"Getting our act together has given me the time to learn more about travel and tourism here, and the huge business potential," Ashley said. "There really isn't another city like Portland with so many small brewers. We're unique."
Ashley, who fled North Carolina seeking a better beer life in Oregon, launched Brewvana in April 2011. She was working at Hopworks at the time. She ran all the tours and did the marketing and admin work from her tiny apartment. Those were the days...may they never return.
Arguably the most important thing anyone needs to know about Brewvana is that its leader has seemingly boundless energy. Ashley can talk about anything beer-related for hours. Along the way, she'll tell you about stuff she really enjoys: "I like to sip a good beer really fast." Sipping is clearly overrated.
Brewvana's first employee came onboard in late 2011. They moved into an actual office in 2012 and Ashley left Hopworks to focus on her own business full time. Big steps. The ability to separate work from home was a big deal. After a slow start in 2013, things eventually righted themselves. Business nearly doubled over 2012.
"Having a physical space and a set of business procedures really helped get the business moving last year,"Ashley said. "And that allowed me to invest some time in researching marketing angles. I spent time with Travel Oregon and Travel Portland. It's been informative and fun."
|Getting wrapped up|
"This trip came out of the blue and it's going to be amazing," Ashley said. "I've had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it isn't a dream."
There's plenty more brewing at Brewvana. The most visible change is the new-look buses. Angel and Rosie have been wrapped with high resolution graphics that tell the Brewvana story visually. The wraps were financed largely through an Indiegogo fundraiser and partly by sponsor dollars. The message is clear: "This could be you having a great time on the Brewvana bus."
"Nothing against the original graphics, but we really needed to convey a stronger sense of what it feels like to be on a tour," said Ashley. "That's the concept behind the pictures of people having fun with great beer in a great beer environment. It's a contagious message and the response has been totally positive."
|Fearless Brewvana leader at APEX in 2012|
"Doing larger tours is all about relationships," she said. "We've worked hard to establish relationships with the breweries, and we're now focused on building similar relationships with organizations that will help bring group tours. It's not something you can do overnight, but we've made good progress in the last year or so."
In case you're wondering, Brewvana is not directly supported by the beer industry. They typically get discounted prices on beer, which would be available to any tour group. Sponsor dollars come from six breweries: Laurelwood, Widmer, Ninkasi, Coalition, Base Camp and Hopworks. That's it. They work with breweries to provide a great experience for tour patrons, but there is no linkage.
|On tour February 2013|
The thing is, these kids really do know how to run a great tour. I've been on two of them and both were terrific experiences. If you haven't been, I recommend it. Given what they do and how they do it, the sky may well be the limit for Ms. Salvitti and Brewvana.
They do seem to have their "poops in a group."
|Brewvana good times!|
Photos kindly provided by ASF Shoots where noted