Greg Koch took his first sip of a craft-brewed beer in 1987. Nine years later, he co-founded, with Steve Wagner, Stone Brewing in Escondido, California. Since then, highly regarded brews like Arrogant Bastard Ale have catapulted the company into the ranks of the country's top microbreweries. With revenue of $60 million, Stone Brewing earned the No. 1,533 spot on the 2010 Inc. 5000.
I would identify myself as a beer geek who happens to be an entrepreneur.
My father was our original investor and my business mentor. When we opened in July 1996, the bubble had just burst on the microbrew market. He told me later that when he made the investment, he had no belief in what we were trying to do. He said it was me that he believed in.
A lot of people get caught up in competition. But most of my good friends come from craft-brewing circles. We have a shared mission. It's like running a marathon with a pack of friends pushing you to run at your best.
I am a staunch believer that the American public has good taste when presented with great options.
Most companies determine what numbers they want to hit, like revenue targets, then figure out how to get there. We focus solely on what we do—how we want to live our lives, how to keep brewing beer to our standards. Then we look at where that will take us. We focus on the journey more than the destination.
I see so many young entrepreneurs get caught up in running their business the way they think they are supposed to do it. I would encourage them to stick with their resolve and do it in a way that seems right to them.
For more on the Inc. 500|5000, go to www.inc.com/inc5000.