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Capital At Play: Reaching A Peak

The craft brewing industry is no longer in its toddler stage. The digital solutions company Craftpeak aims to help guide that industry towards adulthood.

An Asheville company can turn your computer into a concierge of brew, telling you what beers you might like and where you can find them. The company is called Craftpeak, and it functions in a unique niche: It works exclusively—exclusively—with craft breweries. “There are 72 hundred breweries in the United States,” says Craftpeak CEO, John Kelley. He explained the rationale of concentrating in such a specialized niche. “One of the coolest things for us is that there are so many opportunities—because this is a growing market.” In less than three years, Craftpeak has established a roster of more than 70 clients across the United States and in Great Britain. Their geographic scope illustrates the limitless nature of the digital world. Craftpeak works in cyberspace, and John sells in cyberspace; the world is their market. And that remote element of the business has another, more immediate, application: John and his two partners all work from their homes.

The trio—John refers to them as a “three-legged stool”—each brings a different specialty to the mix. As CEO, John is the main salesman and the idea man. Indeed, it was his idea to launch a beer-centered digital firm. Julien Melissas does the nuts-and-bolts construction of websites, and Corey Bullman designs the finished product. Their contributions overlap, but in general terms, Julien makes it run, and Corey makes it pretty.

The collaboration dates back to 2012 when John was working for a company that needed a more sophisticated web presence. They interviewed several candidates for the project, and John says the choice was easy: “Julien and Corey stood out.” Julien “was a 19-year-old kid, and even at that young age he was one of the most brilliant developers I’d ever seen,” John says. “Corey is an extremely creative designer who also knows how to build a site. So, these guys were the perfect team to help us with our development problem.”

It wasn’t until two years later that the brewery angle began to germinate. Wicked Weed approached John to build a website, and he enlisted Julien and Corey. “I looked at what they were doing with Wicked Weed and I said, ‘You know, the custom tools that you’re building into this site are the same thing that every other brewer is going to need. Let’s build this thing into a multi-site product, let’s introduce ourselves to our favorite breweries, and let’s go take a shot at it.’”

Corey recalls that they met in a coffee shop, where John made the pitch to work exclusively with breweries. “I was into it from the first conversation,” he says, noting that both he and Julien “were already in the mindset of looking for a change and didn’t know what it was. It took someone like John to come in with a fresh perspective.”

Julien’s initial reaction was a bit less enthusiastic. “I was originally opposed to the idea, not because I had any objection to doing beer, but because I love working on different things. I love building something new. But then, the more I was on sales calls, the more I realized that we’re uniquely qualified to do what we do because of the knowledge of our team.”

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