Pitch Competition Helps Female Entrepreneur Expand Brewery Business

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KNOXVILLE, Iowa –Craft beer has become popular across the country and in Iowa as people look for local brews. For one central Iowa brewing business, it isn't just the beer that's getting them noticed.

Inside a downtown Knoxville building, you'll find a flurry of activity done mostly my men. Head Brewmaster Joe Kesteloot said, "Right now we do three beers year round."

But, if you need a decision made, you’ll need to talk to a woman. "This is Peace Tree Brewing Company, and I'm the president and owner," said Megan McKay.

She and two business partners founded the company in 2009. This winter, she started working at the brewery full-time and became the only owner, which is a rarity in the industry. "The statistic I read for 100% women owned business breweries is only 2 percent, and I think it was 17% that have at least one owner," she said.

McKay has plans to expand Peace Tree Brewing Company. A recent investment competition will help her grow the business. "It's based loosely on the program 'Shark Tank,” said Tiffany O’Donnell with Iowa Women Lead Change. The non-profit hosted an “Invest in She” pitch competition in Des Moines in September.

"The concept is, we bring these scalable, existing businesses to the stage, and they pitch their businesses in front of local investors," said O’Donnell.

McKay received $12,000 worth of services to help streamline production, look for a Des Moines location and hire a temporary employee for financial work. She’d like to encourage more women to enter the industry. "The more we can get women into non-traditional careers, they can grow into future business owners or at the top of businesses down the road," she said.

McKay is also assigned a mentor for a year, as part of the "Invest in She" competition.

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