April Sluiter is many things, as we are all made up of a million tiny pieces that are sometimes hard to define. April is a woman of many thoughts, ambitions, and creative innovation. It takes a lot to be an entrepreneur, blood, sweat, and tears are the norm as they say.
How does a dental assistant become a brewery owner? As a dental assistant, you learn to be ultra-organized, have superior time management skills, and juggle several balls in the air at one time. April says “all my years of patient care (a.k.a. customer care), multi-tasking and getting systems into place as a dental assistant would be beneficial in a business."
April was interviewed by Dew Life Magazine and shares her personal story and journey from dental assistant to entrepreneur. You can read the full article below, enjoy!
It all began fifteen years ago with a vision. My husband always had a wide spectrum of ideas, and I have always been the realist, the practical one. We purchased a home about 15 years ago, and this was the impetus for a future project that, unbeknownst to us, would eventually take us to the other side of the world. You see, this home was in need of love. As I mentioned, my husband was always full of ideas, and I was the realist, while he envisioned turning an ugly duckling into a swan, I envisioned a lot of work ahead of us. Over the course of eight years, we tore down cabinets and installed new ones, added new countertops and built handmade bathroom vanities, and turned an overgrown field of a yard into an outdoor space oasis just to mention a few projects.
After literal blood, sweat, and tears, that ugly duckling slowly blossomed into a swan. And though this house was realized through patience and tenacity, it was time for our next chapter. We sold our beautiful swan. But before I move on, what’s this have to do with dentistry? I have been a dental assistant for over 20 years, with side jobs as an educator, speaker, and writer for the industry.
I also was an entrepreneur of sorts with my own temp agency for four years as a contract dental assistant to ill in at practices in the metro area. I managed to build a regular clientele and saw a wide variety of management styles, systems, and personality types. It was a great gig that gave me flexibility, and the ability to be autonomous, while at the same time providing a learning experience.
So what was this next big idea? Considering the fact that my husband had been brewing professionally for someone else for years, what about our own brewery? I think my eye started to twitch at the thought of this venture, but concurrently, I was excited at the prospect of seeing my husband’s vision become a reality. I thought, with this business venture, how could I merge teeth with beer? The only commonality is that they both have two e’s when you spell them. Then it hit me; all my years of patient care (a.k.a. customer care), multi-tasking, and getting systems into place as a dental assistant would be beneficial in a business. Dentistry appealed to my practical nature, but this woman in dentistry was going to be a brewery owner.
As someone who hasn’t had kids, I can imagine that before you have your firstborn, you try to get any major projects completed, as your time is going to be limited as soon as that baby arrives. Well before our “baby” was going to be “conceived,” we set out to Europe because we knew we wouldn’t get that opportunity again anytime soon once we started the first page of our business plan. Not only did this excursion open our eyes to a different, beer culture, it introduced us to a world of fabulous people, scenery, and food. This trip was part of the inspiration for our current beer and food menus, and along the way, we made lifelong friends.
We came home, and it was time to get serious about creating a business. It was also time for more blood, sweat, tears, tenacity, and patience. Months turned into years of finding investors, acquiring loans, finding the right building to lease in a booming real estate market – and when that building was found, doing it all over again. Another ugly duckling was about to turn beautiful. And all this time, I was still running my temp business. Business owners are not joking when they say you’ll be working 80-hour work, weeks. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. I watched as my husband would come home exhausted from his DIY work at the building. Believe me, this project was on another level compared to a house. We had to open, but the powers that be had other ideas. Time was slipping by, permits took longer than promised and unexpected costs put us over budget. It looked like the light at the end of the tunnel was never going to illuminate.
Finally, however, the light shone through, with the grand opening of Culmination Brewing three years after pen hit paper and twelve years after the vision was created. My experience in assisting and getting systems in place helped get the taproom up and running, and I started serving beer behind the bar. Three beers on tap slowly became 20, our brand was gaining some traction and recognition, and we were voted Oregon’s Best New Brewery of 2015. And remember when I said our adventure would eventually take us to the other side of the world? Our beer is now distributed in Japan.
We had the honor of meeting our Japanese fans and see our bottles on shelves in Tokyo and taps filling glasses with our product. It has been a long, arduous, fulfilling journey. As I take another sip of beer, I raise my glass to all my fellow women in dentistry. We are educators, caregivers, leaders, and healthcare advocates. We are also capable of seeing our visions becoming fulfilled. So, cheers to you, my friends! May your entrepreneurial dreams come true!