How A Rady MBA Helped Me Build San Diego’s 1st Organic Beer Company

I graduated from the Rady School of Management with the Flex-Weekend 2017 MBA cohort and since graduation, it has been an incredible journey!  My team and I were bootstrapping Protector Brewery when I enrolled at Rady. The idea for Protector Brewery started in 2010 and we opened for business on June 2, 2017.  I was a Navy SEAL for 11 years I learned that the one variable you can control is the amount of work you put into anything. Although it has been a ton of work, there was so much value in building a company while simultaneously pursuing an MBA because the material in every class was immediately applied to my business plan.  Building a company has been as humbling as my experience in the military.  However, the support from the San Diego community and recognition for creating San Diego’s first and only organic beer company has made it all worthwhile.

Protector Brewery

Taking some lessons from my marketing class at Rady and my experiences in business thus far, people are very interested in what the goals of a company are, not just the product.  I really enjoy listening to TED Talks and there is a session by Simon Sinek called “How great leaders inspire action” which reinforces that people are inspired by the “why” of a company.  There were a lot of these “why” factors that influenced the seven-year process to start Protector Brewery.  However, there is one important “why” factor which is ranked at the top.

I took a class in my undergrad that quantified the dependence of humans on the environment and had to complete an assignment that measured my carbon footprint.  I plugged information into a program about where I lived, what type of vehicle I drove, how often I bought locally sourced foods, etc …  The result was powerful – if every person on Earth lived the same way I did, it would take 3.5 Earths to sustain that dependency.  In terms of sustainability, I have always felt a personal responsibility to future generations and that “why” has been a powerful factor for the seven years it took to build Protector Brewery from idea to opening (2010-2017).  An important lesson I learned at Rady was to look at the unmet need and understand what “job” your product is satisfying with the consumer.  So, I saw there were no organic beer companies in San Diego, but there were a lot of organic restaurants and supermarkets.  With that in mind, I tried to match my motivations to brew beer and satisfy an unmet need in the market place.

All the professors at Rady were open to letting me use my startup idea for projects in class.  I have found that pursuing a MBA increases your chances of success in a startup.  My Marketing and Brand Management class gave me the tools to lead with our company’s brand.  When I took Marketing Analytics, the data pulled from our analysis showed a high utility value for Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage in a beer.  Taking principles from our New Product Development class, we added a non-alcoholic beverage on tap and to our surprise; customers were mixing the drink with other beers to create more new products. The Negotiations course saved us thousands of dollars when bidding out construction projects to contractors.  My class in Operations helped identify “bottlenecks” in the brewery and calculate our “safety stock” of beer during high demand events.  Lab to Market has been a key component in the strategy development of our company. Creativity and Innovation has propelled us into constantly creating new beer styles and our Hazy IPA, which has been extremely popular, is a product of that initiative.  Finance, Strategy, Business Law & Supply Cost Management have guided our growth in so many ways – even with hiring employees.

I think the journey of an entrepreneur has to start with an intrinsically motivated factor.  There is an element of extrinsic motivation, which is related to making money, but the internal “why” is what I believe propels people past their limits.  In my experience, there is an important commonality that links the journey of a SEAL and an Entrepreneur.  That commonality is that you can give up on your dream anytime you want.  The journey of a startup is so difficult that I often compared it to some hardships I endured when I was a Navy SEAL, just in different ways.  I have learned that pursuing the “why” with the right people will attract positive involvement in the community.

Recently, I was featured on the Stay Wealthy San Diego podcast, which explores the minds and experiences of the entrepreneurs that make the San Diego community interesting and energetic.  They ask entrepreneurs what “wealth” means to them, not necessarily just tied to money. In the interview, I go into depth about our trademark dispute, licensing for breweries, organic application, etc … I also argue that San Diego is starting to rival Silicon Valley in terms of innovation.  Protector Brewery managed to beat everyone to market as San Diego’s first and only organic beer company and we even received a Proclamation Letter signed by Councilmember Chris Cate for that achievement.  Furthermore, we even become a finalist for the 2017 San Diego Business Journal (SDBJ) Manufacturing Awards.  Finally, our connection to Rady is still ongoing and we are providing our first lager to the 2017 Rady School of management Oktoberfest!

In summary, I developed a mantra for myself and morphed it into an alliteration to easily remember during the difficult times – Endless exposure, endless experimentation and endless endurance. I accepted that there are no easy days from this point forward and 18-hour workdays are okay.  This is a very important way to frame the journey in your mind because it is a very different path than many of the peers you may measure your workload against.  When it gets tough, keep the destination in mind, but remember that that is ALWAYS the minute-to-minute journey.  The thousands of unfinished tasks and choices to be made in a short period of time will be daunting.  But, if you can appreciate the small victories and be grateful for the daily opportunity to pursue your dream, then I believe you are already successful.

Sean Haggerty (MBA ’17) is a corporate coach, performance coach for SEALFIT and collegiate leadership coach.  He is also the founder and president of Protector Brewery. Haggerty is a Navy SEAL Chief with 11 years experience, 4 deployments to the Middle East & 116 combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. He holds a BA in Business from Ashford University & MBA from the Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego. 

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