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Better Than Ever

This brewery's online venture soured, so its owners poured energy into their brick-and-mortar.

Craft beer-maker Brooklyn Brewery had 11 years under its belt when the team decided to take the plunge into e-commerce. It was 1999, and the thought of selling craft beers online was, well, intoxicating.

Co-founders Steve Hindy, 58, and Tom Potter, 51, (who has since left the company) went to friends and family for capital, raising more than $1 million. But within months, they knew the site wasn't going to be profitable, so they had to throw in the towel.

The experience put a financial and emotional strain on the company. "When we folded," says Hindy, "[we sighed] and said, 'Let's get back to selling beer.'" Fortunately, the brewery's distribution infrastructure had significant offline value. Four years after closing the website, the company sold its distribution assets for a cool $11 million. This year, the brewery expects to sell more than $14 million worth of beer. Hindy says the important thing is to admit your mistakes and learn from them.

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This article was originally published in the June 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Better Than Ever.

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