Episode 4 Can Community Make or Break a Business?

Is building a community around your business essential to entrepreneurial success? Maria Ramos (The Beauty Plug by Maria) and Jennifer Febre (Macleod Ale) swap stories of facing and conquering the trials of entrepreneurship and what they learned by building a thriving community around their business.
Apr 18, 2024 — 9 min read

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You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet brings together entrepreneurs from diverse industries for an intimate conversation on what it takes to start, run and grow a business.

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Jennifer Febre: I would love the world to get to a point where we're not asking what's it like to be a woman brewery owner.


Maria Ramos: I don't want it to be seen as a woman who owns a brewery. It's like I just own a brewery. I do it just as well as anybody else. Yeah. My name is Maria and I started The Beauty Plug by Maria located in Studio City, California.


Jennifer Febre: My name's Jennifer, and I'm the co-owner of Macleod Ale Brewing Company with my husband Allister. It's located in Van Nuys, California.


Maria Ramos: So was anybody else in your family took the role of starting a business, like entrepreneurship?


Jennifer Febre: Yeah. My dad was just a hippie, entrepreneur, art guy. And thinking of my dad, sometimes I feel like if he could do it, I could do it.


Maria Ramos: Is that where you got the idea to start a business or where did that come from?


Jennifer Febre: I've always just been that kind of person. If I have a desk job, I'm just dreaming of what I'm going to do someday. I've made a list of all of the things that I would enjoy doing. If I got on an elevator and someone said, what do you do? I could just be proudly say, this is what I did. And so I made a list of all the things, and they were very diverse. Dog walker, art gallery owner, anything that caught my interest. But when it was time to really get going, I realized I was a big chicken. I couldn't get it done. So I realized that I do a lot better when I'm with someone. I have a partner, and so my new husband, Allister, he's not new anymore, but I thought, okay, I'm going to recruit him. What would he enjoy doing? So then I really narrowed it down to things that we would enjoy doing together and also that we had the skills for to do together. I was curious with you, I don't know if you have a partner or if you are a brave soul and doing this on your own.



Maria Ramos: Yes. I started off solo. I always had an interest for the beauty industry. I had done so many other things as well. I tried to be a yoga instructor, a Zumba instructor, way too shy for that. I was like, I do not like telling people what to do. And so then I went to beauty school and that's where it started. And I fell in love with skincare, got licensed, found that I was pregnant maybe a month after I got licensed. And then I took time off to be a mom because being a mom has its own thing. And I was like, one day I want a storefront and this is where I want it. This is how I want it. Doodling, planning, dreaming. And so I was like, well, time to go back to work. But it was the perfect timing, if I'm honest. It was so worth it. I look at my life now and I'm like, I love my life. Even having a kid, when I'm on my way to work, I'm like, I love work. And when I'm on my way home, I'm like, I can't wait to get home. And I'm like, how lucky am I that I get to love both? I get to connect with my person, I get to hear what they are. And it's funny, like if I have to miss work for whatever reason, I get fomo. They come in every four weeks and I'm like, no, I want to hear how that baseball game went or how was that work interview. So that connection that I get to make with my person is really nice. 


Jennifer Febre: I think we're running the same business actually. Yeah. It's all about people.


Maria Ramos: It's about people. Sometimes they'll be telling me things that they're going through. So I literally went and got this little box and people will write their prayers or their hopes, their wishes, what they want to manifest, and we put it on the wall and it's cool because they have to come in every four weeks and then they'll go be like, oh, I forgot. Well, this one girl, she wanted a baby and she put it, I could cry. She put it on there and she got pregnant. She already had it. I don't even know what I'm emotional about this. Anyway, so that's pretty cool. But yeah, it's people. That's why I love people. I love what I do with people.


Jennifer Febre: That's what people love. They love when you know who they are, and that's what creates the bond. So many friendships have formed at the brewery, people who never knew each other before, and now they're lifelong friends and they go cycling together. We put together actually a tour of the UK Allistar, and it was basically our personal vacation that we invited 14 people to.


Maria Ramos: That is so cool.


Jennifer Febre: And we basically took them all the places that we like to go. When we go to the UK, we ended up at Allister’s Family Farm. It was really cool for them to see where we came from, our influences. We have some pictures in the brewery of the pub in Allister’s Village, and they could go in person and see it. And to them, that was a really big deal. And breweries are very expensive propositions. You have to upgrade constantly, buy new tanks and expensive equipment. And we've reached out to our customers and offer them fundraising opportunities like, hey, beer for life. Let's get an infusion of cash and we'll basically pay you back in beer. And also, a lot of these people who have joined our, what we call our founder's club, they end up being our biggest volunteers. Whenever we need something at the brewery, they're there painting or helping us set up new equipment. They're really invested. A lot of times customers will tell me, oh, you've created a great place here. Thank you so much for creating this place. And I'll always turn it back on them and say, you're part of it. You're here and you're creating it too. It's not just us. It's like a big group effort. Sounds like you have a similar process to mind started a few different things over the years. 


Maria Ramos: Yeah, just little by little. It doesn't happen just like that. And it also comes with knowledge, right? Figuring out the products is probably the hardest part. You need to know your target audience, your skin and my skin. We have different issues or different skin concerns. So it's having to cater to everybody unless you specifically niche yourself. That's how I started. That's how I got money. I niched myself with acne and hyperpigmentation, and then it's like, I've graduated. So then I've been able to build my back bar.


Jennifer Febre: We did the same thing with a niche, and I'm kind of a big believer in that kind of thing. And there's so many breweries around. We started with an incredibly niche product, which was traditional British beer. We literally started with four, five beers on tap. But people who know about that kind of beer, which is called real ale or cask ale, they will go long distances to find it. So Maria, if you're anything like me, you're always thinking about work. Even when you're not at work. What do you do to give yourself a mental break or how do you balance that?


Maria Ramos: For me to do nothing, I have to put it on the schedule. So every Tuesday I do nothing. Or every Tuesday I'm going to work out. I'm going to schedule my fun day, and I just schedule it. And I also believe that anything can be done in 45 minute increments. That's how I schedule my life. If I want to go and do something for fun, I'll put a timer for 45 minutes and go have fun and then run back to work. But I got my fix, but I love work so it doesn't feel like work. And it's nice being your own boss because you can leave whenever you want.


Jennifer Febre: I'm not as regimented as you though. I think I'll try that. I have a lot of music, hobbies. It's really the only way I've found to stop thinking about the brewery is to just be doing something else that requires a lot of concentration. And my thing is music. So I do bag piping and barbershop singing. Those are my two hobbies. I have noticed about myself that I do tend to do things that are typically thought of as male dominated, unbelievably playing bagpipes a lot of older people would come up to me and say, I didn't know a woman could play bagpipes. And I would love the world to get to a point where we're not asking questions. What's it like to be a woman brewery owner or a woman dentist? 


Maria Ramos: And I do it just as well as anybody else.


Jennifer Febre: To be honest though, there are times when it can be problematic when you're interacting with other people. I remember one time a salesperson came into the brewery and the first thing he said was, is the brewer here? Or if I'm standing with my husband and we're talking to people and we start talking about the brewery, they will absolutely, their eyes will go directly to him. Look right at him. 


Maria Ramos: Do you guys both play the same role, or are you more of a lead? 


Jennifer Febre: I’m really the leader a hundred percent. And he'll say that. He always calls me his boss and he always says, gives me credit. But it's really, he's there to help me flesh out my dream and also earn a living for both of us. How has being a female in your industry been for you?


Maria Ramos: I mean, I feel like that's why I'm so successful. I am super girly, but I feel like I've been successful because I understand my audience and I'm not scared to be that girly. I think maybe when I was younger, I would try to be a little lus girly, like, oh, stay away from pink. It's too pink. And now I'm wearing pink. So guess. So for me, that works because I know who I'm catering to. I know exactly what she wants. I know how she wants to be treated. Nurturing just comes very easily to me. But I've even noticed with my male clients, they're like, wow, this is amazing.


Jennifer Febre: Yeah, that's interesting because a lot of beer drinking women aren't that girly, and I'm not that girly


Maria Ramos: Because you are who you attract. And so I'm sure that when women feel you, they feel a sense of community. You're like, oh, she is like me. That's why I just embrace what I already am and make more of it and people like it.


Jennifer Febre: So what kind of challenges did you have when you first were getting started?


Maria Ramos: Obviously money. You need it. Childcare. Money for childcare, and figuring out your schedule. Figuring out learning to not drop the ball. And then when you do drop the ball, making the adjustments to not do it again. For sure. How about you?


Jennifer Febre: Yeah, money. Yeah, money and time. We had a lot of regulatory challenges because in the alcohol business, it's highly regulated, federal, state, and local. You have to jump through a lot of…


Maria Ramos: How did you learn that?


Jennifer Febre: You just learn little by little because the things that you don't know, you get letters in the mail saying you have to have this kind of license. And you're like, okay.


Maria Ramos: Yeah. In the esthetician world, you have to pay for lash lift courses, you have to pay for skin analysis, you have to pay for waxing, and you have to learn all these traits. And I was lucky enough to get people to just teach me. And so then I would pay it forward and teach the next girl and the next girl. And now I have seven girls and I'm teaching them everything, technique and business classes. So I would like to open up a beauty school because in the beauty industry, they don't teach you about business. They don't teach you what it costs. So for example, how much does it cost you to actually make profit and you got to play your employees? And it's like, that's not taught. So I actually started a group during covid. It's called the Money Making Esthetician. I have 64,000 members, and it's all about business. What products, how much did you charge? Where do you get your clients? Like Business 101 in this group. 


Jennifer Febre: It's hard for businesses like ours to deal with conventional banks. I don't know if you've ever walked into a big bank and tried to get a loan. It's so much paperwork and they are really not interested in helping us. No, something like Square is just, it's easy. It's there.


Maria Ramos: It did help, especially in the beginning. There was times where money was short, and then I got an offer, Square Capital, and I was like, oh, this is awesome. The customer service for me was amazing. Her name was Claire. She would help me through it. She built my website and it was free. And that's really expensive. That's what, $3,500 for a website. So it was just all in one to use it. So that's why I love Square.


Jennifer Febre: I also love how Square will reach out every once in a while and just say, how's it going? Do you have any suggestions? And I feel like when you make a suggestion to your Square representative, they actually do something with that. It's so rare to be able to have any kind of influence like that on a big company. 


Maria Ramos: They listen to their consumer. It's cool. Yeah, for sure.


Jennifer Febre: So I really like that about them. Yeah.


Maria Ramos: Yeah. You are so inspiring.


Jennifer Febre: No, I've loved our conversation. I actually didn't know how much we would have in common though.


Maria Ramos: It's so funny because I'm listening to you say things, I'm like, oh my God, me too. Oh my gosh, I'm going to be on fire all week. I'm going to be all excited working. Some of my takeaways from today was for sure that if you understand your audience, like your niche, you'll be successful. And then two, it's a sense of community making it a place where the customer likes to come and feels welcomed. Right.


Jennifer Febre: One of my main takeaways from my conversation with Maria is that she really schedules her time out, even her time off. And I tend to be a little more freeform, but I could see how that would be really beneficial because when you schedule that, you're off the clock. That's the only time you can really be off the clock.

Products mentioned

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"You Two Should Meet" brings together entrepreneurs from diverse industries for an intimate conversation on what it takes to start, run and grow a business.

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