Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jay Hildybrant of Chain Yard Urban Cidery, Black Cat Mead, CiderWorks Consulting, and Dr. Kombu, located in Halifax, NS, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I operate multiple businesses, some as the sole proprietor and some as a partner. CiderWorks Consulting is my consulting entity, and I work with groups all over the world, making cider, mead, and wine from the local ingredients available to the region.

I am a partner and head cider maker at Chain Yard Urban Cidery. We focus on craft ciders created primarily for the Nova Scotian cider-drinking demographic. We create ciders that challenge the industry, using techniques that are both state-of-the-art and experimental.

A partner and head mead maker at Black Cat Mead. This is a relatively new business, only now coming out of its inception phase. This project is one of many branching from Dr. Kombu, a company I run with my wife Gabrielle, who truly is at the helm of the operation. Through Dr. Kombu, we make kombucha and alcoholic kombucha, as well as house the production facility for Black Cat Mead. Our target customers are those looking for healthier alternatives to higher abv alcoholic beverages.

Tell us about yourself

I became passionate about fermenting in my twenties. Living in Ireland and having the experience of trying diverse traditional ciders from around the world sparked a fierce interest in pursuing fermentation as a career. I look back on over two decades of fermentation fun using unique fruits from around the world. Much of this enjoyment and inspiration was and still is in concert with my wife's enthusiasm for fermenting foods such as tempeh, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Every day I wake to the potential of trying something new with my ferments, something intrepid and adventurous, something that puts a smile on my face.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The ability to work with clients all over the globe. I have created unique wines and ciders for producers on multiple continents.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Recognizing limitations and adjusting accordingly. Understanding impediments and working toward realistic increases in production without compromising quality.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Research the industry fully and completely.
  2. Develop a brand that not only appeals to your demographic but one that excites and brings you joy.
  3. Grow your outreach. Networking is paramount in today's business world.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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