Bare Bones Brewery

Bare Bones Brewery: Start Small, Plan for Scale

"The SBDC was crucial to our finding financing," said Oshkosh brewery owner Dan Dringoli, who did his homework to ensure success in a booming trend.

Dan Dringoli describes Bare Bones Brewery as “a taproom where we make beer on site and provide a cozy place for folks to have a beer or two.” Launched in 2015, the business has grown steadily. “We’re up about 40 percent year-over-year since we started,” Dan said.

Serial entrepreneurs

Dan and his wife Patti had purchased a PuroClean disaster recovery franchise, attracted by the franchise model since they lacked prior entrepreneurial experience. Dan subsequently opened several LLCs.

Dan started home-brewing in the 1980s while in high school, then returned to the hobby in his mid-20s, but let it drop to focus on family and career. While opening a second PuroClean in Eagle River, he began spending time at a craft beer taproom, learning about the business from the owner. In 2014 he convinced his wife they should open a brewpub similar to the one in Eagle River.

Initially, Dan planned to purchase used equipment but discovered that with the dramatic expansion of craft brewing, used equipment was almost as expensive as new. Size mattered, too. “A lot of breweries start with a small system and then in a couple of years have to pay for a larger system. I didn’t want to be reinvesting just two years in,” Dan said. He started with a larger system, and now he’s reaping the benefits.

SBDC: pathway to funding

With significant investment required to start even a “bare bones” brewery, Dan needed a bank loan. He contacted the Small Business Development Center at UW-Oshkosh, where business counselor Phil Florek learned that “Dan had the attributes of a successful entrepreneur—in his passion, marketing strategy, and analysis, but most importantly, his focus.”

Phil provided business plan models and assisted Dan with financial projections. “He made us do our homework,” Dan recalled. “We looked at the exploding number of breweries opening and studied the failures. Usually, it’s because they were undercapitalized, so we wanted to ensure that didn’t happen to us.” Phil introduced Dan to a lender at Bank First National. Dan said, “For the bank to take a leap on us—it helped that Phil felt confident our business plan would work. The SBDC was crucial to our finding financing.”

The SBDC was crucial to our finding financing.
Dan Dingoli
Bare Bones Brewery
  • Business plan
  • Referrals and introductions for financing
  • Sounding board
Synergy between businesses

Dan’s Oshkosh PuroClean and the brewery share a building near both a busy highway and an all-season recreational trail that brings customers. Dan credits sufficient capitalization with helping him avoid the pitfalls of startup, but “another reason we’ve been successful is that I’ve learned to multi-purpose a building,” he said. “The beer crowd comes in 3-9 pm and on the weekends. At PuroClean we’re typically done at 4 pm. It just made sense for the businesses to share the overhead.” There are marketing advantages to the shared location too: Each business raises awareness of the other. “The brewery helps grow my PuroClean referrals. And for PuroClean I use the brewery taproom to teach classes for insurance agents and claims adjusters,” Dan said.

Bare Bones Brewery employs three full-time staff, including Brewmaster RJ Nordlund, plus a part-time brewer and servers. Wider distribution is the next goal: Dan feels there’s plenty of room for growth in the craft beer industry. “Our competition isn’t other microbreweries—it’s the big brands,” he said. “People want to buy local. They like to visit a city and tour two or three breweries. We build the market for each other.” 

Phil observed, “The SBDC works with hundreds of people who have a business idea. Very few reach fruition. The Dan Dringoli’s of the world make our job worth it.  He did everything he planned to do: Build a business, hire people, generate cash flow, and offer a tremendous product.”