Brewing a Business

Executive MBA alumnus Jacob Landry (MBA ’13) is the founder of Urban South Brewery, which in the last two years has grown to become Louisiana’s third largest brewery.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Jacob Landry (MBA ’13)

Jacob Landry (MBA ’13) didn’t like beer until he spent a year in France during college, but after tasting some of the finest brews Europe had to offer, he began to imagine what it would be like to open his own brewery.

“I put it aside as a pipe dream,” he said. “But I couldn’t shake it. That’s where my passion was.”

Today, Landry is the founder of Urban South Brewery, the third largest brewery in Louisiana and one of the fastest growing in the country.

“I had this desire to make a product and share it with people,” Landry said. “It goes back to my Cajun roots.”

A native of Hathaway, Louisiana, Landry spent eight years working in public education, but he always knew he wanted to start his own business. While he was still working full time in education, he enrolled in the Freeman School’s executive MBA program to see if he had the chops.

“I had some good management experience from the jobs I had had, but I really wanted some harder academics, particularly on the finance side of things,” Landry said. Landry began writing the business plan for Urban South immediately after graduating with his MBA in 2013, but it took him another two and a half years to get the brewery fully up and running. His biggest challenge was raising capital. After taking on some early investors — including five of his Freeman School classmates — Landry was able to secure a $750,000 loan from a specialty bid company.

“This business is really capital intensive,” Landry said. “Early on banks wouldn’t talk to me. Even with an SBA guarantee, they wanted zero risk. There were a lot of discouraging moments.”

Landry’s hard work and dedication ultimately paid off. Urban South opened in 2016 and quickly became a hit with consumers, to the point that the brewery struggles to keep up with demand. This year the company expects to produce more than 140,000 cases spread across 12 different beers.

“Ever since we opened we haven’t really been able to make enough beer,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have. As stressful as growth can be, it shows us that people really want the product.”

Landry relishes the freedom that comes from being an entrepreneur and uses his flexibility to spend time with his three children.

“I realized pretty early on that I was a difficult person to manage,” he said. “It was clear since high school that I wanted to be my own boss.”

He also enjoys creating quality jobs and providing a place where his employees can build a career they love. Urban South covers 65 percent of health insurance, offers a 401k and pays a minimum wage of $12 per hour. Landry says employees quickly move up and grow with the business.

“When I started Urban South, I thought we would grow to be a national brand, but the dynamic is that people really want local beer,” Landry said. “We have a huge advantage in New Orleans, and we are trying to go as deep as possible in south Louisiana.”

Landry plans to continue evolving Urban South’s product mix to keep up with national trends, such as producing more products targeted at female consumers, a demographic that doesn’t traditionally drink a lot of beer. He’s also working to expand Urban South’s offerings of sours and less-bitter IPAs.

“Ideas either evolve organically or they are inspired by another brewery,” Landry said. “Our taproom serves as an R&D facility.”

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