How My Yard Live is changing the way people view craft beer
Ask Jamie Minotti to talk about all of the wonderful things that are going on at My Yard Live, the craft beer brand he started in San Marcos, California, and you might expect to hear about the amazing beer, good food and great atmosphere. While that is all spot on, it is the legacy that Minotti and his team set out to create that drives their mission every day.
With a lifetime of giving back instilled into him by his parents, Minotti set out to create a brand larger than just beer, food and community. That’s why My Yard Live is something that every person who embraces the craft beer brand can get behind.
From a brick and mortar standpoint, My Yard Live brings together all the elements of a community center, park, upscale beer garden/brewery, diverse eatery, and a one of a kind live entertainment and event venue. Combining that “backyard” feel, My Yard is the kind of brewery and restaurant where customers are like family.
We sat down with founder and COO Jamie Minotti to get his thoughts on the ever-growing craft/restaurant market.
Give us a snapshot of today’s craft brew market from your perspective.
Our perspective might be a bit different than some. We view the craft beer market much more than just good beer and marketing. For us, craft beer represents experiences and connectedness, not simply a product. There are a ton of breweries out there that make great beer. We like to think we make great beer too, but there is so much more to the market as it relates to its involvement with the customer and community. While beer type and variety may trend, one thing has stayed consistent, beer brings people together.
What’s likely to happen next?
From a broader perspective, I think we will begin to see even more breweries investing in causes and community efforts that go beyond making, marketing and selling beer. We will continue to see more diversity in the industry of who is making the beer and owning breweries to the consumers. I see more attention being spent on classic, lighter styles with lower ABVs. You are already seeing an uptrend in non-alcoholic beers as well and I believe that will continue to grow as well.
What trends are defining the space?
You are seeing more breweries open with causes and community efforts as well as more diversity within the brewing and brewery space. There are breweries opening in areas that have not traditionally been viewed as craft brew communities and serving demographics that have not been viewed as craft beer drinkers in the past. Like many popular markets, craft beer has gone (and will continue to go through) a variety of trends, whether it is the variety in styles, packaging or even types of breweries with visions that go beyond simply making good beer.
What’s your story from a brand perspective?
My background and education is actually in teaching and working with community-based organizations that serve people that have traditionally been underrepresented. Straight out of college, I enrolled in a program called Americorps VISTA—a year-long volunteer program similar to the Peace Corps, where I found myself in California.
All along, I continued to follow my passion in events and entertainment, and eventually started an artist management company. The Madero Group—loosely named after my grandfather’s favorite word, “moderation” in Italian—managed a variety of national and international bands and DJs. In 2005, I met Mark McLarry, my partner in My Yard Live, at a music festival on a Carnival Cruise Ship called Xingolati, which we produced.
It was a music festival at sea blending a variety of music genres and worlds that featured everyone from The Flaming Lips and G Love to Slightly Stooped and beyond. This was before festivals blended genres so it was a bit before its time. From that event, we dove into event production and ultimately started Alternative Power Productions (APP), which specialized in solar powered staging, sound, lighting and event production services. We worked with everyone from ESPN and Disney, to Vans Warped Tour.
We found that younger families were looking for things to do together and beginning to integrate into the event space. As the larger event production industry transitioned, we realized there was an opportunity for a project that encompassed all the things we love and care about most—family, community, live entertainment, food and, of course, beer. My Yard Live has given me the ability to blend my professional interests that had seemed to live in isolation in the past.
Walk us through your branding strategy.
We set out to create an experiential, family friendly, community-based concept that would change the way people had known breweries and restaurants previously. We wanted to provide an option for people who were looking for a different type of restaurant, brewery and entertainment experience.
My Yard Live brings together all the elements of a community center, dream backyard, park, brewery and beer garden, eatery, and live entertainment and event venue. We want to help create memories and connections.
What’s the biggest issue related to the marketing/sales side of the craft beer business?
Craft beer, by nature, is generally a pretty hyper-local effort that has typically focused on a pretty small and targeted demographic. While the industry has grown and many brands have gone national and international, it is only a small percentage of brands that break on that level for a sustained period of time. Ultimately, widely distributing is the end game for most breweries, but that growth has proven to be very delicate, especially if it has been built on a fragile foundation.
What’s the one thing every craft beer brand should do in the way of marketing?
I believe it is making beer and breweries more accessible to more and more diverse people, as well as creating different ways to experience breweries and beer. For the most part, our industry has traditionally focused on a specific demographic and delivered a very similar experience surrounding the product. And, to some extent, I think the market needs to be viewed from a different perspective with fresh new takes on what craft beer really means to people.
What’s the secret to creating a branding story that consumers can buy into?
I don’t think it is a secret. You need an intriguing, relatable and authentic message that’s solving a “problem” your potential customer has endured.
What are some of your biggest opportunities moving ahead?
Our biggest opportunity as a company and brand is to continue to invest in our people and community. That has shown not only to be the two most effective ways to build our business, but the two most rewarding.
Albeit, the devastation the pandemic has had on lives, the economy and our business has allowed me to really focus on what matters both at home and in business. While these have been some of the most challenging times in my life, they also have in many ways been the most affirming.
Having the opportunity to utilize the vehicles of beer, food and entertainment to build relationships and community is something I will cherish many years from now.
How does your taproom space integrate into your branding/marketing strategies?
I think that’s what makes us unique. From the first conceptualization of My Yard Live, we sought to integrate all aspects of the brand with the venue. While we were unable to hit all the marks when we first opened, we continually worked toward that goal and find new ways to integrate all aspects of the venue with the delivery of experiences, products and services.
Whether it is integrating beer into our food program, beer names and graphics or creating give back beers for various causes in the community—that is beer, the food from our scratch kitchen or the daily events. Our venue and live experiences exist throughout the brand and this includes the beer.
What adjustments have you made with/to your business model surrounding the recent state of events?
The pandemic forced us to look at ourselves and every aspect of our company—from our purpose and mission to our products and service delivery methods. It gave us the opportunity to experiment and improve. We are a more focused and efficient company coming out of the pandemic.
We went from in-house only beer sales to working with a distributor and developing an off-premise program, which prior to March 2020 had been intentionally not pursued. We adjusted our in house service delivery model from a fast-casual concept to full service to hybrid and now experimenting with a consumer based “order at the table” system. We realigned our marketing strategy and messaging focusing even more on our mission and community-based efforts. We reinvested in our people even more than we had previously.
What’s the biggest item on your to-do list?
In a “post-pandemic” world, we are addressing labor shortages, increased labor costs, supply chain issues and the rising cost of food and raw goods.
Connect with My Yard Live
My Yard Live
288 Rancheros Drive
San Marcos, CA 92069
Talking with My Yard Live’s Jamie Minotti
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Everything said, ultimately it’s my ability to give back to the community. At a very young age, through volunteering, my parents instilled the importance of giving back. No matter what I’ve done in my career, I’ve always tried to incorporate that value. Sometimes I am able to do it better than others, but when it really comes together it’s by far my most favorite part of what I do.
What was the best advice you ever received?
My grandfather used to say, “Everything in moderation.” My first company was named after his advice. Finding balance has been a bit of a mantra for me both personally and professionally. As a small business owner, it really has to be so his words continue to resonate with me to this day.
What’s your favorite brand story?
We are very fortunate to have some amazing supporters in the short time we’ve been open, but it’s ultimately the generosity of some customers during the pandemic that helped us remain open and optimistic when things were uncertain. That was the biggest compliment to the brand and our team.
We have a couple who have two children. They are regulars who approached us and offered to invest in the middle of the pandemic. They said My Yard Live was their family’s go-to spot and they never wanted to see it go away. As much as I tried to convince them that investing in a brewpub during the pandemic was not a good idea fiscally, they did anyway. It saved the business, and more than just financially.
What’s the best thing a customer ever said to you?
A mother of one of our employees said that My Yard Live has changed her son’s life and created more meaning and connection for him. James is an employee who has been with us since the very first training day we had in 2019. He has intellectual and developmental disabilities, but that’s not what defines him. He’s funny, caring and brings a spirit to My Yard Live that would have been lost otherwise.