Billionaire brewmaster Jim Koch chooses happiness over wealth.
In 1984, Koch founded one of the most widely cherished brewing companies to have ever been established. Although his father, who at the time was also a brewmaster, tried to convince him not to pursue a career in the beer brewing business, Koch persisted.
Koch’s indifference to his father’s advice might be one of the best decisions he ever made, because in 2014 his brewing business brought in $903 million in revenue. The Boston Beer company is now estimated to produce 1% of the United States’s entire supply of beer.
While 1% may seem minimal to some, Koch’s targeted niche market resulted in his billionaire status. Never was it a goal of Koch’s to become a billionaire, which is probably the reason why he has mixed feelings about his financial records. In an interview taken with Business Insider, Koch said:
“I tell everyone, getting rich is life’s biggest booby trap.”
He says that wealth is more of a temptation than anything — that if people sacrifice passion as a tradeoff for the possibility of earning more cash, they are inevitably setting up their own demise.
As a way of further implementing this ideology into the minds of young and prospective entrepreneurs, Koch set up a program called Brewing the American Dream. The program is intended for individuals pursuing careers in the food/beverage or hospitality industries.
Despite having an MBA and a law degree from Harvard, Koch struggled in the early stages of his business development. He told BI about the struggle he faced starting Boston Beer Company in 1984:
“I wondered, well, what would have been really useful to me when I was starting Sam Adams? What did I need that wasn’t available? And the two things were access to loan money — ’cause nobody would lend me money — and second, nuts-and-bolts business advice. You know, not big, strategic philosophical stuff.”
When he began thinking about ways to give back to the community, he recognized that he wanted to help individuals who shared his passion for business. He wanted to teach people the things he wished he knew when he was first starting out. Koch said,
“A small business is going to be very demanding of your time, your energy — it just eats your life. And if you’re doing something you love, then you will accept and even enjoy that. If you’re just doing it to get rich, you’re gonna lose heart.”
The Brewing the American Dream program offers entrepreneurs free knowledge and coaching, as well as opportunities to apply for different kinds of loans, but Koch is confident in the belief that passion is the pivotal element in start-up success.
Koch became a billionaire in 2013, and when he was asked to comment on his remarkable achievement, he said, “Oh, I don’t care. It is what it is.” To some this may be baffling, but to Koch, who cares about his passion, his company and his happiness, money is just a means to an end.
“It comes down to what would you rather be, happy or rich? I say do what’s gonna make you happy.”