Bookkeeping for Breweries: 3 Tips on How to Acquire a Niche Clientele
Sherri-Lee Mathers, owner of Balsam Way Bookkeeping, doesn’t drink beer, as she’s allergic to wheat. What’s interesting about this allergy is that she’s found a perfect bookkeeping client niche … in the brewing industry, of all places! How she acquired her niche and her clientele is an interesting story, and recently I sat down with Sherri-Lee to hear about it. I’m thankful for her taking time out of the busy tax season to talk with me. Below, Sherri-Lee details out three tips on how other bookkeepers can find their niche.
Learning About the Brewing Industry
Sherri-Lee is very honest about the fact that she gets bored easily.
“About four years ago, I almost got out of bookkeeping because I was so fed up with disorganized paper receipts and data entry and not being able to use my brain,” she says.
Her business since she opened her doors in 2009 has always had cloud aspects to it, first using hosting solutions for Quickbooks® Desktop, and then a mix of hosted and Quickbooks Online (QBO). As of last year, however, her business became 100 percent cloud-based, eliminating the grind of inputting paper and dinosaur-like data entry every month. “What a game changer. That whole part [having all clients in the cloud] allowed me to scale, streamline, improve my workflows and just overall make things easier. I’m constantly learning and kept challenged.”
And, learning and challenges is what Sherri-Lee is all about. In fact, it’s part of what helped make the move into the brewery niche so appealing. She explains how it came about.
“I kind of fell into it. I had an accountant contact me because of my experience with QBO and ask me if I would be interested. I said no because all I could think about was the gazillion receipts. The second time, around about 6 months later, I received an email from one of the owners of the brewery asking if I may be interested. My initial response was again “no,” but I just happened to have come back from the IPBC Conference, where, of course, I was fired up after Intuit® and app presentations, and I knew I could do this.”
She says the effort she put into the new endeavor was much more than she had anticipated. Breweries are much more than just about brewing beer, she says. They involve manufacturing, distributing, taprooms (or restaurants) and merchandise – four or five businesses in one. The learning curve was huge and she mentions the fact that the liquor industry is a heavily taxed one from multiple agencies. She became fascinated with understanding the business vertical.
In addition, her interest in technology – which the brewery owner learned from her Twitter and Facebook posts – meshed with that of the brewery’s interest in tech, making for a great partnership.
With her passion for technology, a number of apps were introduced, taking the accounting side of the business paperless while increasing efficiency and insights. Sherri-Lee says she could not imagine working without key apps, such as Receipt Bank, TSheets, Hubdoc and Plooto. However, the app she ‘geeks out to’ the most is a software called Ekos Brewmaster, which integrates seamlessly with QBO and is designed specifically for craft breweries. It sharpened her already growing fascination with the industry. She loves how Ekos automates the brewing processes from production – costing batches, to inventory tracking, to sales, “I can see each step of the process in Quickbooks. My whole focus is on the back-office technology. I’m constantly learning, and this industry fulfills my passion for that,” she says.
Finally, there’s one last aspect of the brewing industry that makes it a perfect fit for Sherri-Lee. She “loves the industry is all about collaboration,” and notes the ‘collaboration of love’ by three local breweries this year producing a new IPA brew called “Love Potion,” which will be released on Valentine's Day. All proceeds are being donated to a BC Children’s Hospital Oncology Dept and Comox Valley YANA Foundation.
Three Tips for Acquiring a Niche Clientele
Because Sherri-Lee found the niche that fulfills her desire for tech and constant learning, she wants to help other bookkeepers find theirs. Here’s her advice:
- Look at your passions and what fascinates/inspires you, and then target businesses in that industry. Find something that will not only hold your interest, but also forces you to keep learning.
- Be active on social media and be clear about your interests. This exposure may attract clients to you, as well as provide opportunities in industries new to you.
- Make sure you find a client or clients that want the same things as you do, especially when it comes to back-end technology. They should be open to operating in the cloud (i.e., QBO!) and to apps that help streamline their processes. Plus, your technical abilities will set you apart from other bookkeepers.
Do these tips resonate with you? For Sherri-Lee, these steps catapulted her into a dream niche. She is now committing a significant portion of her energy and time to the brewing industry. And, best of all, there’s plenty more for her to learn!
You can check out Sherri-Lee’s website for more information, and see what else she’s got brewing for the future.