I recently asked Cole what my “official” title was with Kalispell Brewing Company (KBC). For many husband and wife entrepreneurs I’m sure “official” titles are merely a formality, and CFO or Bookkeeper don’t even begin to capture the scope of duties, tasks, and responsibilities required to keep the business (and certainly the marriage) afloat. While I am equal partners with my husband in life, I will not be with Kalispell Brewing Co. This decision to have me work as a PR consultant is a decision we came to after great discussion. I won’t bore you with the details but know this: I’m a bossypants and not in the laughable Tina Fey way. I’m also pursing my passion of writing and graduate school and my emerging book should be my primary focus, not pulling tap handles or unloading grain (I tend to take on too many projects, Cole has pointed out, time and time again). That’s not to say that I won’t be behind the bar (I mean, I do have an extensive employment history of pulling taps) or that I won’t be wheeling kegs for delivery but Cole and I felt that for the health of our marriage and for Cole’s business, it would be best to have distinct boundaries drawn between our two passions.
Cole has always been a long time champion of my writing endeavors and he’s graciously helped me, whether it is editing a paper or allowing me to ramble about story ideas. I can’t even begin to tally all the ways that he’s assisted me with my writing, but suffice, he was the one person who guided my concerted return to writing. In turn, I am there for him as he proceeds through the lengthy gestation of KBC. I attend creative meetings, proof emails, contact business associations, and together we dream and laugh in our “Brewery Idea” notebook. But I tend to take over projects, take command and that’s not what Cole wants. Just like I’d be pretty upset if Cole rewrote 30 pages of my memoir.
I’m sure — especially since the brewery hasn’t yet opened (in case you’re curious we are shooting for opening this summer…) that my “consultant” role in public relations and media will change. Nothing is static. I’m no stranger to small businesses that requires more from an employee than stated on the job description. I also know that I’ll be doing a lot of my writing from a bar stool in the early mornings while Cole’s brewing beer. We are each other’s partners, we are each other’s number one fan, we are each other’s support network and while we’re on the frontier of something completely foreign to us, we want to ensure that KBC is yet another addition that makes us happy as individuals and as a couple. We want the brewery to be our baby–a well raised and hoppy one. With good head retention too (my lexicon for beer has increased exponentially thanks to my husband).
I know many couples who work together and they’ve taught us both the joys and sorrows of working with your spouse. Many of the couples we turn to are young like us, just starting their business. Business itself is a challenge and so is marriage. We feel fortunate that many of our friends are willing to share their experiences, are willing to complain when necessary, and are honest about their relationship with their spouse and their business. It is this honesty that drove Cole and me to make this decision. It is honesty and authenticity that Cole and I hold most sacred in our marriage and serve as our guide.
Besides, some of my best writing is accompanied by a pint so while I may not be Cole’s right hand woman, I’ll forever be in champion, supporting and honoring him as I clack and clack away at the keyboard.
Back to my “official” title. I wanted it to be “Brewer of Words” and while Cole thought it was clever and funny he thought “PR” was more appropriate. I retorted that all the cool PR kids had creative titles, so we added “Beer Ambassador” to “PR”.
As Cole and I navigate the early stages of our marriage while we raise a brewery, I have to bear in mind that I was first a writer. I will always be a writer. And Cole? Well there isn’t a more perfect profession for him than brewing beer. It is the marriage of science and art and he’s the rare soul who’s brain occupies both left and right side. And like how thrilled he becomes when I’ve toiled away on a draft and it is indeed a good piece of writing, I beam with pride when I see him toil over business plans, pro-formas, and federal government licenses.
Perhaps I’ll have to start introducing us as this, since this might be a more apt title than any Owner or PR title could ever encapsulate: “Hello, I’m Maggie. I’m a brewer of words. This is my husband, Cole, a brewer of beer. Together, we brew good things. “