A few years back, Leslie and Steve Kaczeus decided they were either going to move to an island or open a brewery. Luckily for all of us, they chose the latter. The husband-and-wife team owns and operates Bootstrap Brewing and serve up some of the tastiest craft brews around. The minute you walk in the door, you can tell that the business is a labor of love. I had the pleasure of talking with Leslie about how they brought their passion to life.
Prior to opening Bootstrap, Steve worked in the disk drive storage industry and Leslie was running a non-profit that she founded. During a time of numerous merges, acquisitions and layoffs, the idea of owning a business was appealing to the couple because they would have more control over their destiny. Steve’s love for homebrewing began when he received a homebrew kit from Leslie and was affirmed with an awesome “internship” of sorts. His friends at Great Lakes Brewing flew Steve to Toronto to brew with them for a week and learn about the logistics of running a brewery. The experience inspired him to attend the American Brewer’s Guild and one year after he graduated, Bootstrap opened its doors.
Leslie likes knowing that she and Steve are working hard for their own adventure, rather than for someone else. They love the opportunity to make their favorite beers and utilize their creativity in every aspect of the business, from the recipes to the packaging. But Leslie’s greatest reward from running the brewery is that it has become a gathering place in the Niwot community. She enjoys seeing complete strangers become friends there and watching the Bootstrap family grow.
As with any other small business, the brewery requires continuous financial re-investment. Leslie notes that they’re at a point where they can’t seem to make enough product to keep up with demand. So, they’ve decided to increase their production by adding another brew kettle to their setup. It’s exciting to be expanding so quickly, but growth can certainly pose its own challenges.
It’s obvious that Leslie and Steve love bringing people together. They host a variety of weekly events at the brewery, including trivia, a Euchre tournament and open mic night. They are active in the Niwot community and sponsor numerous non-profit events and festivals, including Oktoberfest. When they’re not hard at work, you’ll find the couple out supporting other small businesses.
Leslie offers simple, honest advice for aspiring business owners:
- Be prepared to work really hard.
- Love what you’re doing.
- It will probably cost more than you think.
- Don’t be afraid to try.
- “Use what you can to do what you can.” (Hence their name, Bootstrap.)