Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you were introduced into the craft beer industry.
Both Beny Ashburn & I (Teo Hunter) are HBCU (Historically Black College & University) alumni that previously worked in the advertising and entertainment industries. My love for craft beer started over a decade ago, and as the craft beer industry hit full stride in California, we realized that we were often the only people of color in these establishments. This struck us as strange, given that we lived in one of the more diverse cities in the country. We soon discovered this same lack of diversity existed all over the country. Addressing this was not only important to us, but is also important for our community. Owning a brewpub in a community that has never had one offers so many benefits socially and economically — it’s a manufacturing facility, a laboratory, a restaurant, and a family-friendly resource that is an extension of the people in and around our community.
How does your community play a role in defining who you are as a brand?
Crowns & Hops is absolutely community-centric. The word “Crowns” is intended to remind people that they are deserving of the very best, regardless of where you live. Until now, the beer industry has only made available and targeted the cheapest, poorly made, mass-marketed beers to communities of color rather than those produced locally with attention to quality craftsmanship. The community of Inglewood deserves more — a brand and public house that represents a culture that has so far been missing in craft beer.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of starting Crowns & Hops?
Giving back. We started a nonprofit called the 8 Trill Initiative that is focused on increasing racial equity in the craft beer industry. This effort also enables us to give back to organizations and programs focused on eliminating disparities in Black & Brown communities that impact productivity. We were able to award $100,000 in grants in 2020 along with issuing awards to local schools like the Crete Academy in South LA.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle we faced as a brand was access to capital. We leaned on our community for an initial crowdfunding effort that allowed us to exercise a model of contract brewing. After a year of production and a working model, we were able to approach the community again, this time offering equity in our company. This incredible community effort has allowed us to start, maintain, and grow this vision without having to go through traditional means of accessing capital. We’re excited about bringing value to their investment in Crowns Inglewood.
What is a typical day like for both of you in Inglewood?
Beny and I spend a significant amount of time on recipe design, managing the efforts of two production facilities, two distributors, logistics, social media, traditional media, and more. Our current focus is on the buildout of our flagship brewery and restaurant in the heart of Inglewood.
We are thrilled to be serving Crowns & Hops at Hotel June West LA! Can you tell us a bit about your craft beer offering ‘8 Trill Pils’ available at Caravan Swim Club?
This pilsner is created in honor of our 8 Trill Initiative — with a portion of all proceeds going directly to the grant program. 8 Trill Pils is a classic pilsner with a light body, golden straw color, and is crisp and clean with a slightly dry finish.
We look forward to continuing to support the growth of your brand. What is next for Crowns & Hops?
The focus for Crowns & Hops right now is building our flagship brewpub in Inglewood. It will be located off of Manchester and Crenshaw Boulevards, in what we consider a cultural hub of the city. Until now, there hasn’t been anything in our community that speaks to an official “Public House,” representing the essence of the Inglewood/South L.A. region. We’re excited to give the community an opportunity to build authentic connections in this space along with patronizing Crowns & Hops directly.
What is the best piece of advice you have for Black entrepreneurs that are looking to start their own venture?
Our advice to other Black entrepreneurs is to trust your instincts and to lean into your cultural authenticity. More importantly, take action today. The world has profited off of Black culture and labor for generations with little-to-no equity going back to the community that is the source of this cultural capital. Leveraging our cultural significance and enginuity for building generational wealth and to accomplish racial equity is an economic strategy for success for our entire country, not just the Black community. A true win-win.