The Roberds brothers have found success in two very different industries: commercial construction contracting and craft beer brewing. The story of how these enterprising young men created two successful companies before the age of 40 contains lessons for current and future business owners.
Laying the foundation for success
Growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi, twin brothers Cam and Cain Roberds worked summers for their father’s residential construction business. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi (Cam with a degree in business, Cain with a degree in construction management), they worked for various companies to learn about the commercial construction and contracting business, but always knew they wanted to be in business together. They formed C. Roberds General Contractors in 2009, specializing in building facilities for small businesses, doctors and medical offices in Mississippi and Alabama.
While doing research for the construction of a brewery in Alabama, they became interested in the beer brewing process. Building a brewery was a different kind of construction project than anything else they had ever done, and as they learned more about the business of manufacturing beer, they began to dream about someday opening a brewery of their own in their Mississippi hometown. When legislation was enacted that paved the way for the birth of the craft beer industry, Cam and Cain knew the time was right to make their dream a reality.
Chandeleur Island Brewing Company
Like any business start-up, the brothers encountered some early obstacles. Financing was difficult to obtain; most banks on the Mississippi Gulf Coast weren’t familiar with the business of brewing beer. Many people thought they wanted to open a bar, and didn’t understand that a brewery is actually a manufacturing company. Breweries brew beer and ship it to wholesalers, who then market it to retailers such as restaurants, bars, and grocery stores.
But persistence and a solid business plan paid off, and eventually these newcomers to the brewery business were able to obtain a start-up funding package that included Hancock Bank. With their financing in place, the brothers purchased and began restoring a historic building in downtown Gulfport in December 2013. Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, named after the island chain off the coast of Louisiana, opened to the public in 2015. At first, they were legally only allowed to sell brewery tours that included beer tasting samples.
Crafting beer and legislation
Once they were up and running, their next step was to join forces with the Mississippi Brewer’s Guild and the Mississippi Manufacturer’s Association to lobby the state legislature to allow breweries to sell beer. In 2017, the laws were updated to allow beer sales, which helped transform the brewery into a viable business. They now sell beer at their facility and distribute it in 3 states across the Gulf South.
Lessons and advice for future business owners
Launching, growing, and maintaining two companies at the same time would be a challenge for the most dedicated entrepreneur. How did the Roberds brothers build two successful businesses simultaneously? First, realize that it takes hard work, long hours, and an unwavering dedication to your vision and goals. As Cam says, “People think that as a business owner, you can choose your own hours, but that’s not how it works. You have to be willing to give 100% every day for your business to make it.”
Cain adds, “You have to build your brand. During the early years of our companies, we were putting in 80- and 90-hour weeks, which was exhausting. But if you’re willing to do what it takes in the beginning, it will pay off in the long run.”
They also feel their success is due in no small measure to their close partnership, not only as brothers but also as business owners. “It’s great being in business with your brother; it means you can trust your partner,” says Cam. Trust and confidence in each other is how they effectively manage the day-to-day details of two businesses in two states.
The lessons learned from building C. Roberds General Contractors provided valuable business experience that the Roberds applied to their brewery venture, and the contracting company supplied a source of income during the start-up phase of the brewery. In fact, they feel that they wouldn’t have been able to start Chandeleur Island Brewing Company if they hadn’t already established another successful business.
Finally, one more piece of advice: find a business banker you feel you can trust and have a long-term relationship with. They agree that the availability of their Hancock Bank business banker, Benji Richoux, has been an important factor in their success. “Benji knows our situation thoroughly; he doesn’t just help with financing, he’s there to give us advice on business in general,” said Cain. “Benji will meet us on a construction site or wherever it’s necessary to get things done. He makes banking easy for us.”
Giving back and looking ahead
Success in their business endeavors has allowed the brothers to engage in another one of their passions: the conservation of the Atlantic Tarpon, a fish that was once common in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but whose populations have become depleted in recent years. They’ve teamed up with the Coastal Conservation Association and fisheries scientists at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to donate funds to electronically tag tarpon in order to learn more about their migration patterns.
Giving back to the hometown that nurtured their dreams and ambitions and creating opportunities for its citizens are important to the Roberds brothers. Although they plan to continue to build both of their companies, the brewery holds a special appeal for at least one of the brothers. According to Cam, “it’s a fun business to be in.”