We had the good fortune of connecting with Jett Hattaway and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jett, how do you think about risk?
Risk is a necessary part of learning and growing a business. I’ve been relatively risk tolerant for most of my career, becoming more conservative and diligent about assessing value against risk as I’ve accumulated more experience in business. The foundation of this high degree of risk tolerance comes from my experiences training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since I was a teenager. This art granted me an opportunity to depart my comfort zone at an early age in the name of self-improvement. Being able to take calculated risks and overcome adversity on a regular basis cultivated a sense of self confidence and respect for my opponents in a way that transformed my life. I began to see risk as a learning opportunity – seeing a win win scenario in every competition and training day wherein no matter the outcome I was determined to learn something. I began to understand that my greatest learning opportunities and subsequent improvements were found not in winning, but in my losses. This established a new framework for the way I approached every major decision in life. When the objective is to learn and improve, you can’t lose. Once my definition of losing changed from a condition to a decision, the locus of control shifted- especially in the way I perceived and approached risk. When I was in school I found my first opportunity to start a business in the form of an LED lighting retrofit company which I started with a friend. We quickly grew into the Atlanta market and began taking on sales reps. At our peak we had 6 sales reps and two full time installers which helped us deploy our services across a larger footprint. Upon entering into this venture, being young and naïve, I dropped out of school and immediately dedicated 100% of my time and energy into growing the vision we had. In retrospect, this was quite a significant risk with no backstop if things didn’t work out. In the end we ended up selling the company to a firm in Atlanta two years later where I transitioned my career into the solar industry. This was my first experience with taking a leap of faith in business, which ultimately lead to building higher confidence in my abilities as an entrepreneur. I repeated this process once again when I sold my stake in the solar firm to start a brewery south of Atlanta. We are now one year in with 6 employees and growing at an exponential rate.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I currently own and operate Cochran Mill Brewing Company in Fairburn, GA about 25 min south of Atlanta. Our story started when my dad and I began brewing beer at home in the community where I grew up. Our home is in a rural area near the prominent community of Serenbe, and though beautiful is a bit isolated with very few social venues for residents. We very quickly recognized a need for an inclusive community space to bring people together in a meaningful way. What better way than craft beer! As we began our journey to opening a brewery, we found a series of obstacles in the form of resistance from a faction of the community to the city’s requiring us to present new zoning to accommodate this type of rural business. Ultimately our efforts failed by a marginal vote after a year of efforts. To add to the frenzy of events, my wife and I learned we were expecting our first child about two days before the final city council vote! The experience, though frustrating, garnered support for our concept and our brand. With the mission of creating a community gathering place, we looked 10 min east to Fairburn, GA. The location we secured was once a brewery years ago so the zoning was already in place, making the transition smooth and effortless. The city quickly recognized a need for this form of economic development in their historic downtown area and were happy to expedite our application. Of course a global pandemic was not a consideration in our initial business plan. Our scheduled opening date was April 1st of 2020. In the midst of a shutdown we were unable to open our doors until a month later, creating limited access to the public. In the interim we adapted our business model for to-go orders only! Filling growlers for patrons in the parking lot via online orders. The concept was so well recieved we ran out of our own growlers in 2 days! As a response, we partnered with a local goat dairy to purchase a palette of 1/2gal plastic milk jugs which we used for the next month to fulfill the rush of orders. It is only because of the support of our community that we were able to survive the worst economic and public health crisis in recent history. Our mission of creating a strong community gather place has since become the cornerstone of our brand. We are most proud of the relationships we have built through our business. Both our patrons and our vendors have for the first time begun building a strong civic culture in our community. With this as the metric, we consider our business a monumental success.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Hands down I would take them around the east side beltline. We would likely visit Krog St. Market for lunch with the variety of local eats and finish with a long walk to Ponce City Market. The way the city has embraced this linear greenway is a unique and defining feature for Atlanta.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have had a great number of mentors, partners and coaches who have made tremendous contributions to my life. My father has been my greatest mentor both in business and in life. This shoutout will be to him.