Developed by HVEDC for existing Hudson Valley specialty food and craft beverage entrepreneurs, and unlike any other program of its kind in New York, the Bet on my Business Academy combines education and job shadowing for the learning experience of a lifetime.
In 2016, participants were trained on management, sales and business development, promotions and branding, business growth and distribution.
Eleanor’s Best, Garrison, NY
Contact: Jennifer Mercurio
Eleanor’s Best is a Hudson Valley company that makes jams and marmalade the way our grandmothers and great grandmothers made it – slow stirred in small batches. They deliberately buy fruit and vegetables from family owned farms, fields and orchards, including their own, because they believe in making products that are locally sourced whenever possible. All Eleanor’s Best products are naturally vegan and gluten free.
The Brewery at Dutch Ale House, Saugerties, NY
Contact: Karyn Pavich
“The Dutch” brews up to three times monthly creating various handcrafted beers with its three barrel brew system. The pub keeps 15 craft beers on tap, including their own, with many more by the bottle. The Dutch’s gastropub theme bridges the gap between cozy pub and upscale restaurant by creating a cuisine conscious tavern with good food at a good value. Food offerings use fresh, local ingredients and are always prepared trans-fat free.
Grand Cru Beer & Cheese Market, Rhinebeck, NY
Contact: Rod Johnson
Grand Cru is a relaxing and uncomplicated bar and retail shop dedicated to American craft beer. With roughly 300 different craft beers in stock, the market features the highest quality products, including great wines and cheeses, with incredible views of beautiful Rhinebeck. Grand Cru also offers “local bites” such as fresh baked soft pretzels, popcorn, chocolate, pickles, venison jerky and other snacks. The market hosts monthly evenings with complimentary sampling as well as acoustic music nights and art events.
Awestruck Ciders, Sidney, NY
Contact: Patti Wilcox
Awestruck Ciders, now based in Sidney, produces premium apple ciders. The company keeps it local by using a variety of fresh pressed New York state apples in its craft ciders, which feature new and unique flavors including Eastern Dry, Hibiscus Ginger, and Lavender Hops. Awestruck Ciders are available at select retailers in New York and New Jersey.
Keegan Ales, Kingston, NY
Contact: Tommy Keegan
Keegan Ales has been at the forefront of the local craft beer movement for over a decade. When it opened in 2003, the brewery was just a small tasting room with draft beer. Bottling began in 2004 and the pub and restaurant opened in 2007. Keegan has been awarded Best Brewery in the Hudson Valley (2009), Best Brewery in New York State (2009), Best Craft-Brewed Beer in New York State (2009) and The New York Times declared “Mother’s Milk” one of the top ten stouts in North America (2010). There is much fun to be had at Keegan Ales beyond drinking excellent beers, including seeing the musical acts of various genres who perform there regularly - mostly without cover charges - and Tuesday trivia nights.
New Paltz Brewing Company, New Paltz, NY
Contact: Heiko Giesberg
Once a forensic accountant and an English teacher, Heiko and Jeff Geisberg have suspended their “other lives” to embark on an artful craft beer-making endeavor in the region where they grew up - the Hudson Valley. The Giesberg brothers toured the world and met with numerous brewers before deciding to focus on revitalizing old styles in their beer-making, long forgotten by the brewing industry. At the 2016 Tap New York Craft Beer and Food Festival, New Paltz Brewing Company’s Hefeweizen earned second best wheat beer in New York State and best in the Hudson Valley. New Paltz’s Rauchbier Amber Lager also earned best dark/strong lager in both the New York State and the Hudson Valley.
Pennings Farm, Warwick, NY
Contact: Brien Milbauer
Pennings Farm operates on 100 acres of pristine farmland in the historic Hudson Valley town of Warwick, NY. For more than 30 years, Pennings Farm Market has been a steadfast retailer of locally grown produce under the attentive ownership of Steve and Jill Pennings. In offering their own produce (apples, apricots, eggplant, nectarines, peaches, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes and zucchini) or produce from neighboring farms, the Pennings’ aspire to be local in what they do and what they sell.
Tas Kafé, Beacon, NY
Contact: Greg Flaherty
Tas Kafé - which means cup of coffee in Haitian Creole - embodies the belief of quality through simplicity. Sold by the bag at Adam’s Fairacre Farms locations, Ella’s Bellas – a bakery/grocery/restaurant in Beacon, and local farmer’s markets, the fresh roasted beans are full of flavor.
WineZetta, Yonkers, NY
Contact: Natalia Postrigan
The WineZetta team consistently searches for the best wines of the globe, by researching and sifting through the “zetta” of information available in the wine world. Every wine they sell must meet their criteria for quality and value, and the team takes great pride in the effort and care they put into selecting extraordinary wines in order to bring them to their customers at honest prices. WineZetta’s flagship store is located at Westchester’s Ridge Hill in Yonkers where they currently carry over 700 and have access to 10,000 plus wines. Wines are also available through their website for shipment across the country to 40 states.
Bet On My Business Academy Class of 2016
“I’m grateful for this wonderful opportunity. From the classes to the job shadowing – I found it all valuable. I have already made so many positive steps with my business due to my experience with the Academy.”
Jennifer Mercurio, owner of Eleanor’s Best, has had so many good things come out of her experience with the Academy. For someone who previously hated sales, Mercurio has learned to bring excitement and positive energy to the process. Placing the stores that carried her product into categories allowed Eleanor’s Best to use language specific to each type. This has positively affected sales in existing stores and Mercurio’s products are now carried in even more stores. Additionally, on the human resources end, she analyzed her team in order to give each individual on her staff the feedback they needed to hear “and it really worked!”
“This program was extremely beneficial for us because we have huge, huge ambitions for our company and access to intelligent and qualified brains is sometimes hard to find.”
Patti Wilcox of Gravity Ciders learned about being a better manager in class and says it has already had an effect on her company.
“I shadowed with Pat English of Dana Distributors and it was really rewarding because my distributor is a direct competitor of theirs. We both kind of opened up our playbooks a little bit and his uncle came in halfway through the meeting and said ‘who’s shadowing who, here?’ because we had such an open dialogue. I really learned a lot from the whole experience.”
Tommy Keegan, owner of Keegan Ales, diligently did his “homework” throughout the Academy and learned how to tailor his communication to individual staff members to yield the same results. He now finds himself doing it subconsciously.
“What they have done with this program is excellent because it promotes the growth of smaller businesses. Meeting other entrepreneurs in this setting has brought us closer, which I think is very important. Competition is always going to be there, but at the end of the day we really want to work together.”
Heiko Giesberg of New Paltz Brewing Company had the opportunity to visit Patrick English of Dana Distributors through the Academy, who gave him “extremely helpful industry pointers.” He did not expect a distributor who primarily deals with Budweiser, the largest beer in the country, to take the time to give a small business like his such attention.
“I went into this hoping to learn from other businesses’ growth and daily struggles and I’m happy to say I got some real-life examples from class participants like Tommy Keegan.”
Greg Flaherty, owner of Tas Kafé, the opportunity to visit John Bruise of Ginsberg Food Service Distributor through the Academy, who “went above and beyond” and discussed everything from packaging to distribution in a “really informative conversation.” Flaherty is now in the process of reevaluating how he runs his production space and how he will approach each customer individually. He is focused on larger projects in general due to his enlightening experience.
“We’ve been considering several things in terms of a transition at WineZetta. Going into this we were looking for feedback on our ideas and wanted to learn strategy from other businesses in the region. The program facilitated so many interesting, useful discussions.”
Natalia Postrigan, owner of WineZetta, had the opportunity to visit Peter Kelly of Xaviers Restaurant Group through the Academy. In a “fantastic” conversation, Kelly gave Postrigan insight on the challenges within his own business as well as a positive assessment of her ideas for the evolution of her company. She was surprised by Kelly’s “down-to-earth” personality and his genuine interest in learning about WineZetta; he did not make her feel like his time was precious or the clock was ticking. The experience has inspired Postrigan to develop a new niche for her store – New York State products.