We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristin Popcheff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristin, how does your business help the community?
Since opening our doors in 2015, we knew there were three things that we were exceptionally passionate about: our people, our product and our community. Even though at that time, our people consisted of just a few friends willing to volunteer a couple hours out of their week and our product consisted of just four beers, tackling the question of “how can we give back to our community?” was always on our agenda. We started with Piloting Change, a program where we would partner with local nonprofit organizations to brew a beer on our pilot system and proceeds from that beer would then go back to the nonprofit. By 2016 our production facility had grown out of the use of a pilot system but we had built some great relationships which we continued to grow into partnerships through collaborative projects to both raise money and increase their brand awareness and reach with our patrons and beyond. By our third year we decided to take a risk on a long-time dream of ours—hosting a beer festival that would not only be a ball for us to organize but would also have a large scale impact on our community. We invited 50 of the most sought after breweries in the nation to our inaugural 2018 WeldWerks Invitational Festival. The Invitational attracted over 600 attendees and raised over $50,000 in its first year. We soon realized this was an opportunity to spin up a nonprofit arm of our business, the WeldWerks Community Foundation. Since then the notoriety of this premiere beer festival continued. We hosted another invitational the following year, and combined with the inaugural invitation, raised over $110,000, all of which went back to the community through grants to local nonprofits. Although 2020 put a heartbreaking hold on our Invitational it also provided us an opportunity to re-envision the Foundation’s purpose as a more engaged entity within the community. The Foundation was responsible for helping produce over 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer within the first three months of the pandemic, over 3,000 of which was donated and the rest sold at cost to continue funding the project, along with nearly $5,000 in KN95 mask donations. By the end of the project, we provided direct support to over 200 organizations in total, which included first responders, hospitals, healthcare workers, nonprofit organizations, public schools, local businesses, and our own brewing and hospitality industry. 2020 challenged our social efforts beyond just the Foundation. The year brought to light social inequities that forced us to look inward and redefine our concept of community and the reflect on our values in which we are committed to seeing change. We made a choice to publicly stand behind what we believe in and what we support through donating $5,000 to both BLM 5280 and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. We started a new chapter in shaping our identity as a brewery who will not shy away from social injustices. We are also in the process of spinning up the WeldWerks Diversity Scholarship Endowment through UNC and have already donated $25,000 of the $100,000 we have committed to the endowment fund.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
After college I was just traveling around the country, working bar jobs and making and selling jewelry. I was hooked up with our co-founders through a friend, I had no industry experience and my beer knowledge was raw at best. For a long time I felt out of my league, what qualified me to be a taproom manager? A director of operations? A COO? Over time I’ve realized my insecurities were only holding me back from fully embracing what I always inherently understood: our success never came from following a playbook, it came from doing things uniquely our own way. We surrounded ourselves with the right people and not just because their resumes said they were the right people. We built a culture of empathy, caring for our people within these walls and just as importantly, outside of them. We prioritize creativity and innovation. We operate without fear of failure because we have such a deep trust in one another, we know we’ll always rebound and learn when we fall. We’ve built a team that pushes boundaries – not in pursuit of growth or popularity but because it’s invigorating for us to see how far we can go. And there is nothing in this world that I am more proud of than having been a part of influencing the foundation of this culture and building this amazing team.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m originally from Indiana so I’ve had quite a few visitors over the years and one spot that is always a must visit is The Stanley hotel (even if I’ve made them go before!). I’m a bit of a horror fanatic and visiting The Stanley, particularly in the off season, always gives me chills – you just can’t beat it’s sinister beauty. Another favorite spot is The Mishawaka in Bellview which would of course be accompanied by a drive through the canyon and a little hiking. We’d also have to hit up a few of my favorite breweries – Odell, Bierstadt, and Casey if we were up for an adventure in the mountains. If we were keeping it local up north we’d have to swing by the Lyric and the Forge in Ft. Collins and the Speakeasy at the Kress and Patrick’s in Greeley. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d have no story to tell if it weren’t for my team. From the small crew who I started the journey with six years ago to the now 40 people we have with us today. Every day they inspire, challenge, and support me and I couldn’t ask for better friends to to be building something with.
WeldWerks Brewing Co.