(This is the third in a series of articles featuring award-winning businesses that Community Futures North Cariboo has been proud to support.)
When I first moved back to Quesnel, I didn’t know anything about Community Futures,” says Justine Pelletier. “I had never heard of them before. Now I mention Community Futures to everyone I meet. They are a tremendous resource that anyone thinking about going into business should take advantage of.”
“When I first moved back to Quesnel, I didn’t know anything about Community Futures,” says Justine Pelletier. “I had never heard of them before. Now I mention Community Futures to everyone I meet. They are a tremendous resource that anyone thinking about going into business should take advantage of.”
Justine is the general manager of Barkerville Brewing Company, recipient of the Quesnel & District Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year (10+ employees) Award in 2018 as well as winner of an impressive list of provincial and national awards for their beer, including a silver at the 2018 BC Beer Awards last October and, more recently, two bronze medals at the 2019 Canadian Brewing Awards on May 6th.
She credits the business advice and support she received from Community Futures North Cariboo with helping her get the business off to a solid start. “In the first couple of years, it was really overwhelming to put all the systems in place,” she says. “Just having someone knowledgeable to talk it through with was a huge relief. And they would refer me to different experts for specific advice on things like inventory management and setting up a proper production schedule.”
Barkerville Brewing Company was founded in 2013 by Victoria investor Russ Ovans, a computer scientist and former owner of a successful software company. After selling his software company for $6 million in 2010, he decided to take some of the profits and open his own brewery, something he’d always wanted to do. Quickly recognizing that the craft beer market in Victoria and the Lower Mainland was becoming over-saturated, he turned his attention to northern B.C. where the competition was less fierce.
“Barkerville Brewing Company is one of the pioneers in northern B.C.,” says Justine. “There were three that opened at the same time – Barkerville in Quesnel, Wheelhouse in Prince Rupert and Three Ranges in Valemount. We all opened within a month of each other.”
Justine grew up in the North Cariboo before moving to Victoria to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Camosun College. After a stint in Vancouver, she returned to Quesnel where she landed a job as Bookkeeper/Loans Administrator with Community Futures North Cariboo. “They were really great to work for,” she said. It was her first introduction to Community Futures and the range of services it offers to business owners – knowledge that served her well later as she tackled the challenges of starting a new business.
While Justine enjoyed working for Community Futures, she had always dreamed of running a company. So when the position of general manager for the start-up brewery came up about a year after she started with Community Futures, she seized the opportunity.
“This was my dream job,” said Justine. She was one of Barkerville Brewing’s first three employees, along with brew master Troy Rudolph and sales representative Nolan Foster.
Since start-up in February 2014, sales at Barkerville Brewing have steadily increased and the company has expanded, installing a canning line in addition t the bottling line to keep up with production which has more than doubled, up from a 68,215 litres in 2014 to 156,291 litres a year in 2018. Its line of products are available in selected liquor stores, restaurants and bars in Quesnel and Williams Lake, as well as across northern BC, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria. It has also grown from three employees to 13, including a full-time sales manager. By chance, the company is made up entirely of women, making it one of only a handful of companies run by an all-female staff.
Justine continues to draw on the business expertise available through Community Futures to ensure that Barkerville Brewing is well positioned for the future. As part of that process, she is working with the Venture Connect program to conduct a professional assessment of the business that will help her to guide the company to the next stage.
Hours and location for Barkerville Brewing Company
Barkerville Brewing is located at 185 Davie Street in downtown Quesnel, BC. It’s open daily, 12 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 12 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tel. (778) 414-2793, or visit them at: https://barkervillebeer.com