Jack of All Trades. Meet Elise Barnard of OSB Ciderworks

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Photography by Arielle Ferraro of Arielle Ferraro Photography

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. 
My name is Elise Barnard. I grew up in a small town, Wayland NY (south of Rochester) and was born to die hard entrepreneurs. My parents own and have operated real estate rentals, a bar, a pizzeria/ deli/catering business, a furniture/gift store and so much more. They still work extremely hard operating their deli/pizzeria/catering business and it is the longest family owned business in our town. It was in my blood to work for myself. After graduation I went to MCC and then transferred to FIT in New York City. After being in NYC for several years I was ready for an adventure. So, I bought a Pontiac Vibe (that I still own today) and drove it to Southern California where I lived and worked for several years. 

I started OSB Ciderworks with my brother Eric who is a professionally trained chef and our cider maker. I am the CEO, designer, bookkeeper, salesWOMAN, keg driver, bar tender, cleaning service, and so much more for OSB. My brother and I are all hands on deck and are doing what we need to do to sell cider and get our product into bars in Upstate New York. 

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What did you want to be when you were a child?
A DJ on the radio. Witty banter and catchy tunes are still a passion of mine.

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How did you get started in your current business? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting? 
I was “tricked” into OSB by my brother Eric. But that story is for another time lol. He was very passionate about making hard cider. Both of us being in the food and beverage industry we saw a niche that we thought we could fulfill. Also our Great Uncle Charlie and our Dad used to make some mean hard cider together, so we thought to ourselves, “we have a recipe, we have a warehouse, lets do this”.

There is no guidebook for starting a business. There is no checklist on what you have to do in order to get your license, register the ciders, buy equipment, convert a warehouse into a tasting room, get the capital, find a grant, and so much more. It was a lot of research, paper work, and phone calls. I am a creative and love everything creative the constantly researching and figuring out requirements was very draining on my creative spirit but in the end with a lot of help from family, friends, a drained savings account and (5) zero percent interest credit cards we have a really great thing going. 

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In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up? 
I am a worker. If there is a challenge or an obstacle in my way I work myself out of it. I function best at 120 miles per hour. I like my life that way. If there is something in my way or worrying me I just work through it. I ask questions, I take meetings and I am not afraid to ask about things that are new to me. Being a bartender for nearly 13 years has given me a network of people from all walks of life. I keep in touch and I ask them what they think. I like to have multiple projects going on at a time. When I shift gears into something different it often seems that the answer to an unrelated issue will pop into my head. I think moving is my strategy, keep moving, keep pushing and you will figure it out. 

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What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you? 
I am happy to share any practical knowledge that has impacted my business. If I have learned a trick of the trade or talked to someone that has helped us with OSB I am happy to share that information or connection. I am happy to share my story, my experience, and my ideas with anyone starting out. I think my advice would be to lean on your network. It is the strongest tool in your tool box. 

We took a lot of advice and I am glad we did but we followed our guts, started out lean and stayed lean, and we continue to work extremely hard every day. I don't know if there was something someone could of said that would of changed our course. 

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What inspires you? 
Anything with a voice. When I was a little girl I would save random things that had a cool design. My cousin and I legitimately invented scrap booking (well we used tape to laminate so many cool magazine clippings all over her wall) it was a live scrap book. I would also recite funny lines in movies, and memorize my favorite songs. If something speaks to me it inspires me. Whether that be a cake I am making, a perfectly timed joke, a mural on a building, or a cool idea. I like things with a voice. I love to build off of other people’s ideas and help them grow. I think it’s inspiring to be able to be a part of someone else’s path even if it’s for a split second, it fills me with happiness. 

I also like doing nice things for people. Making people cookies, sending homemade Valentines Day Cards, planning a girls day with all the women in my family makes me happy and keeps me going. 

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What is your favorite part of what you do? 
The brand. The design, the cider names, the clothing they are a piece of me. They are inspired by everywhere I have lived, tasted, drank, and experienced. I design clothes that Eric and I want to and do wear, we name our ciders things that make us laugh and feel good, we put ingredients in the cider that we like. Sharing myself and my life through our brand is my favorite part. 

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What do you find most challenging? 
There is no formula or exact science to starting a business. I am learning every day. Sometimes those lessons are hard, sometimes it is information that I never even wanted to know. Constant evolution and trial and error is EXHAUSTING… but so worth it! Sometimes this industry can beat you down. There is a ton of competition and you are all fighting for a space at the table. I’ve learned you just need to keep showing up and plugging away. Persistence and determination shine through and people will know you’re there for their needs and it will all pay off. Just keep showing up. Don’t let anyone stop you from showing up with something new in a few weeks. Nearly every time I have to force myself to go is the time I get the seat at the table. 

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Name some local creatives that you really admire. 

Shawn Dunwoody is amazing. He’s so talented and he creates not just for the sake of it. He has so much purpose and does so many great things for this community. 

Ashley and Liza of EvenOdd blow my mind. They take things people don’t have a use for... popped bike tubes! Then they turn them into epic bags and so much more. They are constantly creating new accessories and in my mind crushing it. I used to sew straight lines for them on Fridays many years ago. It was such an awesome environment and I’m thankful for those fun creative times. 

Chuck Cerankosky. He’s an outstanding designer, a talented booze blender and has a great eye for design and space. He can put a great restaurant together and is not afraid to get the helping hands of some rad people he’s known forever.

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