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Bell's Brewery Logo
Bell's Brewery Logo

Inspired to craft creative solutions: Get to know Erica

March 27, 2024

This interview is part of an ongoing series that spotlights coworkers who make Bell’s the brewery it is. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Thank you for joining us today. It has been a while since we’ve caught up – what is your current role here at Bell’s?

Thank you – I’m glad to be here. My current role is the Point of Sale and Distributor Communications Manager. I oversee all our branded merchandise: If there’s a pint glass, tap handle, T-shirt, or flag with our branding anywhere on it, my team procures it and makes sure it looks great. I also oversee all our internal and external marketing communications to our sales team and our distributor partners, helping connect the dots between marketing plans and sales action.

Fashion and craft beer synergy. I’ve always wondered: How do we decide what goes on a T-shirt?

I feel like we have a lot of responsibility to our brands. Merchandise is an extension of the brand that is much more permanent, and it is not something that I really take lightly. I looked at a lot of this from more of a sales perspective of what can I give out that will be lasting? When I worked in sales, I always used to tell people: beer is fleeting, but a T-shirt is forever. laughs

There are so many different factors that most people don’t think about when it comes to sustainability and freight and who is making the product and where it’s being made and how it comes together. And it’s so much more than like, “oh, this shirt looks cool. Let’s put a logo on it.” We ask: Does it deserve Two Hearted on it? How does this actually exist?”

And I think that it’s something that is so much more fun than I ever would’ve expected.

You’ve worked in many different roles in both sales and marketing over the years. Take us on your Bell’s Brewery journey.

I celebrated my 10-year anniversary in September 2023. I started as the Field Sales Rep in Ann Arbor and Detroit, which was our largest market at the time. I think it’s number two, probably because I’m not there anymore. laughs. But I was a sales rep: I sold beer to Motor City Casino, I did trainings at Comerica Park. I had a lot of fun, built up great relationships in the market, and after a couple of years, I decided to move to marketing. I was the Customer Marketing Specialist [which focused on in-store giveaways and programs] and really built that whole team and structure as far as programs from a marketing perspective that were geared towards sales. And since then, I have moved into the point of sale and more communications-focused things in the marketing department.

Erica pouring beer at a beer festival booth, standing behind a metal counter with taps and a sign reading 'Bell's' with a background of festival goers and tents.

In Michigan, about half of the state’s population is in what is considered “Metro Detroit.” What has the reception of Bell’s from Southwest Michigan been like over there? 

Everyone loved Bell’s and everyone still loves Bell’s. It’s very humbling to be in Detroit and see Bell’s pretty much everywhere on tap and in the cooler. It’s hard to explain to people who have not actually been there: There is so much Bell’s love throughout Michigan, but particularly in Detroit. When I go to a Tigers’ or Red Wings’ game and see someone either drinking a Bell’s beer or wearing a shirt or hat with our logo, I have to contain my excitement, but I always end up being like “nice hat” or “nice shirt.” It’s so great to see that in the market. 

Before you were in the Detroit area, when did your relationship with Bell’s begin? 

I grew up in Kalamazoo and knew about Bell’s. I always thought of it as our “little backyard brewery.” When I went to college in Washington DC, I saw people wearing a Bell’s hat or hoodie and thought, “Well, that’s weird, how do they know about our small little niche brewery?” After college, I came back to Kalamazoo and started working in the restaurant industry and met a lot of Bell’s people. I had my first legal beer as a 21-year-old here at the Eccentric Café, and I actually ended up having my wedding reception in the Back Room. So, you could say, I’ve always been a big Bell’s fan. When a job opened up, I jumped on it. 

It ended up being a perfect storm that got me here. I pretty much had no sales experience when I applied to be a Field Sales Rep in 2013. It is kind of embarrassing looking back now at some of the qualifying questions I had during my interview; I just didn’t know what a “case equivalent” was or what “on-premise” or “off-premise” meant. But, I knew a lot about not only Bell’s, but craft beer and the industry in general, from my time working in restaurant marketing. And hopefully they haven’t regretted their decisions since 10 years and four jobs later, I’m still here laugh. 

There’s a passion you have for what we do, and we see that in a lot of people who work here. It really drives them to “figure things out.” What is it, though, about folks who work here at Bell’s that makes the place so special? 

I started when craft beer as an industry was on fire. We were doing festivals and events with 50 beer tap takeovers. I was doing, truly, over a hundred events a year because people just couldn’t get enough of craft beer. What was really fun about that time is that people wanted to learn about the beer and the process that produced their favorite products. 

I also feel so lucky that in my time here, I’ve always believed in what we do. I believe we make the best beer. I drink our beer at home, which, throughout my time in the in the industry, is actually pretty rare. I think a lot of people love where they work, but maybe don’t necessarily believe in the product that they’re actually selling. Collectively, we’ve always been able to have a lot of integrity about that, it’s not lip service. We do make the best beer in the world, and we’re all a little weird. laughs. You get a little deeper and you learn about everyone’s quirks, and that’s kind of what adds to that something special. If we didn’t have those imperfections, if we didn’t have those eccentricities, we wouldn’t be who we are today. 

Erica on Oberon Day with a bright orange wig and a blue headband laughing while holding a pint of beer with a slice of orange on the rim, in a bar with artwork and wooden furnishings.

When I got the job here, I thought everyone would be beer snobs, like the really annoying ones you would see at the bar. But no one was like that, they were some of the best people I’ve met throughout my life. And I feel like looking at the industry over the years, there’s been a good mix of people who’ve worked here.

Back in 2013, I was the only woman on the Sales team in Michigan. Even outside of Bell’s, there were not many women in beer at the time. And what has always been really powerful to me is that we as a company we’ve always had a much, much higher percentage of women throughout the brewery on the sales team than most anyone else. And it was a very powerful thing for me to be able to school a lot of guys, particularly at the bar, who wanted to talk down to me to say, “oh, the Bell’s girl is here.” And then by the end of the night they’re asking me all these questions about our hopping schedule and how we use science in the lab to ensure quality. It was something that I never expected to get out of from working as a sales rep for a brewery. I learned a lot of power in showing up and knowing your stuff, and not only engaging in conversations with people that I probably would’ve shied away from but embracing knowledge and embracing those uncomfortable situations. 

Why is it that you think that Bell’s had a higher proportion of women on the sales team and at the brewery over the years? 

I mean, gosh, this goes back to Laura Bell and women in leadership like Tina Anderson and Carrie Yunker. I mean, I think we’re fortunate that we had really great people in place much earlier than a lot of other breweries. 

For years, our slogan has been “Inspired Brewing.” What does that phrase mean to you? 

I would say cutting through monotony. To be inspired means to have a goal, to be moving forward and trying to reach for something new. I do feel like my worst day at work is probably a lot of people’s best day because of the creativity that we get to deal with, the product we sell, and the people we work with. It is kind of hard not to be inspired being at this brewery. 

Well, it’s the people who just love what they do 

Everyone is also so good at their job – it makes you want to work better. It makes you want to work harder. 

What inspires you every day? 

We’ve grown so much since I’ve been here, and I think I have a lot of that small brewery, small company mentality still, because I love finding creative solutions for problems. And we have so much more technology, support and teams than when I started. But there is just something really fun about talking to people that you don’t normally talk to, thinking outside the box. I feel like we still have that space to not only operate as a larger company, but also keep that soul of a small craft brewery. And if we just input things into a machine to solve a problem, who’s inspired by that? I am inspired by being able to do something different and approach things differently. 

That’s inspiring within itself. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Erica! 

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