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Lee Hedgemon

The Barreled Bee

Lee Hedgemon

Gabriel Flores  0:00  

Hello, everyone and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am here with the owner of barreled B. Lee. How are we doing? We're good. I'm excited. Me too. I like honey. Good. But first, let's introduce the world to Li headsman.

Lee Hedgemon  0:21  


Gabriel Flores  0:22  

give us a little background. Oh, yes.

Lee Hedgemon  0:25  

Deep. I'll go back. First the primordial already. The sounds of my mother yelling at me

Gabriel Flores  0:37  

with some background says bird.

Lee Hedgemon  0:41  

Like screaming and yelling and oh my goodness. And then the clouds

Gabriel Flores  0:45  

parted and there was thunder.

Lee Hedgemon  0:49  

Sounds good. All right,

Gabriel Flores  0:50  

we're falling off track so fast.

Lee Hedgemon  0:52  

It's honestly I'm known to do that I am a I very much a tangent. I like to say if you just hang on long enough eat the ride, you will get back on the road.

Gabriel Flores  1:02  

I like that. I like it. So let's, uh, let's introduce Who is Lee? Give us a background? What? What made you an entrepreneur? What got you to today?

Lee Hedgemon  1:13  

Wow, that's a pretty deep question. Actually. I would say that procrastination got me to where I am today. I like it. But strangely enough, I am. So I'm from Portland, Oregon. Born and raised here. My family has been here for a while now. So I grew up went to high school here, all the things. I went to grad school, strangely enough. And was homebrewing in grad school as a procrastination and a stress reliever to finishing my dissertation. So I started making wine and Mead and beer. While I was writing and doing research for my dissertation, back in the day, let's not go I won't give him a I won't give a year.

Gabriel Flores  2:10  

So dissertation, what what exactly do you go to grad school for?

Lee Hedgemon  2:15  

I went to grad school for pedagogical theories. So my research interest was teaching and learning. And in particular, looking at how faculty of color use emotional labor as a method for helping them develop different kinds of teaching strategies to minimize the amount of emotional labor they had to use in the classroom to kind of keep their own well being. And keep saying, so interesting. Yes, to this day, no one's done that talk about deep Tuesday, no one's done like same kind of research that I was doing. So I always, always go, you know, if I ever decided to go back and finish, then that's what I would do that I would probably finish it then. But so that's what I was going to school for I was at the University of Minnesota, I was in the gender women and Sexuality Studies, the feminist studies program, they're nice. And so I was doing all these other things to kind of help relieve stress. So I had started brewing beer, for fun with some friends, to wait while all the wine I was making was aging. And it got to the point where my advisor said, Hey, we love that you're got this thing going on, can you bring us a chapter instead of a six pack? It's not like, forget it, that's yours need to be doing research? And I was like, oh, yeah, sure. So let's get forward a couple of years, I actually moved back to Portland to finish my degree and to take a teaching job at Portland State, in their women's studies, and in the University Studies department. So I was here doing that looking for work in academia, and then decided that I didn't want to do that anymore. And I wanted to become a brewer instead. So I like with everything I've tend to do, make a decision and go, I'm just going to do it and that and it'll work out. And so I met up, I had a lot of friends who were all in the industry. And I met people in the industry. And I actually started by volunteering. I like to say I was probably the last person in the Portland metro area, who walked into a brewery and said, Hey, I want to learn how to brew. I'll volunteer. And so I did that. And I started that is how I got my start in 2009 as a commercial Brewer by learning how to brew and small breweries, the running joke was and this I think is the heart of my entrepreneurial spirit was that the running joke was that no one knew how many jobs I had because I worked at At one time, I had four different I had four jobs at once. Two of them were in two breweries, and then to read the two homebrew shops that are here in Portland. And I was hustling, like crazy. And I was in my late oh, my mid 30s. That is where the adage of working smart, not hard comes in. Because my body was not going there. It was like, really, I think at the worst part of my learning and brewing was I would my boyfriend that at the time, who later became my husband would pick me up from work. And he would have to physically put me in the car and put my seatbelt on. Because I was so physically out of shape and not used to doing that kind of physical labor, that at the end of my workday, I was unable to lift my own arms to do things or walk barely. It took months before I got built up that kind of core strength that I have now, where I don't even think twice about half the things I do. Nice.

Gabriel Flores  6:09  

So for listeners at home, what is the barrel B? And where did where did the concept come from? How did this all start? We're not brewing beer now.

Lee Hedgemon  6:18  

No, we're not. So I brewed beer for almost 10 years. And then midway through that, I decided I got a gig as a distiller for mcmenamins, here in Portland, and I learned how to distill. And that's when I got really introduced to barrels and spending time with a lot of barrels. Now, before that, remember, early on, I had been making wine and Mead, which is basically honey based wine. And I was using a lot of honey and a lot of things, I use a lot of honey and a lot of beers I was making. So I'd always had honey present. And then you introduced the fact that I started working with spirits. And that was a whole new avenue that opened up. Now how it came about how the barrel became about I like to say it started in a cidermakers kitchen with a spoonful of honey. And very clearly, a friend at the time was a commercial cidermakers And I was hanging out at her house. And she's like, you've got to try this honey I got from Hawaii. And I said okay, sure. So she gives me a teaspoon of honey. And I mean, she poured it out as if it was liquid gold. And having tasted it at that moment. I was like yeah, she was right. That was a that was a smart move.

Gabriel Flores  7:39  

Got the barrel be right, you start you started it out. Now let's let's talk about a little bit about the business piece of it.

Lee Hedgemon  7:47  

Yeah, so how he's talking about it, because I need some help. And

Gabriel Flores  7:53  

that's what we're here to do. We're here to help. Okay. We're here to help folks. Now. First, you decide LLC route. Why did you decide that route,

Lee Hedgemon  8:02  

I decided to go an LLC route as opposed to a corporation. Because I was it was just me. And I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this. And an LLC offered me kind of the more establishment of being a real business and not a single like entity kind of business, like just an owner of something, I could name it something else. And it didn't have to be a sole proprietor, there was a lot of things that I did not want kind of on my shoulders. But I also wanted the option to be able to move into kind of DynCorp to move to a corporation at a later date. But I still wanted the legitimacy of being an actual business and not a sole proprietor. Gotcha.

Gabriel Flores  8:45  

So is this your first business? Yes, the first official biz first official, but you worked for many businesses, I've worked for many businesses. And it seems like all those businesses kind of helped you get to this point.

Lee Hedgemon  8:57  

They did. Not in the ways that are really helpful. Not in the ways that they don't tell you Oh, my goodness, the things that they people do not tell you. So funny thing is, I may know it was April 3, was when I officially filed my LLC with the state of Oregon. And I just, I bid and it was like three days after I had that encounter with that honey, and I was thinking about it and I go, I'm this is what I'm going to do. Yeah, I'm gonna put different kinds of things in barrels was like, What am I going to call it? I was like, Well, I'm gonna have to, I thought of names. I was thinking everything. And finally the barrel beak popped in. So I'm like, Alright, I'm just gonna file that. So I did that. Having no idea what I was doing. Yeah. And then I said, Okay, well, I'll go to Legal Zoom. Like they must have a thing for setting up a business. And so I was like, Well, what are all the things that I need? And they're like, Well, you need a tax ID and you need all this stuff. So I was like, well, I'll go to Legal Zoom. So I did that. I was winging it. All of this happened within a couple of weeks. I had nothing else besides a name and a nice packet that they sent me. And I didn't have a logo. I had no, I hadn't. I didn't even have a product. I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew that I needed to jump on this. And the moment I did it, I said, Well, there's no going back. And I, I just went from there, trying to figure out, how do you do this with no money. And I had absolutely, still absolutely no money. But I also knew that I didn't want my home to be on the line. So one of the things and it was also really important for me to be like a business owner, that was this was my business, this was wasn't a business with my partner, and I, my husband and I, there was not this, I had no one else it was just me. So I needed to figure out a way to keep it as separate as possible. Hence, also doing the LLC, nothing under my own name, I needed to be able to have that separation, I also needed to be able to have a bank account and all those things and have kind of the the ability to not like I never wanted to put my I never wanted to put my home up for anything, right. And so I needed and I always wanted to be able to say that I was women. And it's very hard to do that. Like you have to work twice as hard to separate yourself from a spouse on paper for a business. Because they just assume if you're married, then everybody is all included in that. Yeah. And that is not the case. So we actually my husband, I work really hard to keep it as separate and aboveboard as possible. So if and that was one of the things I promised him was that we're never gonna, I'm never going to put up our house, that's never going to happen. He's never going to have to worry about

Gabriel Flores  12:04  

that. Nice. And that's a great learning moment for the folks at home. Real Estate's a little bit different than the business world. And so when you buy a home with somebody, you if you're whether you're married or not. And so this is kind of important. There's difference between tenants by the common and tenants by the entirety. Okay, tenants by the entirety. That means, you know, if you and your spouse, if some, somebody passes away half of that house goes your spouse, tenant by the in common means that half of your home or your split your home, goes to your families, like your parents and your brothers and sisters. The reason I bring this up is because it's kind of important. And this is why I don't mean to Narelle this conversation listening, I'm learning. But the reason this is important is because equality, because when individuals are unable to get married, they buy houses tenant by the common versus tenant by the entirety. So when, you know significant other, when their partners pass away, that half of the house kind of goes to their family member completely different subject kind of diverge. But it's very interesting, because it's kind of thinking about that in the same way from the business perspective as you kind of want to create the safeguards right to to ensure that it's not going one once you close up shop, right. The money that you made is going to the right shop. Yes. And to if something bad happens, they're not going after the wrong people. Yes. Yeah. So you mentioned funding. Let's let's talk about that a little bit. You you say you don't have no money? Yeah. How did you start grassroots fundraising? What do you do,

Lee Hedgemon  13:45  

I started with my paycheck, I would say at least half of my salary every single month went to staying away I'll still does goes to sustain my business and went to pay for things. And I started off really, really small. And it was more of a okay, this is what we're going to do. My mother would often like front me money would buy things that I absolutely needed, because she knew from the sales of merchandise and my very first batch, I use that to purchase things from my next batch and do all these kinds of everything was done, very piecemeal. And that included like having business cards, like all of those things. I had friends who believed in the law believed in the idea and so would give me a loan that was like, we know you're gonna pay it back, right like we see what you're doing. No hurry, and I was like, Okay,

Gabriel Flores  14:59  

bye was like, oh, trust me, or I am. Well, and

Lee Hedgemon  15:02  

that was that was another thing. And that's really hard. That's that's a hard thing to kind of. It's a hard gift to accept. Yeah. Yeah. Is other people's faith in you? Yeah. Yeah. And it's a very scary thing.

Gabriel Flores  15:19  

You know, one of the things we talk about often on the show is the importance of like networking and collaboration. But not only that, the importance of like family and friends, when you're starting a new venture, because of the support, they have not only from, you know, cheerleading on the sideline, who draw, but also from that financial perspective, how important was your family and friends.

Lee Hedgemon  15:39  

My friends were completely, they were indispensable. Tracking down, people tracking down barrels, tracking down, having equipment, helping me move things, helping me just just helping to keep me sane. My partner he, he handles and all of our day to day. And so he would be he handled all my day to day. So if I don't think if I hadn't had him doing this, I wouldn't have had the time to kind of let a lot more fun divert more funds from my paycheck to go to support my business.

Gabriel Flores  16:22  

You know, we're talking about honey, you'd mentioned you took a teaspoon of honey, and it was, you know, gold, liquid gold. How do you make liquid gold? I don't know. I love eatin honey. How do you make honey what goes into

Lee Hedgemon  16:37  

it? Um, I do very little. So one of the things that I wanted to do and that was really important to me, was to network showcase the unbelievable diversity in terroir that we have here. And that is done that we're going through honey and working with different kinds of AP Ares. So beekeeping companies, so APA is there either they either tend their own bees, or in the case of a lot of the ones that I work with. They work with other beekeepers and commercial pollinators, and they purchase their honey from them. And then then they sell that in various forms. So they're kind of like a broker for smaller commercial bee pollinators. Gotcha. So pollinators are commercial beekeepers, whose sole job is to pollinate crops that need that. And so you often see them talk about them on the circuit of when you see those big trucks that have like all these hundreds of hives on them, they're usually going up and down, I five heading down to California. And they'll be doing that the next few months to start that pollination for like almonds and avocados. And then they'll gradually and all those crops and as a spring comes up, they'll make their way back up here. So there's that track. But then there's also the pollinators we have just in the state of Oregon. They're small, and they're work with farmers, and they're just pollinating those crops. And so I'm working with API's who work with those beekeepers. And it was really important for me to be able to know where my honey was coming from, because people were asking those questions. But also, it's why it took up beekeeping was because everybody was asking me about bees, and honey. And so I took up beekeeping to be able to answer people's questions. And that was really important for me. And I learned so much like even more than when I was actually teaching. And like talking about mead making and using honey and like fermentation process, because it's kind of a different take. And my appreciation for that really did grow. But also the understanding that honey, for me has always been this amazing snapshot of time and place in the world. So it is basically Liquid amber, because bees have a certain takes a certain amount of time to produce so much honey depends on and they their foraging is three to five miles. So depending on where you have the hive, you have a snapshot of what is growing, what is what's growing in the world right then in there, based on when a beekeeper kind of what's blooming and when the beekeepers harvesting.

Gabriel Flores  19:14  

So what would you say was kind of hard about starting this business because you mentioned you kind of just on a whim started doing everything. What was hard about it? What was easy,

Lee Hedgemon  19:26  

easy part was selling the idea because nobody I looked at how many people were doing this and why and where. And the honey that I had initially tasted was from Hawaii from a distillery that happened to be on a plantation and they happen to have bees. It was just kind of a side thing they did. And then I found another place that was doing something very similar. But they happen to be an apiary and they had one distillery and every once in a while they get a barrel from them. I love those ideas, but we are really fortunate where we're at had to have so many different beekeepers, and so many different distilleries at my fingertips. And being in the industry. I had so many people that I knew like, Hey, when are you dumping your barrels? Like when when we say dumping, we don't mean dumping, dumping? Empty? Everybody says that, and I forgot. I'm like, oh, no, no,

Gabriel Flores  20:21  

you live in Oregon. Do you came to say dumping?

Lee Hedgemon  20:23  

I was like, when we say dump, we're like, we mean, we empty our barrels. So we do that, and but knowing all these people that I engage with, and be like, hey, I want to do something really interesting. I love what your barrels I love what your spirits tastes like, do you have anything and people would just be like, Yeah, so the hardest part of the that was actually the easiest part was making the connections, getting the honey and getting the barrels, the hard part was all the behind the scenes paperwork, the bookkeeping things, the contracts, finding a space, going through figuring out what the legalities of what I was doing, since nobody was nobody does what I do. How and then how to position myself to talk about this in a way that makes it really interesting. Yep, so finding a place because I'm dealing with a barrel that has hundreds of pounds of honey in it on, and it has to be on a rack. And it has to be, you know, movable. But you also have to have a space to work in that and finding places where I could share a space, use a lot of the similar equipment that everybody is using, like forklifts, and pallet jacks and all these things. That was the hard part. Because space is at a premium. So there might be someplace that has it, but they don't have enough room, or if they're not willing to kind of rent to you. And again, I don't have I didn't have any money. I didn't have great credit. And so I couldn't get a business loan. You can't get a business loan without being in business. And I wasn't in business long enough. And then at some point, your personal credit has to kind of Yeah, but you know, and because I was keeping it separate from my spouse, and I Yeah, everything was all based on me. Which is not was which was great. And that was me struggling with how to be successful with this. But not starting out in a place that it sets you up to be successful. Yeah. So I was coming from having no idea how to run a business. But I knew how to meet people. And I knew how to make good products. And I was a I knew how to problem solve and play the what if game. And so then it was a matter of doing research and figuring out what is out there that can help me. So I found a lot of different programs to kind of help me, but some things just had to stay firm that I couldn't do like, you know, certain things weren't collateral, like oh, you need to be able to do this or you need to have the startup money. And I didn't want to take on investors when I first started for the simple reason, which is come out four years later. I was I was afraid I was afraid to fail and lose anybody else's money but my own Yeah, and that is a I struggle with that but also figuring out what's the best use of what money I do have and what kind of revenue I am bringing out and where where do I put it and how do you grow?

Gabriel Flores  23:55  

Yeah. Looking back on everything you know from going to your education going tasting the liquid gold Amber's now starting barlby Right and going through this process what what advice would you give your younger self?

Lee Hedgemon  24:15  

My younger self like yeah, okay, I'd have to go back to my real younger self. The lesson of just because they give you checks doesn't necessarily mean that means that's money or you know the things Yeah. me real quick let's give that to 17 year old

Gabriel Flores  24:39  

like Oh, nobody's listening on part of this authority is now oh,

Lee Hedgemon  24:46  

well, you know, as a kid you like oh my gosh, I got my best friend. You know, you got your first department store credit card. They don't tell you like, oh, I can buy all these things like nobody understands. And they don't teach you like responsible. Yeah. Economics And so we're like, oh, okay, so that if I wanted to go, that's a real one. But also to I think the best advice is, you don't have to do everything yourself. Yes, there is absolutely no reason for you to learn how to become a web designer, to learn how to become a bookkeeper to learn how to become a graphic designer, to learn how to do anything, that it is almost not worth, the energy that it would take to learn something when there are people who that is what they do. And I've been really, really fortunate to learn that early on. And I hire the people that I need for the job to do the job that I just, it's not the best use of my time to learn something when somebody already knows what they do. Very true. So that is actually I offer that to that is hands down, when somebody asked me what's most important tidbit of information that I could give them, that is what I give them. And just because you think it looks good, doesn't mean it does look good. Like it does pay to do your research, it does pay to not go cheap on things. Yep. It is not a, there are some things that they just I'll give a great example, my graphic designer has I pretty much to say this is what I want. And this is what it's going on to. And I want to have this kind of aesthetic. They already know what my brand looks like. They already know what everything that they've designed for me looks like. So I say you have creative license, you're an artist, I trust you come with me with three ideas, however long it takes. Because you know what looks good for me. And the one thing that has happened over the years is that everything that people say the first thing that people see is going to be the packaging. So keep in mind, don't make anything too complicated. If you're a one man show one woman show Yep. Because if that's how what people know of you, that's what they're going to expect. And when you start to scale up, and you're doing things by the hundreds, and you make it too complicated, you're gonna have to hang on to that the whole entire time. Not thrilled by the fact that I love how my product looks. But I tell people all the time, I it takes me days, and it will take me hours to like hand do everything that I do for something to look so nice and neat and clean. And that is nothing wrong. Yeah. But it is what it is. Yeah, I mean, if I could have done something different. So just like pick and choose where you're going to spend your money. Yeah, sometimes it's best to have some things designed, especially for you that nobody else has. And that finding other small businesses. There's a huge amount of loyalty that folks have from other small business owners, that when you're in it, whether it comes from I have a guy who makes my boxes and my inserts, and he has from the get go. And he does an amazing job. And I don't think I could have ever had anything that looks as good. If I was trying to buy something off the shelf.

Gabriel Flores  28:44  

I like it, you know, it's kind of funny, one of the things you mentioned was, you know, giving your creative designers kind of the ambiguity, right to do their own thing that is so important, you know, for owners out there that eliciting giving your staff kind of the empowerment to make the right decisions and to really kind of do the creative juices, that's one can keep them and retain them. Right to they're gonna really probably going to innovate to the point, they're gonna probably make your business better, right there. You're gonna create some new ideas because like you mentioned, I'm not an expert in graphic designs. I'm I'm talking to you right now. Hey, who am I speaking to which who wants to help me with my podcast covered? But that right now need some assistance? You know? And these are things that I know I'm not good at? Might as well might as well ask them. So for the folks at home, where can they find the barrel be? Where can they find your product? Where can they find you on the social online? Where's your information?

Lee Hedgemon  29:39  

Well, I'm the barrel B, and you can find me on Instagram. I'm on Facebook. I'm mostly on Instagram, a lot like Instagram. I'm on Twitter too. It's so much fun. I love pictures. I don't like to type so I'm like that 1000 words broke picture right there that gives me but you can find me on my website. So everything is the name of My company. So you find me on my website. So I sell online, but also, local distilleries will carry my products, especially if I use their barrels. I always try to give a shout out to them like it. But you can find me at freelance spirits, which is actually my day job. And Abby Creek Winery amazing collaborations I've done with Bertoni for that. And a lot of little small boutique stores so Graham and twos and Sherwood blackthorn mercantile off of Williams. Nice, nice Portland.

Gabriel Flores  30:36  

Awesome. Well, thank you so much Lee for taking the time.

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