Brewer Named VT Small Business Person of the YearMar 25, 2019 09:35AM ● By John Gales
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The owner of a St. Albans brewing company is named the 2019 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year.
Steve Gagner, owner and founder of 14th Star Brewing Company is being recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration for employment growth, financial success, expansion and community involvement.
The business plan for 14th Star Brewing Company was originally drafted on the back of a notebook by Gagner while he was serving in Afghanistan. Upon returning home to Vermont from deployment, Gagner and his best friend and fellow soldier Matt Kehaya, worked to refine the plan to make their dream of 14th Star Brewing Company a reality in 2012 (Gagner is majority owner). The brewery’s name signifies Vermont becoming the 14th state.
Since its founding, 14th Star Brewing Company has grown from two part-time employees to 24 employees, and has gone from producing 31 gallons of beer per batch in a 1,200 sq. ft. facility to producing 1,000 gallons per batch in a 20,000 sq. ft. brewery. To support the brewery’s expansion, Gagner obtained SBA loans in 2014 and 2016.
Today the brewery distributes to six states and has received numerous awards. In 2018, Military Times named Gagner Entrepreneur of the Year. Later that year Gagner also graduated from the SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program, a training program for entrepreneurs wanting to expand their small businesses.
As for enriching the community, the brewery is involved with several noble ventures. Proceeds from every batch of Valor Ale supports Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization dedicated to returning lost or stolen military medals to Veterans and their families. Each year 14th Star holds an event to support the Josh Pallotta Fund, an effort to prevent Veteran suicides. In 2017, the brewery raised funds to ensure a local food kitchen had milk and eggs for a year. Recently Gagner co-founded Danger Close Craft Distilling, a company dedicated to teaching the concepts of entrepreneurship to Veterans.
Gagner, a major in the Army, is currently serving with the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt. Gagner has served two combat tours and is a two-time Bronze Star recipient. He also serves as the Assistant Professor of Military Science at Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont, teaching cadets the concepts of leadership as well as the art and science of warfare.
Gagner and other small business award winners will be presented their awards during the 2019 Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony cohosted by Vermont Business Magazine in June. The ceremony is open to the public and registration will be available in May.
The Small Business Person of the Year winner from each state has been invited to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C. May 9 to 10. During this time they will be honored with their individual award along with the naming of the 2019 National Small Business Person of the Year.
Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized the outstanding achievements of America’s small businesses for their contributions to their local communities, and to our nation’s economy.