Exemplifying excellence: Byers Enterprises & BrewBilt Manufacturing LLC receive honors | TheUnion.com

Exemplifying excellence: Byers Enterprises & BrewBilt Manufacturing LLC receive honors

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Two local companies have been honored by the United States Small Business Administration for their business acumen and community contributions.

Byers Enterprises was named Family-Owned Business of the Year and BrewBilt Manufacturing LLC was named Start-up Business of the Year by the Sacramento District Small Business Administration. The awards were presented, May 4, at a breakfast ceremony in Citrus Heights.

Carrie Ellinwood, Small Business Administration public information officer, said it is "great" that two of the 12 coveted awards went to thriving companies in the same rural county.

"It shows small businesses are doing well all over California," said Ellinwood. "It's great to see small businesses in rural counties are being recognized for their contribution to the economic growth of our country."

According to the administration, small businesses make up 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms, 49.2 percent of private-sector employment, 42.9 percent of private-sector payroll, and 46 percent of private-sector output.

The Small Business Administration awards are designed to recognize companies that exemplify excellence. The administration officials hope the presentations "will inspire more people in their communities to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams."

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The administration's internal panel reviewed the companies nominated for the award program. The experts evaluated the nominees' submitted answers to questions, biographies, and relevant photographs. The judging criteria included staying power, growth in employees, increase in sales, innovativeness of the companies' services or products, response to adversity, and contributions to community-oriented projects.

There are 68 Small Business Administration District Offices across the United States and its territories. The Sacramento District is comprised of 22 northeast interior counties of California, which boast nearly 203,000 small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The awards have been presented every year since 1963 as the culmination of the annual National Small Business Week.

Brewbilt Manufacturing Llc

Grass Valley-based BrewBilt is the only manufacturer of craft beer equipment in California. Kettle mash tuns, lauter tuns, hot liquor tanks, fermenters, and aging or "bright" tanks are its best sellers, but its equipment can also be used to create saki, cider, and distilled spirits.

The company is owned by Jef Lewis and his wife.

"Owning a business is like parenthood," said Lewis. "It can feel like you're not doing the right things. This award is confirmation that we are doing the right things. I know our equipment is good because we make it the best it can be. It's nice to be recognized for our business and how we run it, not just the quality of our equipment."

Each BrewBilt brewing system is custom-designed, using a detailed schematic based on the customer's available space. The systems are then manufactured at BrewBilt's 8,000-square-foot Springhill Drive warehouse. The company uses only American-made stainless steel, American labor, and fittings.

When the Lewises first started their company in Grass Valley in 2016, they had five employees. They now employ 10 and plan to hire another five by the end of this year.

BrewBilt equipment is shipped all over the United States and the Lewises are starting to market their brand in Mexico and Japan. This year's manufacturing schedule is already full; they're now taking orders for 2019. They predict their this year's profits will be double what they were last year.

"Earning the award was definitely a team effort," said Lewis. "If any part of the chain breaks down, it's a failure. We owe the award to everyone in the business. It's our employees getting the work out the door." Lewis also extended gratitude to Tri Counties Bank, which nominated BrewBilt for the award.

Byers Enterprises

When Ray Byers Sr. moved to Grass Valley in 1986 to start his roofing business, there was no lavish building and expensive equipment.

Ray Sr. set up a card table in the middle of his grandmother's living room and from there launched Byers' Black Gold Roofing.

Last week Byers Enterprises was named Family-Owned Business of the Year by the Sacramento District of the Small Business Administration. Byers Enterprises — with its five different divisions of LeafGuard Gutters, Solar Panels, Solatubes, Roofing, and Land Clearing & Fire Prevention — boasts more than $10-million in annual sales.

Pretty impressive for a man who called himself a "human backhoe" during his younger days of digging ditches.

"Our process of building 'family' into the business is about communication and allowing our team to make good decisions in the field to make sure the client is taken care of," said Ray Sr. "Goals are great for measuring our efforts, but we have to ensure we are achieving our efforts with our core values by making sure the client is taken care of. Our entire business is an extended family: the Byers clan, our dedicated employees, and our loyal customers."

Ray Sr. and general manager Jeff Fierstein launched Byers LeafGuard Gutters in 1994 after Ray Sr. saw a magazine advertisement showcasing the never-clog gutter system. The business became a phenomenal success, allowing him to add and expand operations.

Since 2010, Ray Sr. has shared responsibilities with operations manager Ray Jr.

"I'm very proud of what our father has been able to accomplish with this company over the last 31 years," Ray Jr. said. "I'm thankful he's been such an awesome dad and role model. It's amazing what our whole team continues to achieve."

The mortality rate of multi-generational companies is high. National statistics show only 30 to 40 percent of family-owned businesses pass to the second generation.

Yet across the diverse divisions of Byers Enterprises, there are many family members in addition to the Founder/CEO and Ray Jr. Ray Sr.'s other son, Cameron, operates the Land Clearing & Wildfire Prevention department.

"This award is a huge honor," said Cameron. "I've learned so much from my father: to always have a strong work ethic, be intensely loyal, and always do the right thing."

Ray Sr. even gives his young grandsons a chance to develop the Byers work ethic when he pays them to pick up screws and debris around the shop. That's Byers.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS

Byers Enterprises

WHO: Founder/CEO: Ray Byers Sr.

WHERE: 115 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley

INFO: Call 530-274-1750 or visit ThatsByers.com for more information

BrewBilt Manufacturing LLC

WHO: Owners: Jef & Erin Lewis

WHERE: 110 Springhill Drive, Grass Valley

INFO: Call 530-802-5023 or visit BrewBilt.com for more information