Matt Raboin is the co-owner of Brix Cider, a hard cider business, farm-to-table restaurant, and purveyor of locally grown food and drink in Mount Horeb. To make the cider, Brix Cider sources apples from 25 small farms all within 70 miles of its production facility! Learn about Matt Raboin…
Hometown: As of this February, we’re moving to Mount Horeb to be closer to the business, to start a new orchard and to become a part of the community here (we’ve been living in nearby Barneveld, and I was born and raised in Fond du Lac).
First job: I started as a cook at Culver’s when I was 15. It was fine, but I never thought I would own a restaurant after making all those butter burgers.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WI: These days I mostly goof around with our kids, preferably outside. I also enjoy tending to our orchard or getting out to ride my bike or cross country ski.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Sometimes I look back and wonder how we got our business off the ground and survived our business startup on an extremely tight budget. There were many nights of waking up in a panic and worrying that we weren’t going to make it. We may have a few emotional scars from it, but we feel good about the accomplishment of getting through it with our heads above water.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Being a relatively new business that first got traction as a live music venue where we packed people in on busy nights, we were not well positioned to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. We simply couldn’t continue with business as usual, and we weren’t in a financial position to just hunker down and wait it out. We had to quickly pivot, and after closing our doors ahead of most restaurants, we switched to online sales and delivery of groceries, which we did exclusively for three months before re-opening for outdoor seating. We then pivoted again in winter adding creative outdoor seating options, including a dome, ice fishing shanties and a greenhouse. It may be too early to say that we have overcome this obstacle, but we’ve stayed alive so far!
Someone who inspires you and why: I’m inspired by Marie (my wife and the other Brix Cider co-owner). She works harder and faster than anyone I know. I can’t keep up, but I think I’m a better person because I’m forced to try.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Do something that will make you stand out and be unique–both in terms of having a product and story that captures people’s imaginations and in terms of having a business model that works and captures advantages that other businesses might not have. Really crunch your numbers, assess your market and have a brutally realistic and detailed plan before you get started. Really understanding our numbers from the outset helped us make adjustments that made the difference between sinking and swimming.
Favorite quote: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: One evening while I was sitting in the walled-in courtyard of my little house in Tanzania where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, I heard a slithering sound in the bushes. In the shadows I spotted a black mamba, and I was terrified as I watched it move around the space with its head raised as if hunting. If it bit me, I likely would have died, and I didn’t want to wait and hope that it would slither away for fear that it would come back another day. I normally try to be a peaceful person, but in this case, I killed the black mamba with a garden hoe.
What makes someone fabulous: Everyone is fabulous. Most people just don’t realize it or act upon it.