By Jennifer Rieman, CAE, manager, public relations
Only the lucky few get to marry their passion with their career. Steve Wenzlick, CPA, spent almost two decades in public accounting and as CFO at several large companies before making the leap to his favorite industry: craft brewing.
“I just love the industry,” he said. “I do some home brewing of my own and I’m interested in craft beer in general. That and sports are the two things that I’m most into in my free time.”
While brewing fulltime held some appeal, Wenzlick decided to stick with what he knows and open his own accounting practice. His firm, Wenzlick CPA, LLC, serves traditional clients including small businesses and individuals, while a DBA underneath the firm, Draft Financial, targets craft brewing and related industries.
“I had talked to a few people in the craft brewing industry, and most don’t hire a controller or CFO,” Wenzlick said. “There was interest in serving them in an advisory role, to help their internal folks and provide some higher-level guidance from my experience as CFO.”
Figuring out a business model that would work took plenty of market research and preparation. Wenzlick spent several months emailing and calling his contacts, and took two or three coffee meetings per day to establish a client base.
“A lot of accountants aren’t wired to the business development and marketing portion of starting a practice,” he said. “I knew I needed to do well in that area and push myself outside of my comfort zone.”
The explosive growth of the craft beer scene around Ohio has proven to be fertile ground for his practice, with much of his business coming from referrals.
“People are trusting and believing in what I’m doing and sending their clients that trust them my direction,” he said. “That’s definitely been the most rewarding.”
And a side benefit of Wenzlick’s new venture is that he gets to spend time with some of the best brewers in Columbus. Many are happy to offer advice on his home brewing hobby, with one going so far as to offer to sample his beers and give feedback. He’s on target to meet his first-year goals well before the end of the year, and thanks to his passion for the industry, has secured engagements with several craft brewery clients.
“When prospects meet with me they get a different feel,” he said. “That passion comes through, and that’s something you can’t fake when you’re doing a proposal and meeting with the owners of these places.”