Village Brewery turning heads across the country

Local company wins national business award

One of Calgary’s youngest local breweries is turning heads around the city — and across Canada.

In February Village Brewery’s Jim Button travelled to Toronto to receive the Start-up of the Year Award at the inaugural Air Miles Small Business Achievement Awards. The awards aim to celebrate Canada’s small businesses which account for more than 98 per cent of all companies and generate more than 100000 jobs in Canada each year according to the Air Miles website.

But this wasn’t the first time Village has been honoured since it arrived on the scene two years ago — this fall the Calgary Chamber of Commerce awarded it the ATB Small Business of the Year Award in addition to an award for Community Involvement.

Button is taking the acclaim in stride. “It’s kind of funny…. It’s absolutely awesome to get [this recognition]. It means a lot in terms of an awareness perspective but would you go buy a beer because you heard they were Start-up of the Year?” Button admits he’s not sure.

In some ways the national recognition is also a mixed blessing. While it’s been an opportunity to build awareness of the Village brand Button has received calls on a weekly basis from people across the country wishing to purchase his beer and he’s had to say “no.”

“We don’t want to grow outside of Calgary because we want to be meaningful to the city. But I’m having a hard time because people are sneaking [our beer] out of the city” says Button noting he’s seen a tweet from someone in Medicine Hat saying he’d found a Village beer.

And while there may come a day when the brewery needs to consider expanding beyond the city Button believes it’s that focus on becoming a locally relevant business that’s been the secret to its early successes. From the beginning Village has built itself on community — with 50 beer barons from throughout Calgary as limited partners and six partners forming its core team the company strives to make connections throughout the city and give back. In fact 10 per cent of its revenue goes back to the community — from providing beer at special events to contributing financial support to a cause.

“We could have gone to the bank [when setting up the business] but we decided it would be more fun to get 50 people who were doing cool things in Calgary to get involved. It was a bit of work to create structure but it was the right thing to do” says Button.

Garry Beres a Village beer baron and executive vice-president of CBRE agrees that this community focus sets the brewery apart from its competitors. “The events that it has been involved with have been great causes and show that it is interested in more than just selling beer.”

Button’s advice to other would-be small business owners? “Be passionate about what you’re doing make sure you lean on others and don’t necessarily try and go out and do it all on your own. There are a lot of people who can help you along the way.”

“If you’re honest and genuine in your approach and try and do something that’s meaningful then everything falls into the right place. That’s the passion part. If you stick to your ideals it will all work out” adds Button.

Of course he notes the fact that the beer is good is another part of that equation.