An MSU alumna has utilized craft beer to bring people together globally. Shannon Long, founder and owner of Brew Export, cultivated her business idea while studying at MSU. Long’s international business takes craft beer from across the nation and ships them overseas to areas of the world where the demand for the type of beer is high.
When Long graduated from MSU in December of 2014, Brew Export was well into the process of coming to life. As a part of her final semester thesis project, Long’s professor asked the class to take a product of their choice and export it to one market.
“Everyone was picking peanut butter to Germany and water bottles with the filters in them to Africa,” Long said. “And I was like, ‘That’s all fine and good, but if I’m going to be doing a 50-page thesis on anything, I’m going to do it on beer.’”
Long had already been exposed to the world of craft beer and dove into the assignment.
“It wasn’t just a class project at that point,” she said.
Long spent the semester meeting with professionals in the beer industry and kept reaching the same troubling thought that these breweries weren’t exporting their beer internationally, but rather focusing on the domestic industry. The breweries were continuously turning down sales from international countries because of the perceived difficulty, Long said.
According to the Brew Export website, only 2 percent of craft beer that was brewed in 2014 was exported outside of the United States.
With a dual degree in international relations and marketing, Long began her to construct her own business to solve this problem. Long entered The Hatching, a pitching competition through The Hatch at MSU, and won the first place prize: $1,000 to begin her business.
March of 2015, Brew Export was born. The company has been alive for just short of two years, and Long still has 100 percent ownership of the company. She handles almost 20 craft beers across the country.
In addition to her business, Long uses her knowledge of beer to host a TV show. "Pure Brews America" tells the story behind craft beer at nearly 50 breweries across the region and is in its third season.
Long worked extensively with Paul Jaques during her time at MSU. Jaques serves as the director of student and community engagement with Spartan Innovations.
Jaques said he could envision Long’s success while she was an intern.
“Not only the business idea, but then Shannon, just herself,” Jaques said. “She had passion, and I knew she was going to get this out to market.”
While there are a few companies on the west and east coasts who have similar business plans, Long has crafted the only midwest exporting business that works to bring beer from the entire country to the world.
As far as the future of Brew Export, Long is dreaming of “more.”
“More countries, more breweries, more beer being exported,” she said. “My long-term goal that kind of pushes me in that true north would be positioning the United States as the preeminent source for craft beer on Earth. When you hear Napa Valley, you think some of the best wine. I want you to hear the United States, or specifically Michigan, and think some of the best beer on the planet.”
Currently, Brew Export works solely with China. There are “actionable country” deals with Taiwan, Japan, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and France.
Long said that the important component of her business is being able to share beer with the world.
“It’s a lot bigger than just making money,” Long said. “It’s connecting the world through beer.”
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