Brothers Will and Dave Willis launched the Boston-based craft distillery Bully Boy in 2011. It’s the first distillery in Boston since prohibition and one of many new small batch distilleries that have sprang up across the U.S. in the last few years. Reuters Small Business interviewed Dave Willis over email about launching Bully Boy and what he’s learned along the way.
Moving from the idea of a distillery to actually distilling took about a year and a half. Nothing about the process was easy. We knew we wanted to be in Boston, so one of the biggest challenges was finding suitable manufacturing space. We need fifteen-foot ceilings for our still, concrete floors, and either a loading dock or bay doors. Most of the industrial space in Boston is either way too big, or small, cramped, and raw. Funding the operation wasn’t easy either. We started looking for capital in 2010. The economy was improving, but there still wasn’t much appetite for risk, and starting a distillery is very risky. What’s more, the risk is difficult to assess because the banks have no point of comparison. We ended up raising cash through friends, family, and anyone who was willing to listen. Then, of course, there is the licensing component. Don’t even get me started.