At the Ono Brewing Company, you do not need to visit the islands to know that “ono” is Hawaiian for “tasty.” With beach pictures on the wall, tropical décor, Paradise Island IPA, and Mango White Ale on tap, a trip to Ono Brewing Company is like a carefree day at the beach. There is a reason behind the tropical theme. Owners Scott and Cyndi Hoffman lived in Florida and Hawaii for over 20 years before moving to Northern Virginia. They wanted to start a brewery that reflected their beach background. In October 2016, Scott and Cyndi “jumped in head first.”
“We started working on a business plan,” Scott says. Scott, a former engineer, and Cyndi, a former biology teacher, held the right qualifications. “The whole brewing side — the design of the brew house and how it functions — is all engineering,” Scott notes. “The actual brewing process — how yeast converts sugar into alcohol — is all biology and chemistry.” With the basics of brewing well in hand, Scott and Cyndi needed assistance mastering the managing and financing side of the business. “I reached out to the Mason SBDC, and they mentioned that free mentoring was available,” Scott says. “I’m a big fan of mentoring!”
Senior Business Counselor Timm Johnson advised them to apply for a Virginia small business loan. “That solved a lot of problems for us,” Scott adds. “I’d never started a business before, so I’d run my ideas by Timm,” Scott notes. “When he agreed my ideas were good, that gave me confidence to go ahead.”
One of Scott’s innovative ideas was to develop a self-serve beer wall to take the place of a traditional bartender. “As an engineer I rely on automation and a ‘work smarter, not harder’ theme,” Scott adds.
Making a commitment to benefit their community early on, Scott and Cyndi established a competitive wage for employees that dramatically decreased reliance on tips. All tips received at Ono are donated to a local charity, due to their living wage policy.
Since opening in September 2017, Scott reports that business is good. “We’re building our brand slowly,” Scott reports. “We’ve just added a full-time employee to our six part-time employees, and we’ve started getting out into the community. Our business is starting exactly like we wanted it to.”
“Working with Timm and the SBDC has been great,” Scott concluded. “Their help has been invaluable.”