Friday, February 02, 2007

The remarkable coup of Teresa Cascioli

The big news today is Labatt’s $200-million bid for Hamilton-based Lakeport Brewing. It’s one of Ontario’s biggest entrepreneurial success stories.

Teresa Cascioli was brought in by a group of Hamilton investors to revive a bankrupt brewery. She brought it back to life by producing branded alcoholic drinks (I swore not to tell about Mike’s Hard Lemonade) for other companies, as well as producing a line of largely generic beers.
Then in her backyard one day, she came up with the concept of “24 for $24” – the idea of owning the value-priced beer market. With that single, crystal-clear marketing message, she built Lakeport into Ontario's third-largest brewery, with 11% of the market.

And now, according to the Globe & Mail, she stands to make $40 million out of the deal. That’s because she rolled up her sleeves and sacrificed salary for equity – shopping the supermarket specials and drawing down her savings (once earmarked for law school) because she believed so strongly in Lakeport’s future.

Congrats to Teresa, for demonstrating the incredible value of one good idea – and executing so well and so courageously.

Strategic Note: Under Cascioli, Lakeport became Ontario’s third-largest brewer. "This looks quite a bit like an attempt to take out a low-cost competitor," one investment analyst told the Globe in a burst of stunning clarity.

Best Advice: Cascioli was the closing keynote speaker at last year’s Small Business Big Thinking Conference in Toronto, sponsored by Visa Canada. Here are five management lessons she shared with the audience:

• Be passionate and work hard.
• Listen to your employees. Their insights can give you a competitive advantage.
• Partner well. Surround yourself with good advisors (lawyers, bankers, accountants), and
don’t nickel-and-dime them.
• When you think you've done well, forget it. Don't rest on your laurels or do things just to
win awards.
• Whenever you're in front of a microphone, sell, sell, sell!

(For more on Cascioli's Visa presentation, or other presentations from the conference, click here.)

Disclosure: I helped plan the conference last year, and am doing so again in 2007.

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