It's been one week since the Ohanafy team met at our new office at the crack of dawn (6:30 AM) and piled into two cars to make the trek to Winston-Salem. The annual North Carolina Craft Brewers Conference was taking place, and it was our first conference as a company.

As the drive continued, the adrenaline, excitement, and fear of uncertainty were all starting to blend together. This was our first chance to get our brand out to North Carolina breweries and affiliated partner companies. We wanted to make this a home run. With the team we had, we felt it would happen, but time would tell. 

Throughout our preparation, we referred to this conference as our company's "Super Bowl" for 2022. Months of planning, blood, sweat, and a few tears went into this. Some of us actually BLED for this event. As we arrived on the first day at the Benton Convention Center, reality began to set in. We were finally here, and the time had come. From the check-in process to how we arranged and set up our booth, and to the new faces that surrounded us, it was all brand new. 

During the conference, I took time to take in the moment. With so much happening, it was a great feeling to look around at all the amazing conversations and smiles. I left with three big takeaways. 

1. Don't be afraid to stand out 

As many of you already know, conferences are overwhelming for everyone. With many options, distractions, and sessions, there had to be ways that we could gain attention. Just to name a few…

  • Hawaiian shirts
  • Leis
  • Lights at booth
  • Showing our product live
  • Beer shaped candy
  • Dance party

Our team did our best to make our 10'x20' space a welcoming place that people wanted to come to. We had massive 8'x10' graphics of our top features, music playing, and a video loop of our actual product, which was great for showing our prospects and customers. It was a huge hit. 

Between our matching Hawaiian shirts with leis around our necks, it was almost impossible not to notice our crew. Everyone who walked up to our table was welcomed with a smile, handshake, and candy shaped like beer bottles. 

Authenticity is everything to us and we hope it showed!

2. Have fun 

We all get it, these things are a grind. You get home with sore feet and a pocket full of business cards and koozies. 

Although these long days may seem tough, our team took pride in having the opportunity to show the craft beverage industry a solution that will help their business. I was so proud of each and every team member for their positive attitude and hard work. 

The energy at our booth was electric, and you could tell it had a ripple effect on anyone that walked by. At the end of the day, one of the biggest takeaways is to enjoy the moment and be engaged. 

Dance, laugh, smile, and repeat. 

Also, when in doubt, play the Cupid Shuffle. It's always a hit.

3. Enjoy the journey

Like most big events that take months of hard planning and pile on stress, they go quickly. Take the time to enjoy the conference. Thank the people putting it on so that your company has the opportunity to meet new folks in the industry. 

Enjoy the time you spent with your colleagues and the memories that were made. One day, we will look back and laugh about how we all had to share an old VRBO that was infested by ladybugs and was possibly haunted. We also put one of our tallest teammates on a Duncan Fyfe sofa. He’s 6’3’! IYKYK!

In closing, our team can confidently say that this first conference was a complete success and an overall blast. We made new friends, had great conversations with future customers, and were welcomed with open arms by the industry. 

Ohanafy means "to become family," and the NC Guild and brewery members welcomed us completely. Their entire team went above and beyond. 

To our new partners and friends at the NC Brewers Guild, thank you for not only the preparation, planning, and putting on a fantastic show; but for everything you do for NC breweries. Your continuous vision is paving the way for their successful future!

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