Letter from Eric and Rebecca Giddens
We started Kern River Brewing Company in 2005 with a focus on family, community, and quality of life. We chose Kernville because of the amazing things to do here and the people who call this place home. From the day we started knocking down walls and building new ones, the brewery has thrived because of those simple ideas: family, community, and quality of life.
As we grew, our responsibilities grew. It was soon evident that we could not do this alone. In fact, we needed talented employees in all of the various aspects of running our business. Our employees not only became our greatest asset; they are the essence of our business.
That is why we are very excited to announce that Kern River Brewing Company is now 100% Employee Owned through our newly created Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). While the process is complicated, the end result is simple. All eligible employees will be granted shares of company stock each year, at no cost, allowing them to earn ownership over time through their service to the company and accumulate retirement wealth. Kern River Brewing joins a group of elite 100% employee-owned companies across the United States of America, including other reputable craft breweries such as Harpoon Brewery, Deschutes Brewery, Breakside Brewery, Left Hand Brewing, Odell Brewing, Alaska Brewing, and New Glarus Brewing.
We hope the pride of ownership that we have felt over the years is passed down to all of our employees. We also hope that being an employee-owner of KRBC provides additional financial stability and life-long opportunities to our team and that people truly get rewarded for their hard work and dedication.
We could not be prouder of our business and all that it has accomplished over the years. We are equally proud that we were able to bring this employee ownership to fruition and look forward to working side by side with our staff for many years to come. There will be a lot of questions and we want to answer all of them. First, our doors are open to anyone that wants to discuss this individually or in groups. We also will be bringing in Ambrose Advisors, the company that helped us put this plan into action. We will provide more details on that interaction as we nail them down. In the meantime, we have put together a few FAQ’s that might be helpful.
Congratulations team KRBC! We look forward to many years of continued success.
Cheers, Eric and Rebecca Giddens
Q: What percentage of the company is employee owned?
A: 100% employee owned as of today.
Q: Is this similar to a 401K retirement program?
A: There are differences. With our 401K we have a matching program where the company matches money you put in to a point. In an ESOP, you don't contribute anything from your paycheck. Stock is earned as you work at no cost to you.
Q: How do you earn Employee Stock?
A: By working a minimum of hours per year, you can accumulate stock based on your portion of the payroll for that year. How these stocks are accumulated and paid out are federally regulated.
Q: Who oversees the ESOP?
A: There is an independent Trustee who is a fiduciary for the employees and their stock program. They work with KRBC management to track, issue and redeem employee stocks.
Q: Who benefits the most from an ESOP?
A: An ESOP, at its heart, is meant to be a retirement program. As a result, employees who remain with the company for a longer period of time tend to benefit the most. Not only do they benefit from collecting more stock, but they benefit from the potential increased value of that stock.
Q: Can I sell my employee stock to someone else?
A: No, the employee stock is actually held by a trustee and does not technically enter your possession. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is to prevent the sale of company stock to non-employees.
Q: Is the company having financial hardship?
A: Quite the opposite, KRBC has done well over the years and is in a good place to transition to Employee Owned. Studies show that becoming employee-owned will help a company be even more successful.
Q: Is staffing going to change?
A: No, Management, brew, and restaurant staff will remain in the same positions. We're proud of how this company is working successfully together.
Q: Will staff lose their other benefits?
A: Previous benefit programs will stay the same as long as the company can continue to be successful: 401K with company matching, health insurance options, and employee discounts.
Q: Are the Giddens leaving?
A: No. They will remain on as employees, managers and on the board of directors of the company.
Q: Why did the Giddens choose to do this?
A: The Giddens can’t run the company forever and could not envision selling to an outside group or investor. The ESOP seemed to be the best way to someday exit the company, transition management responsibilities over time to the next generation management team and keep the heart and soul of the company intact.