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Growing Brewery Trend Gets an Upgrade From a Pair of Appalachian Entrepreneurs

Financial and Social Impact

  • Two Appalachian natives start up a small business in rural West Virginia

Many great ideas are hatched over drinks. For Josh Bennett and Will Lewis, their great idea was the drinks themselves—cider and mead, to be exact. These two Appalachia natives found each other at West Virginia University and began brewing together as a hobby. Over the years, they realized they had a good product on their hands. And with cider’s growing popularity but no other cider producers in West Virginia, they took a chance at starting their own business.

Bennett and Lewis needed a little help getting Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead off the ground, and turned to The Conservation Fund’s Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF). NCIF first provided assistance with business plan development through its Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2), which helps strengthen food and farm businesses in West Virginia.

NCIF then loaned Hawk Knob much needed working capital to purchase equipment and start-up costs. In 2015 Hawk Knob officially opened as West Virginia’s first cidery, and its ciders and meads are now sold at their facility and at restaurants, shops and festivals throughout the state.

(Date of loan: 2015. Date of story publication: May 2017)