love a brand new, shiny forklift. But at the end of the day, we're entrepreneurs and we work with what we have and get it done. It can be exhausting and terrifying, but it's also amazing."