“It all started back in 2011,” begins Henry, when I meet with him and Adam, Mighty Squirrel’s Sales Manager, in their offices at 745 Atlantic Ave. In 2011, Henry and Naveen -- the other founder -- had met at their job and were exploring their “shared interest in entrepreneurship and building brands.” They were “playing a lot of tennis and running and having great craft beer afterwards.” And, on one of these days, a question arose: “what if we could have the same great beer but with 4 grams of protein?” At the time, however, Henry and Naveen “didn’t know how to make beer.” So, they “got a home-brew system and just started brewing thousands of beers.” When they “finally got a beer they liked,” they quit their jobs to kick Mighty Squirrel into gear.
Since launching in July 2015, Mighty Squirrel has found success amongst Boston’s vibrant beer scene, culminating in a recent round of funding that raised $1.8 million. Their point of difference? The 4 grams of protein found in their beers. “That’s our innovation” says Adam, “[in] the majority of places that we’ve been in with our sales team, the response has been really positive.” The two are quick to point out, however, that the "goal is to create the best tasting craft beers that we can. The flavor comes before anything.”
Mighty Squirrel’s beer portfolio is split. On the one hand are the Mighty Squirrel Sport beers, which include a Kiwi White, a Session IPA, and a Pilsner -- all of which are low-carb and boast 4g of protein. On the other are their traditional beers -- a Tropical IPA, an India Pale Lager, a Belgian White, and a Mocha Stout. When I ask why they’ve split their line, Adam replies that “the protein defines us as a company. It’s a new, untested, innovative product... some people may be hesitant, and that’s fine. We want to show that we’re a [rounded] company.”
It seems to have paid off. Mighty Squirrel’s philosophy of “[being] adventurous and celebrating mighty moments” has struck a chord with active consumers. Part of this may be due to Mighty Squirrel’s targeted customer engagement strategy. “We’ve been doing a lot of events with running groups, [rock-climbing groups], and swimming groups and people seem to really like it.” adds Henry. By living their mission statement and taking their product straight to their target demo, Mighty Squirrel has solidified a unique position in an increasingly saturated market.
However, Henry believes that “it’s saturated and it’s not saturated -- it depends on how you look at it.” He mentions that “the days of craft beers growing to 100,000 barrels or more and going across 15-20 states are probably long gone” but, he adds, “from a local, community standpoint there’s still plenty of room for growth.” Adam agrees, but also mentions that “there’s segments in the industry, and essentially what we want to do is create a new segment — that sport beer category — and we’re definitely spearheading that.”
The company’s long term goals include expansion and the building of a brewery, and on this subject, they are playing it smart. “We want to be a nationwide brand, but we also don’t want to expand too quickly,” says Henry. “In the very beginning, we focused on the Boston metro for practically a year. Then, we started to expand across the state. By the time we get to Rhode Island and New Hampshire, we’re a much better oiled machine then we were even 6 months ago [...] and one thing that this approach has enabled us to do is to stay entirely focused on getting the product out there and starting to build our team.”
Mighty Squirrel’s streamlined approach to growing their business has been paying off, and they have plans to build a brewery once they acquire the necessary funding. In the meantime, they continue running the operation from their offices -- not in a brewery, but in a co-working space. The choice to start out in a co-working space has been a boom for the company. “We’re around innovators day in, and day out. What better people to be able to interact with, bounce ideas off of, network with, work with?” asks Adam. “These are the shifters of Boston. These are the innovators, the early adopters. It’s like a live-feed of what’s going on.” Henry agrees. “The kinds of people you’d love to be able to find and connect with aren’t just in the city, they’re right here in the building.”
Looking back at their mission, Adam elaborates: “I think creating a mighty moment can be sports or active related, or some feat like finishing your first marathon, but it can also be the birth of your first child because that’s what beer is about as well.” Henry, jumping in, adds: “We’re always trying to push ourselves. Not push ourselves from a risk standpoint, but to explore new things and meet new people.” He pauses. “Actually Naveen and I — it was back in March 2010 — on the first day that he started at our old company, I asked him if he wanted to go out for a beer and that’s how things got started.”