Steve Hindy took an unconventional path to entrepreneurship: He went to Beirut as a war correspondent for the Associated Press.
His first career was as a journalist, as Hindy told the crowd at the Inc. and CNBC iConic conference in New York City on Wednesday. But now Hindy's No. 1 duty is running the Brooklyn Brewery, a craft beer maker in Brooklyn. And though his background is unconventional, it vastly influenced his success. After all, Hindy says launching a business is a lot like being a war correspondent.
"You never know what you're going to encounter when you land in a war zone, a conflict zone," Hindy told interviewer, Inc. Editor in Chief Eric Schurenberg. "When you start a business you never know what you're going to encounter, often there are challenges you can never imagine. It was great preparation for starting a brewery in Brooklyn."
But it wasn't just tenacity that Hindy took from the field to his business: his experiences covering the war-torn Middle East led to his idea to start a brewery in the first place. Hindy said that in Saudi Arabia and other countries in which alcohol is banned, home brewing has a long tradition. "I was amazed at how good their home brews were," Hindy said.
While he didn't homebrew while abroad, when he returned home to New York, Hindy began to make his own beer--and that led to his dream of opening a brewery. It took him and his partner Tom Potter years to become successful. And they got through inevitable internal conflicts by having a strong and clear partnership agreement at the outset, Hindy said. The fledgling company pushed past other troubles by raising money, although Hindy told of a period of time when he had to pick up a second job, editing stories at Newsday, to get by. He also advised entrepreneurs to hire people and trust them to do their jobs, and not to micromanage.
"I saw a lot of businesses fail because the entrepreneur could never let go," Hindy said. "If you're going to grow, you have to build an organization and that means trusting people."
Recounting a story he'd read in Inc., in which Wilson Harrell likened starting a business to his near-death experiences as a saboteur in World War II, Hindy said that starting a business was extremely scary--in the beginning, anything can sink you.
"There's a period where you're really in a minefield," Hindy said. How did he get past it? It's simple, he said. "I wasn't going to give up; it's kind of that simple," Hindy said. "Even in the worst moments when we were really under a lot of stress, owed a lot of money, failure wasn't an option."