GBC Entrepreneur Spotlight: Erin Gamelin
Owner and President of
Stout Irish Pub and Louis Cifer Brew Works
Erin moved to Toronto from St. Albert, Alberta at 19 in 1993. With many years working in restaurants and retail under her belt, she was the youngest manager at Winners in Canada. After 2 years of that, feeling that her potential was much bigger than management, she put herself through college at 23 with a strong desire for business and event management. She also began pursuing her acting career once again from her experience of being a professional theatre actress in Edmonton as a child. With much success in Toronto in television and stage, including the number one Fringe production, twice, she was nominated for 2 Canadian Comedy Awards. Even with all her success in performance, it didn’t pay the bills consistently and she yearned for a more sustainable challenge that she could run with, so she packed up performing and started teaching herself everything about the restaurant business.
She worked as a server, bartender and manager with a different set of eyes after that. Learning everything she could from their successes and mistakes and reading everything she could about the industrys’ margins, P&L reports, break even analysis, trends, suppliers, you name it, she researched it. When she was ready, she got a lawyer to write up a shareholders agreement and went to all of her friends and regulars with it. Raising $65,000 in 3 days, she had her cash-flow and business plan ready to go for the bank loan. Within a few months, she was in business. With some success and experience under her belt, she was ready for her next challenge; A 4000 square foot brew pub. It took over a year to find the right location, but when she did, she raised $400,000 in a month and was in business!
Currently, the brewery side of her business just launched their first product in the LCBO. And by next year, the Coconut Lemongrass Thai-PA will be distributed coast to coast. The next steps in her career is to develop the brewery side of her business and launching more products into the retail market.
Erin, what’s your educational background?
I went to George Brown College with honors in the Business Marketing Program. I was the Valedictorian as well as President of the Toronto Chapter for the American Marketing Association.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
I don’t think one ‘becomes’ an entrepreneur, I think that one is born with this trait. I can remember back when I was 8, selling Regal Greetings and Gifts door to door in our neighbourhood. I quickly saved enough to buy my first $1000 Canadian savings bond by the time I was 10. By the time I was 12 I was the most sought after babysitter in the neighbourhood and then got my first job as a ‘busboy’ at a local restaurant by the time I was 14.
The need to be an entrepreneur comes from fundamental characteristics such as;
- an ambitious drive to try everything
- a fearlessness and core belief that I could do anything I put my mind to
- a deep sense of self
- failing is never and option, re-directing comes naturally when things don’t go the way I expect it to
- strong critical thinking skills
- passion in everything I do
- great business acumen and a natural born salesperson
Why did you open the Stout Irish Pub and Louis Cifer Brew Works?
Being in the industry for most of my life, it was a sector I knew really well and was good at. I got tired of working with and for other owners and managers that did not share the same care or passion for their business and customers that I had. I was very confident that my pub would hit the ground running and were profitable in year one. By the end of year two, I was getting bored and beginning to micro manage an already great team. It was time to open up a second location! Thrice the size and a brewery in it, we opened strong and were also profitable in year one.
How successful is the Stout Irish Pub and Louis Cifer Brew Works? (Tell us some of your successes.)
We have shown strong profit at both locations since day one. In an industry where the average profit is 3.6%, Stout earned 19% last year and Louis Cifer is at 25% profit so far this year.
Toronto Life has featured both locations numerous times in their ‘Best of’ editions. Every year, both restaurants have been nominated in multiple categories such as Best Pub, Best Beer selection, Best Kid Friendly restaurant, Best Brewpub, and others.
Louis Cifer has won numerous medals for our beers that we brew and we have recently launched our Coconut Lemongrass Thai-PA in the LCBO and will go national by next year with many more beers entering the retail market.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Good God, ONE? There is so much good advice to give. In context of this article and who is reading it, I know that many of you young entrepreneurs have a ton of drive and passion, but don’t necessarily know where to lay your roots or where to start. It’s okay, you have lots of time! I didn’t find my true path until I was 30, and it was right in front of me the whole time. Try lots of things. Fail. A LOT! It will help guide your course. Follow what you are good at, and once you figure out your general direction, teach yourself as much as you can about that product/service/industry. Learn from others successes and failures, research, ask lots of questions, self teach. Don’t try to be everything for everyone! Know your competitors, know your numbers, now your target audience and stick to it.
First and foremost, develop a critical path of when you want your ‘business’ to begin, and work your way backwards with a detailed plan of how you will get there. I had a five year critical path and it ended up taking 8 years, but I was ready and prepared! And when you keep hitting that same brick wall, recognize that you are not meant to go through it! It is life guiding you that you are not on the right path. Re-orientate yourself and go a new direction. Your journey will guide you once you are on the right path, I promise.