007 – Setting Up Shop & Crowdfunding

Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, the COO and co-founder of Rising Tide Car Wash. In case you’re not familiar with what we do, we employ a fantastic team of individuals with autism, allowing us to empower our staff while offering a fantastic experience to customers. We believe that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many business, and this show is dedicated to proving that employing these people can create real competitive advantages.

Tiffany Fixter is the founder of Brewability Lab. At the time we recorded this conversation, it was still in the preparation phases and wasn’t yet up and running thanks to bureaucratic and governmental red tape. Now, though, I’m thrilled to say that Brewability Lab is fully operational and you can visit them (and enjoy some great beers) in Denver, Colorado!

A special education teacher by trade, Tiffany has an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. She moved to Denver for a job opportunity to run a nonprofit day program with about 135 adults with developmental disabilities, about a third of whom had autism. Tiffany was surprised and disappointed to find that only one or two of these people had jobs, so she decided to do something about it!

Opening a brewery started as a playful joke, but ended up being a seriously good idea. Many aspects of running a brewery are ideal for those with autism and developmental disabilities, as you’ll hear in our conversation. Tiffany will also talk about how she raised the funds to start the business largely through crowdfunding campaigns, which definitely had lots of cons to go along with the pros.

After the successful crowdfunding efforts, Tiffany and her dad were lucky enough to find a rare opportunity: a turnkey brewery. She put the Kickstarter money down as a deposit with just ten minutes to spare. Despite this stroke of luck, her #1 recommendation is to borrow double the money that you think you’ll need for your social enterprise, because it always costs more than you expect.

Listen to the episode to hear more of Tiffany’s thoughts on crowdfunding, her advice for entrepreneurs considering getting into a social venture, how much work it takes to get started (and the reason she’s been cleaning toilets all summer instead of teaching), and why it’s so important to have people around to help even when you’re trying to do everything yourself.

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In This Episode:

[00:56] – What was Tiffany’s inspiration for starting Brewability Lab?

[02:34] – Tiffany talks more about the details of how Brewability Lab will operate once it opens, and discusses why the brewery is ideal for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

[03:50] – Right now, they only have a few employees in training for when the brewery opens. They don’t want to hire too many people before they’re closer to opening, which is slowed down by governmental red tape.

[05:12] – Tiffany acknowledges that there’s frustration with them for not being open yet, and goes into more detail about the amazing amounts of time, money, and patience it takes to open a brewery.

[07:08] – Starting any business is tough, Tom agrees, and points out that it’s even harder for a retail setting with a lot of regulatory issues.

[08:58] – We hear more about Tiffany’s campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as their fundraising events. She discusses some of the pros and cons of crowdfunding this way.

[12:58] – Tiffany wasn’t working during the time of the crowdfunding projects, and needed to treat them as a more-than-full-time job.

[14:02] – The woman who gave Tiffany the final $3,000 donation to meet the goal came through the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association.

[14:32] – One of the greatest strengths of crowdfunding, Tom points out, is that you get to see whether people really want something.

[15:13] – We hear more about what Tiffany learned through the course of the process of crowdfunding and opening Brewability Lab.

[17:25] – Tom explains that when they were starting Rising Tide Car Wash, they realized that the business had an impact not only in employing individuals, but also in communicating the message of how capable people with autism and other disabilities are.

[18:30] – Now that Tiffany has done the crowdfunding process, would she recommend it to others as a fundraising method?

[20:25] – The entrepreneurial journey is not an easy road, Tom explains. He and Tiffany then talk about the costs of a crowdfunding campaign, which often costs around $10,000 to do well.

[22:46] – What are the most important things that Tiffany has learned about starting a social enterprise?

[25:35] – Tiffany lists some ways that people can help her with the brewery, whether that’s through advice, money, or help with electrical issues!

[27:17] – Tiffany has gotten some pretty nasty emails from people who don’t like her concept, including one from someone she used to work for who accused her of taking advantage of people with disabilities. Tom responds with advice to listen to these people, but not remember what they say.


Links and Resources:

Brewability Lab

Tiffany Fixter on LinkedIn

Brewability Lab on Kickstarter

Brewability Lab on Indiegogo


Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association

Tom D’Eri

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

Autism Advantage

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

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