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Liz Crowe

Microbrewery Owner

Ann Arbor, MI

I've gotten better, but the fear still lives in me—of not being liked because I am a tough and assertive business woman.

I was going along, minding my own business – selling houses, pondering that "novel that would never get written" and balancing life as wife, mom of three and licensed realtor – when I was approached by a couple of guys who had recently founded a small brewery. They were looking for a professional marketing partner. I leaned in—to listen.

After I heard their pitch, I did research on the craft beer market (about which I knew exactly nothing), and pondered my feelings about my current job. Even though I had made six figures in a down market year (2008), I still wanted to write that novel, and what the beer guys were proposing sounded way too intriguing to pass up.

I jumped in with both feet: I started my novel and began the process of learning all I could about the craft beer business. Within months, we had sold so much of our one beer that we were able to locate and procure space to open a commercial brewery two years ahead of schedule.

Our sales have increased year over year and with it has come my fair share of "you are acting like such a woman" moments. Craft beer brewing is a very male-centric business. And while some days I value the simplicity of communicating with men – say it, walk away, no need for explanations or excuses– I find myself still caught in the web of "communicating like a woman" and avoiding the dreaded "don't be a b**ch" syndrome. I've gotten better, but the fear still lives in me—of not being liked because I am a tough and assertive business woman.

Over the past few years, I've leaned in on two fronts: book publishing and craft beer brewing. While I probably should not have tried them simultaneously, I am glad I did. My life has changed in a myriad of ways. I'm a respected member of the Michigan craft beer brewing community as owner and marketing director. I know how to schedule and handle the stresses of managing bar staff. I share my opinions with people who want to learn about starting a small business, or about writing and getting published. No two days of my life are ever the same, and I struggle with my own inner sense of failure every time one of my books is not a bestseller or a larger, more established craft brewery jumps the gun and releases a ground breaking style of beer ahead of me. But that's just my "Ricky Bobby" personality: If you're not first, you're last.