Steve Beauchesne 05-17-2016

Beau’s becomes employee-owned

– Steve and Jenn of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. join Eddy and Jean to talk about the big all-staff announcement that took place at the By Towne Cinema in Ottawa yesterday. The first audio file is a 30-minute excerpt of the interview with Beau’s CEO Steve Beauchesne.


The second audio file is the entire special program about Beau’s big Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) announcement with Eddy and Jean hosting and guests Steve, Jenn, Jacquie and Sean.

With permission – from the May 18 edition of The Review

Beginning in July, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company will become
partially employee-owned, with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

BY Theresa Ketterling

The plan will help protect Beau’s, which will have its 10-year anniversary in 2016, from being bought out by large companies, says brewery owner Steve Beauchesne.
Craft brewing has become a victim of its own success in some respects, he says, with dozens of craft breweries purchased by large companies in Canada and the US in the past year. “Craft beer is really at a crucial point,” he said Tuesday. “We started off as an industry filled with creative and passionate people…because of the success of craft beer, it’s at risk of being dominated by major foreign breweries.”

Beauchesne says between four and five per cent of shares in the company will become available for purchase by employees in 2016. That number is expected to grow – every year, existing shareholders will be asked if they want to put any shares up for sale. Theoretically, 100 per cent of the shares could one day be up for sale, but at the moment, Beauchesne and his father and co-owner of the brewery, Tim Beauchesne, are holding onto a 60 per cent stake. “I feel very strongly the brewery is poised for so much growth, I’m very, very willing and able stay patient,” he said. The shares up for sale in 2016 are currently held by other investors.

The goal is to have employees sell shares back to other employees when upon retiring or leaving Beau’s, says Beauchesne. “This way, we create a cycle of ownership,” he said. Employees who purchase shares sign an agreement where voting rights are given to the board of directors, except if the board or a group of shareholders wanted to sell Beau’s, in which case every shareholder would get a vote, said Beauchesne.

The announcement was made at a company-wide meeting in Ottawa on Monday. Every single employee was brought in for the meeting, said Beauchesne, but no one knew what was being announced.

“It was very hush hush,” says Todd Gilbert, distribution manager at the brewery. Employees in Vankleek Hill were bussed to Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema. “Everyone had suspicions of maybe we were being bought out, maybe we were going to six days a week, four days a week, who knows, it could have been anything.” He said he was “quite shocked” at the news. His best guess had been a merger with another craft brewery, but “merging with our own employees is much better.”

“It was a party,” says supply chain manager Sean Cooley, of the aftermath of the announcement on Monday. Cooley said he was impressed at the news, and praised brewery owners Tim and Steve Beauchesne as “super independent, very punk rock.”

Cooley has experience working at public companies, and has had the opportunity to purchase shares before, but he says ESOPs are a different story. “This is completely different,” he said, “it feels like I have a greater say in what happens, and a greater commitment, and the company has a greater commitment to me.”

Gilbert, who has worked at Beau’s for nine years, says employees of the brewery already felt a sense of ownership, although it wasn’t on paper. “You can definitely see a small increase in the pride as people are walking into work,” he said on Tuesday. “It still feels very similar to what it was before, but now it’s more official.”

Beauchesne says he’s determined Beau’s won’t become complacent, and sees the ESOP as a way to keep everyone engaged. “I can’t think of a more powerful tool than to tell someone, if you work really hard and do a good job, you’re personally going to see your shares in the company grow,” he said. It’s also a way to reassure customers who appreciate Beau’s locally-owned nature. “We’re not independent by default, we’re independent by design,” he said.