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Aug
10
Anne Sprecher
Pints, Parenting and Play –>Juggling. It. All.
Women In Beer
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Tami Plourde, Pearl Street Brewery

Today as I spend what is probably my umpteenth beautiful Saturday morning and afternoon holed up in my office, ignoring the perfect 80 degree day with zero humidity (a summer gift in this usually highly humid region of the Midwest), I’m reminded of the dedication it takes to do what we do. As an owner of a brewery, but more importantly a small business, I often miss those moments, those opportunities, the things I love most, to DO what I love the most… sell beer! And that’s ok. It’s not always ok. But for the most part, it’s ok. But I’m trying really hard to find some balance between business and pleasure. The great thing is… lots of the time, my time is both. Yesterday, I spent the evening in Wisconsin Dells, listening to live local music and sipping on a session IPA we brewed especially for this touristy local hot spot we were hanging out at. And they took the entire 20 BBL batch. Not bad for a day’s work… and play.

And as a mom, I don’t linger too much on the thought of whether it is appropriate that my 8 year old daughter is currently co-leading our facility tours with our Tour Guide. We have a family business, and we will always do this together. That’s another thing that really helps blur the line between how many “work hours” we’ve logged in and the “quality” time we’ve spent together as a family  🙂

When my schedule allows for it, I travel around Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Humanities Council’s Working Lives Project to talk about my experience being a woman in a male dominated field. I talk about my start in the industry 14 years ago, when I was unemployed, closing my restaurant after two years of giving it a go and going through bankruptcy. I started to help out my “boyfriend” aka. The Brewmaster go around to bars in La Crosse taking keg orders one day a week for his small nano brewery. It was great. Back then, a big week was a 10 1/2 BBL deliveries for the week. The next day, Joe would load up our blue short bus that we got practically for FREE but the only thing we could afford and he’d deliver the kegs and I’d write the invoices.  Back then, I was one of the only woman beer, liquor or wine sales working the route. So I  got a lot of attention. Was told that I was a refreshing change from those “scraggly men” who come around. I’m not aware of using my feminine wiles to sell beer, but unconsciously… maybe I did. I grew our local sales fairly quickly, and within a few years I was going out daily and we had to hire a full time delivery guy.

But even after a few years of selling beer, I couldn’t say it was my passion. I was still “helping” out. Fully planning on pursuing my plans in life. I couldn’t tell you what day that mentality changed. When I realized I WAS doing something awesome. I was pursuing my plans for my life. But it did. And after that… I was in it to win it.

The past few years have been a whirlwind. We’ve posted double digit growth every year for 18 years and the past two years we’ve posted over 25% growth and are on pace to hit 40% growth for this year. All this talk of growth and we’re still one of the smallest production breweries in Wisconsin.  We fund all of our own growth ourselves, so we only grow as we can afford to. Now, we’ve got to learn how to grow as we can manage to. We’ve hired 6 full-time employees in the last year and have grown our staff from 10 to 25+ including part-time beertenders. And not being one to pass up any opportunities, we opened a print and design company four years ago to cut down on our own design and print costs, and to grow a separate independent company.

All of these things are great things. My point I’m making today, as a woman and as a human being, it is a constant juggling act to figure out how to keep growing, how to keep the creativity up, how to manage the many men and women that work tirelessly alongside of us and how to keep my little family health and happy. Is it because I can’t say I can’t, that I feel the need to talk about how difficult it is to keep all this together? I don’t think so. But somehow through the culture of society, it has become a mandate that we can as women do it all. And I believe we can! But I’ve also learned it will be hard. But it is the passion and the determination that propels us into each day and into each endeavor. I wouldn’t want it any other way. And I think I’m doing alright. And I’ll admit it. I can’t juggle at all.

Cheers to the ladies that keep this industry exciting, interesting and evolving… all while being the foundation of their families!

Tami Plourde is a Minnesota native and longtime La Crosse, Wisconsin resident. She opened her first business venture, a restaurant in downtown La Crosse, in 2001, which she operated for two years. After that, she partnered with Joe Katchever to run and operate Pearl Street Brewery. She is currently a partner and the Director of Marketing and Sales for Pearl Street Brewery. And in her time in this position has helped the company grow from a small 500 BBL producing beer business to one that produced over 3500 BBL in 2015. In 2016, she helped oversee a 28% growth to get to almost 4500 BBLS and in 2017, is on pace for a 40% growth of just shy of 6500 BBLS.  She is currently overseeing an expansion project. She works with sales staff, self-distribution staff, directly with distributors, marketing staff and production staff.