Toppling Goliath – An Interview with Sarah Hedlund – Marketing Director

Toppling Goliath

Talking with Sarah Hedlund – Marketing Director of Toppling Goliath

So, what’s your story? How long have you been here in the Driftless, Were you born in the Driftless, What keeps you here in the Driftless?
I grew up in southeast Iowa, went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for a bachelor’s of fine arts in Illustration. Have been working as a professional designer/artist for 11 years which is how I ended up in the Driftless area. I’ve been in Decorah for three years this August. I moved here for a design job at Toppling Goliath. I had never been to Decorah before I came up for the job interview. The second I saw the bluffs and main street, I knew I was going to take the job. It’s a beautiful area. I’ve stayed in Decorah for many reasons. I love my job and enjoy the fast pass nature of working at a quickly growing small business.

I’ve lived in a number of cities and states as an adult but Decorah has been the easiest town to become integrated into, I’ve made a large group of wonderful friends in the short three years that I have been here. The community is so engaged and cares so much about improving the quality of life for its citizens that’s hard to find.

Tell us about what you do for work or your business.
I am the Marketing Director of Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. which means I’m involved in many aspects of the business. I create all the packaging art (cans, boxes, bottles, etc.), merchandise graphics (t-shirts, glasses, hats, etc.), design and manage our website, product photography, print advertising. I manage our social media content creator Cory, who creates amazing videos and photos for our social media pages! In addition, I’m the event coordinator of all our large bottle release events which we do about four times a year, designing how the event will be run, I project manage the leadership team to ensure the hundreds of details fall into place to pull off large events.

Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career with your business.
I joined TG in 2016 right as construction began on our new taproom and brewery here in Decorah. After only being on staff for three months, I pitched the idea of a complete brand refresh, the owners looked at the proposal and gave it the green light. I was able to redesign our logo and the packaging art for all our beers after only a short time with TG. That takes a lot of trust from the owners, and I really appreciated that trust.

We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more—with less. Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
When we sell a keg of beer to a bar we put what is called a keg collar on the top of the keg which labels what brand it is, when it was made, etc. We also send out tap handle stickers which say if the beer on tap is Pseudo Sue or Pompeii, etc. In the past, our sales team and distributors would have to carry around tap handle stickers for all our brands. I found a vendor and worked to develop a new template with them so the keg collars would come with the tap handle sticker built into it. It’s not the most exciting sounding thing in the world but it took months to develop and makes it easy for our distributors and accounts to have the tap sticker on the keg when it’s delivered. This solution lowered the cost for our tap stickers and keg collars as well.

Tell us about some of the people you’ve met, that stand apart from the rest, while here at your business or workplace.
Our team is full of extremely talented people who work harder than most people I have ever worked with. We have people on staff who can hand build anything out of wood and metal. Some who can problem solve so well it’s almost fun to sit and watch them think. Servers who can work for 8 hours standing on cement floors and make each guest feel like a friend. Our brewery, cellar and packaging staff put in the extra hours when the beer needs them to, they always rise to the occasion and work long days to make sure our product is taken care of. From one side of the building to another our staff is truly dedicated to helping each other out and working as a team, it’s a wonderful thing to see.

Tell us about someone who has influenced your decisions for yourself or your business.
After every large bottle release event I hand out a questionnaire to our entire staff, I read through each one and collect the suggestions, comments and issues. This is the first thing I look at when I start planning the next event, each employees point of view is considered and their feedback informs how we do the next event. I truly value my team and know that they have a wealth of knowledge.

What do you think will change about your business or business process over the next five years?
We have changed so much in the three years that I have been here it’s hard to imagine where we will be in five. TG works very hard to constantly improve its product, processes, efficiencies, communication skills, and team building. I think in five years we will be making new and exciting products that we aren’t’ even thinking about today, I think we will have expanded the facility in one manner or another. Our distribution map will be much larger. We are currently in 17 states. I think it will be easily doubled in 5 years.

What do you wish other people knew about you or your business?
How hard everyone works to make the best product we can, that we are still a small company based in Iowa brewing and packaging all our beer right here in Decorah, IA. Some people think we are huge or corporate or no longer “craft” because we have a large building. We are still small by industry standards; we employ around 100 staff in the summer to keep up with the taproom; in the winter we are under 100 top to bottom.

Let’s Get Personal

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … what would you tell them? 
Great place to go hiking, kayaking, biking. Seed Savers is beautiful; the co-op is a wonderufl spot to shop and of course, the TG taproom is great for large groups!

If you weren’t here running your business, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
I would be creating art for another company, I enjoy the small town life here in Decorah but it’s hard to find a town this small that still has so much going on so not sure where I would be. My big dream would be to run my own small business and my big goal is to illustrate children’s books someday.

How do you develop yourself outside of your work environment? Personal development can take all shapes and sizes. It can be found in a hobby, a purposeful pursuit, or in an appetite to explore.
I used to run a freelance business where I created custom artwork for small businesses, bands, burlesque shows, roller derby teams and much more. My job at TG has kept me very busy and I’ve slowed down on that. My goal is to get back to doing those side projects because I truly love creating digital illustrations for people and working for clients like that gives me a lot of creative freedom and keeps my skills sharp.

What are some of your favorite places to go and have fun here in the Driftless?
Luna Valley is dreamy, walking with my boyfriend and dog through town and dreaming about living in the big old beautiful houses is endlessly enjoyable. Thursday trivia night at the Courtyard & Cellar is the best place to see all my friends, and the butterfly preserve is one of my favorite places to see wildflowers.

What are some of your favorite places to eat here in the Driftless?
Co-Op for lunch. Luna Valley for a fun Friday date night.

What might our readers be surprised to know about you?
I got to shoot the puck during intermission at a Black Hawks game in Chicago. I made both shots! For an art kid that’s pretty darn impressive.

What are you most curious about in life?
Creating art, friends, bonds and connections.

What is the most courageous thing you have done in your life?
I left an unhealthy relationship and job at the same time in my mid-twenties, packed up everything I owned and started over in a new state. It was terrifying and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never regretted it for a second, it was a leap of faith that I deserved better and I ended up growing up a lot.

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … what would you tell them?
It’s the hidden gem of Iowa, I grew up in the flatlands of Iowa which I think it’s beautiful in its own way. But the bluffs, hills, rivers, and landscape here are truly gorgeous. Also, I’m here!

Toppling Goliath Brewing Company
1600 Prosperity Road
Decorah, IA 52101 
(563) 387-6700

Visit Website HERE