These are a few of my favourite things

Sybil Taylor talks beer, employment and music


Photo courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing

Sybil Taylor is a first job success story. Having studied marketing and finance in university, Sybil did her co-op placement in distribution at Upper Canada Brewing Company in 1987. She eventually became the vice president of development and distribution at the craft brewery. When it was sold to Sleeman in 1996, she took a few years to explore another career in travel marketing, before following her passion and re-entering the craft beer market. Sybil went into business with Greg Cromwell, Cam Heaps and Greg Taylor, whom she had worked with at Upper Canada Brewing, and leveraged her skills to form one of Toronto’s most successful breweries, Steam Whistle. “I love the entrepreneurial spirit, and with the beer industry being so social, it was a natural fit,” says Sybil. At her previous jobs, she had developed new product launches, and managed relationships with clients and consumers. Sybil has lead the brewery’s marketing and communications ever since, and also helped establish the brewery’s environmental committee.

Let’s Talk Craft Beer

There are many challenges currently facing the craft beer industry. The market is booming, and with craft breweries rapidly on the rise in Ontario, competition is fierce. Big companies like Molson and Anheuser-Busch InBev are capitalizing on the craft beer boom as well. With all this influx, it’s surprising for me to hear that the market for beer is actually shrinking a small percentage every year. Sybil tells me that demographics are posing a challenge in a few ways: as people age they drink less, the current youth generation is drinking more wine and spirits than past generations, and there is a great deal of choice when it comes to beer.

“It used to be, when you came of age you would drink the beer that your dad drank, and you would drink it your whole life,” says Sybil. “Now, there are so many choices, that consumers are constantly experimenting and keeping a roster of many brands they they turn to depending on who they are drinking with, where they are drinking and how much money is in their pocket.” This is why it is important to maintain relationships with your customers, to constantly remind them what is relevant and special about your brand. In the past, marketers would mainly focus on attracting new customers. Today, marketers are working for new customers while also maintaining relationships with current customers through online engagement.

Let’s Talk Employment

Sybil is a big advocate of managing your personal brand. Realize that every single interaction you have with co-workers, subordinates, bosses and customers is being noticed by someone and affects your reputation. Know your beliefs, values, how you’d like to do business, the environment you thrive in, and the kind of product or service you’re interested in. Then work methodically to have all of those things line up so that you are reaching your potential. Be patient; that may take time.

“There are a lot of people ahead of you in the job game who aren’t retiring until their late 60s,” says Sybil. Her advice? Drop the sense of entitlement, work or volunteer for a company you’re interested in, build some credibility and share your ideas. Don’t get discouraged if it isn’t your dream job: there is value to every job, and it may lead you somewhere unexpected. Knowing the kind of boss you don’t like to work with, or don’t want to become, can be a valuable lesson as well.

Let’s Talk Music

Seven years ago, Steam Whistle started a concert series showcasing Canadian indie bands, called Unsigned. “There is a natural affinity between music and beer,” says Sybil. Steam Whistle sees itself as an underdog; an independent brewery among massive conglomerates. The idea behind the concert series was simple: “If we can’t sponsor big concerts, let’s start our own and focus on the underdog. We want to support young entrepreneurs, indie musicians, emerging artists; underdogs like us.”

Steam Whistle Unsigned #29 features Jane’s Party, Young Guv and Blonde Elvis this Friday April 11th. Check them out at Steam Whistle Brewing, 255 Bremner Boulevard. Doors open 8 p.m. Your $5 donation goes towards the Artists’ Health Alliance.

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