Co-founder Bob Monroe, MBA '10, talks about beer, business, and balance in creating—and growing—Magnolia's famed craft brewery.

What problem/market need were you addressing when the business started?

There were 60 breweries in Seattle when we opened in 2016, so we obviously were not seeking to just be the 61st brewery. We approached the craft beer market in a unique way—to give consumers balanced beers that highlight all of the three main ingredients: grains, yeast and hops. 

We wanted to expand the palates of beer drinkers, from novices to beer aficionados. We also wanted to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for the community, focusing on being open to all people from all different backgrounds. 

Craft beer has been historically heavily white, straight, and middle income and up. We wanted to thoughtfully do our part to expand craft beer to a more diverse group of people.

What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest reward throughout your journey?

The biggest challenge has been just what we were warned about in our SU entrepreneurship classes—owning a small business can be all consuming and 24/7. We wear a lot of different hats, and we have a lot of passion and vested interest in the success of the business and the experience we provide our customers. This can at times be overwhelming. 

At the same time, it can be extremely rewarding, and it feels very good to know that we have built a profitable business that treats customers, employees and the community with respect. Knowing that we provide that "3rd place" for our regulars and that we provide competitive wages and a positive environment to work in is very fulfilling.

Bob Monroe, co-founder of Figurehead Brewing

Craft beer has been historically heavily white, straight, and middle income and up. We wanted to thoughtfully do our part to expand craft beer to a more diverse group of people.

Bob Monroe Co-founder, Figurehead Brewing Company MBA '10

What, if anything, did you learn at Albers that has helped you in running this business?

We use skills learned at Albers—both soft and hard—every single day as we operate and grow Figurehead. Specifically, curriculum focused on Emotional Intelligence (thank you, Professor [Bill] Weis and team) was something that we feel was unique to Seattle University and something that guides us daily in how we interact with our customers, employees, and each other. 

We also believe the finance and strategy skills we learned at Albers set us apart from many other small breweries. These skills have allowed us to grow in financially responsible ways and to avoid chasing low-margin, cyclical revenue streams.

What’s next for the business?

We couldn't be more excited to open our second location. We are currently building out a taproom space in the Fremont/Wallingford neighborhoods, to be known as Figurehead Stone Way, which we hope to open in the first part of 2024. This is exciting not only because it is a second space, but because it is a significantly bigger space, complex build-out, and a unique concept to fit the market. 

We are partnering with our friends from Midnite Ramen and Ooshiba Sushi to bring the community a unique pairing of Figurehead beer and some of the best ramen, yakitori, gyoza, and sushi that Seattle has to offer.

If you were to recommend one thing from Figurehead that newcomers should taste, what would it be?

One of the great things about Figurehead is there is always a new, unique beer to try on the taplist. You can't go wrong with our flagships such as Queen Anne's Revenge (IPA) and Patersbier, but there is always something new on the tap list that will expand your craft beer knowledge and enjoyment.

Two-sentence advice for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Building a small business is both exhausting and rewarding. Enjoy the ride but go into it with your eyes wide open!