Entrepreneur chat with Chris Dilla of Bocktown

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Kim Lyons: Five minutes

Kim Lyons: OK we're about ready to start... Chris, are you ready?

Will Reynolds Young: I'm ready!!! I'm ready!!! I'm ready!!! (Think Spongebob)

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Yes, I am here! First, I would love to just thank you for reaching out to me for this story.

Kim Lyons: Of course! Love talking to business owners about what they're up to

Kim Lyons: So welcome, people, to the first of what we hope will be a regular series of chats on entrepreneurs

Kim Lyons: Today's feature was on the unstoppable Chris Dilla of Bocktown: http: //www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/03/06/Passionate-owner-of-2-suburban-eateries-is-attuned-to-social-media/stories/201403060171

Kim Lyons: ...in case you're one of her Twitter followers who *hasn't* read it yet ;)

Casey Kelly: We've enjoyed the great food and beverages at both of your establishments during visits to our hometown of Pittsburgh. Are there any plans to open a restaurant in Chicago?

Katie Biehl: Hello!

Kim Lyons: Hi Katie, we're just getting started. Thanks for joining us!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Casey, our model is very much driven by Pittsburgh or Western PA region, in its commitment to regional craftbeer and how it is sold here, as well as our food partners.

Uncle Crappy: Nicely-done story, Kim. And I'll refrain from asking Chris about that shirt. Again. ;)

Kim Lyons: Thank you, Mr. Crappy, and thanks for joining us : )

PghEater: Hi. I'd like to know what prompted Chris Dilla to want to open her Bocktown in the first place?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I will however look at Chicago more closely as I am visiting there in May for the National Restaurant Show! I would probably anger all of our Pittsburgh fans who don't cross bridges.. as they want 3-5 more here!

Kim Lyons: (yes, I think Mr. Crappy has been trying to start rumors of one in Brighton Heights...)

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: PghEater... I think it simply was a need that I wanted filled for myself. I see myself as the customer. There was no place like the place I imagined... I couldn't find one place that had both halves of the equation. Good food AND good beer.

D Brashear: the article debunks it, unless it got de-annexed and is now a suburb ;)

Elizabeth White: Coming up with a business name is a critical part to branding/marketing. Where did "Bocktown" come from/ how did decide on it?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Mr. Crappy will be glad to know that shirts will eventually be available, thanks to the overwhelming demand of 4 people... and D Brashear is correct... no Brighton Heights for Bocktown's model.

Uncle Crappy: That's more wishful thinking than anything. And with B2 right across the river from my office, I don't have much room to complain.

Will Reynolds Young: I am still a advocate for a South Hills locations, specifically Lebo, Greentree area. I think next to my house is too much to ask for at this time.

Katie Biehl: I check into the imaginary bocktown near my house regularly to remind Chris I need one

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Elizabeth, I wish the story was more exciting, but I was looking for a location, and was near Janoski's farm market. There is a road called Cork Bocktown Road... and I had that aha moment. The old working name before that was The Beer Library... now the name of the cooler inside Bocktown.

Spode411: I definitely want 3-5 more here, but then I'd have to play favorites. Do you have any solid prospects for

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Bock being a kind of beer, and town of course... beertown! How universally recognizeable. When I started google was not so good, but there was not much going on with that name at all. So I swooped it!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Solid prospects for what I consider #B3 would include Washington County area, well past Peters, down near 70

Jagoffbrewer: Bocktown North Hills needs to happen with a brew pub in tow.

7dub7: I love Bocktown! Will you marry me?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: hahaha! Thanks everyone.

Anne F. Schlicht: Social Media Question- which tool do you find the most effective for reaching customers for Bocktown?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Anne, I really believe Twitter is much more powerful. People don't have to subscribe to you to actually "hear" you there.

Howard: Chris, how important is matching your beers to your menus?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Facebook has tremendous value, but the reach is limited to those who want to see you, who have already liked you unless you pay to boost posts, etc.

Douglas Derda: I'm looking forward to that shirt new one every new Bocktown swag. What's the craziest promotional material someone as asked you to put your name on?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Howard, I would like to get there on paper eventually, have pairing notes inside the menu, but mostly we do this verbally with the customers as the beers change too frequently to actually print anywhere permanent.

Spode411: PS, I eagerly anticipate that shirt being made available. I like it even better than "I'll hop the world and malt with you" - and that's saying something!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Doug, I think someone thought I could afford to sponsor a race car, and the entire time I thought, even if I could, what happens when it wrecks and who is going to see it if you are going fast anyway?

Kim Lyons: and wow, a race car for a beer establishment... maybe not the best fit, eh?

Will Reynolds Young: One of the things I always think about in restaurants is something you mentioned in the article. Restaurants have such a high rate of failure. Was that perception the hardest thing you had to over come or was there something else?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: We hustled up a place holder today on the website.... coming soon!!!!! Drink Beer from Here! Who would have thought?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I could probably talk on that forever WRY... In start up phase, those NOs come quick and easy with that excuse behind most of them.

Ed D.: How did you manage to get your start-up capital together?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: My answer was always, all businesses fail, restaurants are on the street corners and the ones that fail are usually designed to do so. Do you think Mr Chi Chi is living in a tent? Not a chance.

Kim Lyons: haha "Mr. Chi Chi"

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Ed, it was so very hard to do, I used my home's equity, my resume, sheer will, and managed to get a SBA 90% backed loan in 2006, after about a 2 year pursuit. The LL is something that the will collateralize.

Kim Lyons: Do you think that was the hardest thing... getting the money together?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Will asked about the hardest thing... in both, it is that you are going it alone. No one understands the 24 hour nature of the stress you feel and the desire to be the best at what you do as you do yourself. It is hard to put it aside. Work work, oh, a break, no there is always more work!

PDecker: Have you ever thought about brewing your own beer for Bocktown?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I compare it to having kids, it is hard to remember the hard parts now, but prior to opening the first, it was the money. The second was the process of build out and red tape.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: PDecker! You heard it here first, yes. We would love to eventually get into it, but still have a community tap selection. I get sick of any one brewery in a day or two... so choice is always key.

Kim Lyons: ooh, breaking news, you read it here first!

D Brashear: Chris, is there anything that if you had a chance you'd undo, or do differently?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I would have fought to build out the first space to a bigger dimension. We are bursting at the seams there. We didn't have a landlord who would play ball.

Douglas Derda: If Facebook reach is limited to those who you want to see you, are you concerned about your message getting lost in the white noise of Twitter? With the constant scrolling how do you make B-town stand out?

Kim Lyons: and related to that question:

Uncle Crappy: Chris, what social media tools are you using these days?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I did watch places like Fatheads go through the same growing pains, so there is hope, to expand there eventually...

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: To Doug, I suppose there is a lot of white noise, so to speak, but twitter is a billboard to the entire world with the use of great hashtags, and good content you are always meeting new people and expanding your influence.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: UC I have personally taken to twitter and foursquare more than fb and g+ but we are there in all of them, even instagram at this point.

Spode411: Do you find it difficult to keep up with new things/trends in the industry? Or is it still fun despite also being work?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Seriously... How did I hear about Bocktown? Though the little devil on my shoulder!

Kim Lyons: haha

Kim Lyons: well, that was for everyone *else*

Kim Lyons: so far, several votes for "osmosis"

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Spode 411 I think social and tech and mosoc or what ever they call it, is so intuitive. I do not have a single problem keeping interested. I do need some down time every once in a while though

Katie Biehl: How do you find the local connections for the food supplies for the resultant? Do you have to find them or do they find you?\

Douglas Derda: Kim, no "From that incredibly awesome podcast Should I Drink That?" as an option? ha!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I am am member of PASAfarming.org and also buy fresh buy local program. They always work to find us new partners.

Kim Lyons: Hm... would that fall under "osmosis," Doug?

Kim Lyons: Chris one thing we talked about was your dislike of Groupon as a sales tool for small businesses... can you explain why?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: This year, we are working with a farm for PA potatoes, onions for 9 months of the year, and I am trying to work with Conover Farm in Burgettstown for Organic produce. We are just working out the kinks now.

Kim Lyons: Why you dislike it, I mean.

Douglas Derda: we're more reversified osmosisation

Katie Biehl: I was taken by Spode....so..kinda word of mouth. I was just there last night!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Gah! #grouponkills They basically are a wolf in sheep's clothing. They position themselves as a marketing service, but they are a funding service to the tun of astronomical interest rate. They reach directly into your wallet and say thank you... you do all the work for less money, k? We are going to the beach!

Will Reynolds Young: Often time from small business owners and entrepreneurs we hear about them getting burnt out or losing the passion. Was there a moment you found yourself needing to rediscover you passion for your business? Same token, what do you do to keep yourself motivated to creating the best beer hangout?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Staying motivated is hard for anyone at times. You can get caught up in the not fun side of things, legal, paperwork, dealing with a bad employee, or a tempermental customer, etc... Simple things can take the wind out of your sails.

PghEater: How difficult do you find educating customers about your craft beer offerings and push toward local foods? So many customers are used to Applebees and Olive Garden type chains.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I live in a optimistic world. Last time I felt a little complacent, I started working on #B2!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: PghEater... So true, especially at my mall location where anyone who comes there may have no idea what they are in for, just getting a bite to eat, lol.
I think you just do it by selling what you are to them, not changing to their chain expectations. We are not for everyone.

Douglas Derda: Starting your business you're probably more aware of what the public is saying so you want to make sure that everyone is happy and tells their friends. After running Bocktown for 8 years, How do you respond to negative comments on places like Urbanspoon or Yelp?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: The first thought I had about this is if there are at least 20% of the public looking for a non chain experience, and we are the only non chain experience, they will find us and we will have all 20% to ourselves. We don't see chains or big beer as competition at all. They are living in another realm. Our customers are not the same people.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Doug, we don't always react to that stuff as most folks can read thru someone who was having a bad day on either side of the coin. I will say that we have built new tools internally to receive direct feedback and messages so we can help turn a bad situation into a good one.

D Brashear: Chris, in the realm of social media, who do you consider to be your peers? Who else is doing it right? For that matter, is there anyone you look to to learn from?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: When I travel, I don't check review sites as much as I check foursquare tips actually...

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: D Brashear - Good question! I don't really have a specific answer here, but I have watched some of the breweries, like Bell's really stand out on G+, some multi unit restaurants like Mellow Mushroom.

Kim Lyons: Chris, for entrepreneurs starting out, what is the first thing you recommend they take care of-- financing, location, or something else?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I think my main methodology on there is to be friendly, human, and sharing... I love to talk about myself, haha. But you have to cross promote to build an audience together, pride in our region is pretty key to me.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: The very first thing is knowing that your passion is really there. If you come home every day from your day job and type or read or work on your business plan, and wake up early to do more research... you have it in you... the passion comes first.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Financing and location do come hand in hand. You can't close on your loan without a lease.

D Brashear: One more thing I remembered: how much work was required for the business plan that you (presumably) needed for your SBA loan, and did they help you with that?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Of course, purchasing a property would be a little different, but still they go together in such a way that I bet 90% of entrepreneurs have given up.... it is not easy to get those stars aligned. not at all for a first timer

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: D B, yes, lots of folks helped with the business plan. I even paid a consultant for a few months. You need someone to push you, and spots like the SBDC and business classes at community colleges do help.

Kim Lyons: Chris before we wrap up: Tell us about the plans for this year's Craft Beer Week

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Even submitting to banks helps. They will tell you in two seconds what is missing or what they want more of... I would say it took me 9 months to get it just right.

Kim Lyons: (and I can't be the only one feeling a little "thirsty" right now, right?)

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Well Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week is in its 3rd year and it has been a success for us for the past two years, driving folks to the restaurant almost daily. I would say we will stick with the things we did last year.
Kegs n Eggs events at both locations opposite saturdays, daily samplings with newest regional breweries, and completely boutique taps, local and regional amazing brews!

Kim Lyons: One more question, and then I think we'll call it a day...

TK: How long did it take you to get the first liquor license?

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I do want to say you can learn more on our website. We keep taps, events, and food features up to date constantly.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: That was the easiest part Kim!!!!! 7 weeks. in both cases.

Kim Lyons: http: //www.bocktown.com/

Kim Lyons: OK, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us for today's chat.

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: I hope you are all connecting with me on social. I will follow you back and friend you all, etc. @uncapd @bocktown @bt_monaca and @Bt_robinson

Kim Lyons: Please send me your ideas for future entrepreneur stories and chat ideas... want to keep this going if possible! klyons@post-gazette.com

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Thank you Kim and all!!!! This was fun. And you all still have ears, right?

Kim Lyons: Twitter: @SocialKimly

Katie Biehl: Thanks Chris and Kim. Very informative.

Kim Lyons: I do, Chris! Thanks so much for participating. Great q's and a's!

Chris Dilla aka @uncapd: Cheers!

Spode411: Lots of great info! Thanks, ladies!


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