If a business expert were going to tell you that you are going to open your own business without the training from a four-year college degree — in fact, without any training or experience at all in this new endeavor — you’d probably think twice.
If said business expert also told you that you were going to have to find a location, completely rehabilitate that building space and install the necessary equipment to produce the product you’re committed to, you might think even longer and harder about your future. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about finding customers and building a brand.
That’s almost exactly the blueprint that Brandalynn Armstrong and co-owner, Theo Armstrong, followed to open Zeroday Brewing Co. LLC in Harrisburg. Except the duo put a lot more thought and planning into this idea than anyone can imagine.
“I went to the school of life,” Brandalynn said. “I don’t have a college degree, and I’m proud of that. I have a background in sales, and I’m a people person. Theo has experience in business and marketing, and he went to Central Penn College. His skills support mine. We’ve combined real-life experience with a willingness to learn and teach ourselves what the business is.”
Zeroday is a brewery with a 60-seat tasting room and 20 rotating taps quaintly located in the caboose of Midtown Cinema, a space that had been vacant for 20 years. Clean, balanced ales and lagers are Zeroday’s specialties, offered alongside Pennsylvania wines and cider. Local art is featured in a gallery section, and on occasion you can listen to local musicians.
“I liked drinking beer, and Theo liked making beer,” Brandalynn said. “We both worked for large companies, and Theo was homebrewing, and we started making recipes and trying out different things. We were really just playing around, and when we started to get serious we started our LLC.
“It took three years going from getting our LLC to opening the doors,” Brandalynn continued. “We opened with a multi-year plan, we really wanted to plan out our process. The tasting room is the predominant stream of revenue and retail was always our goal. We want to be a destination spot, and bring people in and let them enjoy the Zeroday experience.”
Part of the challenge, according to Brandalynn, is navigating what is your brand and what is your focus. The duo never wanted to get too far down the road with food items, for example. But customer feedback kept telling them otherwise. Offering a fun snack menu featuring the Large Ass Pretzel just wasn’t enough. Regulars told Brandalynn that they’d like to stay all night, but they needed some food.
Listening to that feedback has spurred them to explore a more full-service food menu that the two of them can sustain themselves. They want it to be more substantial than the bar snacks they have now, something that “keeps butts in seats” as Brandalynn put it, but will not be a full-course menu. For instance, no deep fryers.
Opening a brewery and tasting room in a region with competitors such as Troegs Brewing Co., Lancaster Brewing Co. and Appalachian Brewing Co. might be a daunting task for some. But for Zeroday, that’s not the goal.
“Our main focus is not in packaging and traditional distributor sales,” Brandalynn said. “We are undergoing plans for expansion. We doubled our production after year one, and we’re on a steady growth trend.”
Zeroday’s location has become an advantage as well. Many new business owners would not have put down roots in Harrisburg.
“Selecting Harrisburg was the smartest thing we did,” Brandalynn said. “Harrisburg has supported us, and we are champions for the city.”
So much so that they got together with coordinators for the Harrisburg Marathon to brew the official beer for the race. In November, the brewery had a special release, Double Finger IPA, with proceeds going to the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition.
“We do a lot with the community and company groups,” Brandalynn said. “We host a lot of fundraisers, and we do a lot of giving back for a small business.”
It sounds like the Armstrongs’ plan is coming together nicely.