Bison Beverage: Female-Founded and Running on Grit and Community for 100 Years
100 years after her great grandma Beryl started Bison Beverage, Owner Brittney Webber runs the company alongside her brother Todd. She leads with a nod to the family's past and a keen eye to future growth.
March 16, 2023
The month of March is Women’s History Month, and Encompass is taking the opportunity to reflect on the significant impact that women have on the beverage industry and celebrate those who are trailblazing the path to gender equality.
Each week, we are going to highlight a different part of the BevAlc business. For beverage distribution, we are excited to interview the inspiring owner + fourth generation owner of Bison Beverage based out of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
In addition to running sales and marketing at Bison, Brittney is heavily involved in NBWA’s BREW group and Alliance for Women in Beer. She’s honored to be the second woman to lead the company, following in the footsteps of her Great Grandma Beryl Yarter-Lewis who started the company, which is the longest standing Coors wholesaler in the country.
Founded in 1926 as a soft-drink distribution business, the company refocused their attention on beer at the end of prohibition. In the following decades, Brittney’s father and grandfather made strategic additions to their portfolio and heavily influenced beer distribution legislation in WY until Brittney and her brother Todd took over operations in 2013.
Bison acquired a Molson Coors distributorship in 2019, which was a big step in the journey and cemented the writing on the wall that they are here to stay. Brittney is clear on her vision for Bison’s continued success -they are strategizing how to develop portfolios, acquire new segments, “We’re here to stay and grow.”
We sat down with Brittney and asked her to share her experiences and offer advice to help women achieve their goals in the beverage industry.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a leader in the industry? How have you overcome it?
With the beer industry being male dominated, it has been a welcomed challenge to earn respect in the industry and to always feel like your role is respected. Being my father's daughter and being a woman, I felt like there were 2 targets on my back, one within the company, and in the industry as a whole. Leading a company in an executive role, it’s a continuation every day to earn respect from your employees and supplier partners. I encourage women to not take the respect you’ve earned for granted - you have to continue to prove yourself every day. You have to have a lot of belief in yourself to step into those roles. When my dad first asked me about being in the beer business - I originally was not so hot on it. Opportunity brought me to Oregon for a different job in another industry - so I got a taste of working at another company in a new industry. When I eventually did come back to my family’s company, it was a blessing in disguise to have diverse experience that translated well into growing Bison Beverage.
What’s one thing we can all do to support women in leadership roles in the industry?
It all starts with hiring. You have to have confidence that women are just as capable in roles that have been traditionally held by men. In 2019, when we acquired Metz Beverage, we had women on the sales team for the first time. This was a great shift culturally. With women in roles on both the sales team and the delivery team - we saw a big transformation and new perspectives that having a more diverse team brought.
What career advice do you have for women just getting started in the industry?
Confidence! The ability to always feel like you can lean on your co-workers and others within the industry. Curiosity - be hungry to learn new roles and products. Know the supplier side. Work with a brewery and understand how they function. Some of the best supplier reps I’ve worked with are women because they are so dialed in with their communication and their intuition is on point. On the distributor side I cannot stress how helpful it is to be involved in associations. Get involved in your state association or cohort distributor council for the region. I love the NBWA BREW Community. Last year’s event was so powerful, I had chills the entire time: seeing influential, groundbreaking women from all walks of life. Jenn Litz- Kirk ignited the room.
What contribution to the industry are you most proud of in your career?
Taking this company to the next level with my brother nearly 10 years ago. We battled some big challenges along the way, especially being a woman in this male dominated industry. I have taken advantage of many opportunities I had to diversify our company and develop a next generation beverage company. I wish my grandpa was here to see all the progress we’ve made. He would be so proud of how we have carried on the business. I also take pride in continuing to be highly respected and involved in many community events, sponsorships, boards and speaking at conferences about women in beer. I am proud to generate more interest for women to enter this industry and pave the way for the next generation.
As the industry landscape changes, what would you like to see in the next 5 years?
In Wyoming we face challenges as a controlled state - we can’t sell RTDs yet, so there is a big market that is untapped. The laws that currently exist don’t reflect the state of the market and modern day, so I'd like to see those laws change in the next few years. Bison serves 50% of the state for distributorship, so these laws have a big impact on us.
What drink are you currently loving?
White Claw Peach - it’s a new flavor drop! Walk, don't run to get your hands on this one.