Betting on Beer

Nicole Barry gave up a steady accounting career to live out her beer baroness dreams.


Nicole Barry had always wanted to become an entrepreneur, but after watching her parents’ trials and tribulations in their own businesses, she thought a nine-to-five job may be a better way to go, at least to start. Perhaps one day, she thought, business ownership would be for her, but she needed some experience first.

Her career path wasn’t much different from her peers. She received her Certified General Accountant designation and then took a corporate job working at a Regina-based insurance company. At the same time, her then husband Dave Rudge was studying beer brewing. While they had talked about opening a brewery together, the further Barry progressed in her career the less likely it was going to happen.

Then, in 2006, fate intervened – Barry was laid off. That kick off the corporate ladder made her rethink what she wanted to do with her life. “We thought, once we have everything settled, we’ll open up our business,” she says. “But we realized that life was never going to be settled. So we had an opportunity and we seized it.”

“Believe in yourself. There may be times when nobody else does. Don’t give up.”

Barry and Rudge sold their house in Regina and, with her severance pay, moved to Winnipeg, where they were from. The then 28-year-old created a business plan to secure a bank loan and soon after Half Pints Brewing Co., a brewery that sells five kinds of beer, was born. “We were really young,” she admits, “but I already had banking experience. I knew how banks reviewed business plans, and we went in with a strong plan and it was approved.”

Moving from the corporate to the self-employed world wasn’t easy. The first-time entrepreneurs had to figure out what suppliers were looking for, apply for permits and licences and, most importantly, watch their cash flow.

Then there was the divorce. Barry and Rudge split in 2011, but didn’t dissolve their partnership. Barry’s in charge of the business and Rudge is responsible for the beer. That divide has worked. Today, the brewery has 15 employees and is planning to expand production by 50 percent this year.

While she wasn’t sure if her dream would ever become a reality, she’s thrilled that it did. Her advice to other people thinking of making a life altering career switch? “Believe in yourself,” she says. “There may be times when nobody else does. Don’t give up.”

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