Owner, Scot McClure of Town Hall Brewery with Amanda Brinkman

Small Talks features insider expertise from successful small business owners. This video series highlights how real entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges, so you can apply the insights to your own business.

Pete Rifakes founded Minneapolis-based Town Hall Brewery with his friend Scot McClure in 1997, and he has been running it for more than 20 years. The brewery has won national awards and continues to thrive amidst a booming craft beer scene. But with so many breweries popping up, Rifakes must find ways to keep the business relevant and in the forefront of his customers’ minds. He had this sage advice to share with small business owners.

How can you stay relevant in a fast-growing industry?

1. Don’t lose sight of quality. The quality you pour into your products matters to your customers, and it makes you stand out from the competition. Rifakes continues to wow his customers with more than 60 styles of beer per year — some of which can’t be produced by newer, less experienced breweries. “We’ve got a very good brewing staff that is extremely creative,” he said. “It’s great for the people who have been consumers of craft beer for a long time. They know us. They know our quality.”

2. Join industry associations. Small business owners should absolutely join associations, neighborhood guilds, even their local Chamber of Commerce. It’s a way to network with fellow business owners, gain professional insight and get to know your customers.

3. Tap outside partners for their expertise. Smaller businesses can’t always afford to hire a dedicated marketing staff. So why not enlist the help of outside marketing experts? When Town Hall Brewery first opened, Rifakes had to come up with creative ways to promote it. He recalls standing in the skyway in downtown Minneapolis, handing out vouchers for a free pint. Today, he works with a marketing team, so he can focus on running his business.

“Until you can get that administrative portion, and you’ve got your internal marketing, you should look outside and really get some help,” he said.

Rifakes has turned Town Hall Brewery into a lively community gathering spot. The brewery has been awarded more medals at the Great American Beer Festival than any other brewery in Minnesota. And it continues to thrive. He attributes its success, in part, to his amazing staff. “We’ve had servers who are now the general managers at another store,” Rifakes said. They’re employees and great friends, and they help spread the word out about the brewery.

Watch the full video above for more insights.

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