Accion client Bold Dog Beer Company was recently announced as the winner of the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Business + Brewing Experienceship! Through this opportunity, Bold Dog owners Jerome Stontz and Shari O’Connell-Stontz will receive a year of one-on-one mentorship, a brewing collaboration with the Sam Adams’ brew team, and much more.
In 2015, Jerome and his wife Shari decided to turn their love of beer into a craft brewery business, Bold Dog Beer Company. Both Jerome and Shari were working full time during the first couple years of starting their business. Jerome would use his lunch break multiple times a week to visit new potential accounts and pitch his beer.
That year, Jerome’s bank referred him to Accion and soon after he received a loan. “If it wasn’t for that initial loan, none of this would have happened,” Jerome said. “It gave us the money to buy our first fermenter, buy the kegs, and get enough capital to get serious about our business.” Since then, Jerome has stayed involved with Accion by attending the annual Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream (BTAD) event for food and beverage entrepreneurs. At the 2016 event, Jerome brought bottles of Bold Dog beer with him, labeled with paper that he printed from his home computer. Jerome and Shari met Boston Beer brewer Jennifer Glanville and she told them that their beer had DMS, an off-flavor. At the BTAD event the following year, Jerome and Shari returned with upgraded, DMS-free beers and professionally printed cans.
2018 was a year of big changes. In the spring, Jerome lost his job at an email marketing agency, prompting him to make a big career change. Rather than accept a new full-time marketing job, he decided to dedicate himself to the brewery, which was starting to get off the ground. “It’s wasn’t a safe thing to do,” Jerome recalled. “It’s going to be risky and challenging, but I’m going to focus all my energy towards the brewery.”
Looking for new opportunities, Jerome connected with a friend at Burnt City Brewing who told him about a new concept for a brew hall featuring multiple breweries in the West Loop area. “We knew it was an amazing opportunity, but thought that they would never pick us,” Jerome remarked. In August 2018, he was ecstatic to get the call to let him know that Bold Dog was one of the breweries chosen to join District Brew Yards.
Jerome and Shari hope to expand Bold Dog’s distribution footprint to reach their hometowns in Massachusetts and downstate Illinois. Jerome’s main goal is to live a life of comfort with his wife and newborn son. While Bold Dog has come a long way, Jerome acknowledges that it required a lot of work. “Shari and I don’t allow each other to give up; we always support each other,” Jerome said. “If you are an entrepreneur, it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people, people that believe in you and support you. If you truly believe in something, you will make it happen.”
Pictured above (left to right): Brad McConnell, CEO of Accion Serving Illinois & Indiana; Jennifer Glanville, Director of Partnerships at The Boston Beer Company; Shari O’Connell-Stontz of Bold Dog Beer Company; Jerome Stontz of Bold Dog Beer Company; Dave Burwick, President and CEO of The Boston Beer Company