Navigating Curveballs

Alexandra Ortiz started Shades of Pale Brewing with her husband Trent in 2010. Trent had been homebrewing for fifteen years. He was looking to change careers, and to Alex, it seemed obvious. He loved to brew and people loved his beer; he was open to the idea but he didn’t want to do it alone. For the first few years, he was handling operations and she was working on the brewery while keeping her other job on nights and weekends. She felt like they were both working in the business rather than on the business.

Shades of Pale started in a small, 500 square foot space in Park City. Alex and Trent live in Park City, thought it would be great to live and work in the same place. They quickly outgrew the space and moved into Salt Lake City. They have taken their business one step at a time. These days, Trent focuses on production, Alex works on expansion; finding new markets, exploring potential partnerships, expanding the taproom. She says when they started they were naive. The things they thought would be hard turned out not to be so tough, but the greatest challenges were unexpected. 

The building that houses the brewery used to be a meatpacking plant. A nonprofit purchased the building and was interested in revitalizing the neighborhood. They had trouble fundraising so they turned to investors, and the groups did not see eye to eye. The vision for revitalization began to fall through. Shades didn’t need the whole building, so they leased half of it. The investors took the other half of the building and received money from the state to build apartments. They sent people with saws to physically cut the building in half. The developers then tore down their half of the building in order to use the land to build apartments. Many of the utilities were housed in that half of the building. As business owners, Alex and Trent had to learn how to navigate the unexpected.

Building a Network

When they started, they figured out all the rules and regulations simply by googling. Alex and Trent called up the various offices and filled out the forms. In retrospect, it would have been so much easier to start with investors, to be able to hire all the professionals from the start, the best attorneys, etc. Though they had accounting and finance backgrounds between them, they didn’t learn entrepreneurship in school.

Alex recently took a sabbatical away from the business and found out about all the resources Utah has to offer. “We would be so much further if we knew all of what was available in terms of resources.” 

Alex is a lifelong learner. She has taught herself many entrepreneurial skills through podcasts and courses. What kept coming up in all the podcasts she listened to and books she read was the need to find a network of people for support. With her time away from the business, she decided it was time to start connecting. She got involved with the Utah Women’s Networking Group, which led her to learn about the Women’s Business Center of Utah. She was surprised to learn that we offer one-on-one business advising for free, because she didn’t think a business coach was in her budget.

Finding the Resources

WBCUtah Business Advisor Clancy encouraged her to apply for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses which opened her eyes to everything she had access to as a business owner. Alex has not only connected to the people in her cohort but has taken advantage of a new app which allows her to connect with alumni from the program across the country. She even attended a meetup with other Park City alums of the program. Being able to ask questions and get referrals, she is now feeling more connected to other business owners. Now that she has been through the program there is a little instant connection with other 10,000 Small Businesses alumni. They say being a business owner can be a lonely experience, but Alex has found that people are going through similar things, even if their business is slightly different.

Craft beer, in general, is fairly collaborative. Another brewery down the street asked for help moving the tanks. The head brewer at Shades is very social, very connected to the other breweries. They are even doing a collaborative brew with TF Brewing for the Great American Beer Festival, a large festival where they won awards last year.

Sharing Advice

Alex shares this advice for women starting or growing businesses:

“It’s way better to hire right the first time, to take the time to make sure you have the right person than to compromise. If there’s a problem it’s just better to address it immediately. What we’ve been striving for is a high-performance team; they take ownership, want to learn, and go above and beyond. They jump into each other’s roles, nobody is like ‘that’s not my job.’

Seek out the resources that are available to you. I didn’t know anything was out there. There are so many free resources! Try to get connected with as many of these free resources as you can. Visit an SBDC (Small Business Development Center) to get their market analysis report that would cost thousands of dollars elsewhere. The library has so many amazing resources for business owners. When you are starting out, make sure you have a good plan of execution. Connect with all these free resources until you get a board of advisors. Get a coach! Visit WBCUtah.” [We didn’t tell her to say that!]

Try Shades beer at our Summer Social on August 15, 2019. You can find Alex at the Shades Brewery and Taproom, 154 W Utopia Ave, South Salt Lake, and you can find Shades beer across the state, from Moab to Salt Lake and beyond. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or