Chamber Insider Blog

Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist Spotlight: Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery

Thank you to Chris Burns, of Old Ox Brewery, and congratulations again! Chris Burns is nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year, and Old Ox Brewery is nominated for Rural Business of the Year.
Register here for the Small Business Awards on November 2, 2017. 

1.  Tell us your story of how your company got to where it is today?

Chris and Graham started home brewing as a hobby and a way to connect with family and friends on a regular basis. Even on cold winter weekends, we would throw open the garage door and fire up the homebrew system. Dad, Mom, kids and grandkids all had a hand in the process and would catch up on the events in our lives. It wasn’t long before friends and neighbors began stopping by to learn about brewing and taste the results.

We figured if we could use brewing to keep the family together, why couldn’t we use brewing to help connect our community? Once the idea was born, we spent nearly five years putting the business plan together, sourcing the equipment, finding a location, and building out the space.

We opened our doors in June 2014 and set out on our journey to use beer as a mechanism to connect with our community. We do this by seeking opportunities to help worthwhile causes and likeminded businesses in ways that benefit both their businesses and our customers. We host a variety of events every year to benefit local causes and frequently open our tasting room at no charge to food trucks, food vendors, artists, and craftsmen to share their products with our customers. For example, our annual Chilly Days Fundraiser, benefiting the Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, features chili from our local restaurant partners.

The AVFRD likes it because it is their biggest fundraiser of the year. The restaurants like it because they get to talk to potential customers. And our customers like it because they get to taste a variety of tasty chilis while they are sipping on delicious beer.

We feel fortunate that people have identified with our mission. As of this writing we operate a thriving tasting room in Ashburn and distribute our beer to more than 500 restaurants and retailers throughout Northern Virginia and Washington DC in both package and draft formats.

2.  What would it mean to you and your company to win a Small Business Award?

Winning a Small Business Award would be very gratifying because it would mean that Old Ox is recognized as a valuable part of the community.

It would validate the commitment we made to ourselves to not only produce a great product but to use that product to find ways to enrich the lives of our customers and help other small businesses succeed.

3.  If you weren’t running your own business/working at this business, what would you be doing?

We’re a family owned and operated business and each of the four owners has unique skill sets and interests. One thing we would all be doing is battling traffic on our daily commutes to our respective office jobs. Sure glad we’re brewing beer instead!

4.   What book are you reading right now?

I am now reading “A Welcome Grave” by Michael Koryta. It’s a mystery and a real page-turner. The one book that I keep coming back to is “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. When I was very young, I thought it was one of the funniest books I ever read. As an adult I believe it is one of the saddest books I have ever read. This book is all about the reader’s perspective.

5.   If you have 24-hours off, and your family was out of town, what would you do?

After sleeping in to a decadent hour and having a leisurely breakfast, I would head out to stalk a few geocaches. Lots of fun and a pretty healthy activity considering all of the walking involved. Of course I would hit a brewery or two in the afternoon for medicinal purposes only… one must stay hydrated, you know. The evening would be spent binge watching whatever television series I am currently interested in.

6.   What is the smallest thing that has made the largest impact on your business?

Smiling! In any service-based business, customer experience has a critical impact on sales. Beer tastes better when you’re in a good mood so maintaining front line staff that love what they do and engage positively with our guests is the best way to keep those guests happy and coming back for more.

7.  What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?

In grade school I was quite sure I wanted to be a doctor. Freshman year of high school I took my first biology class and dissecting a fetal pig drove all thoughts of a career in medicine out of my head. I was soon bitten by the performing arts bug and dreamed of a career on the stage. Alas, the world was not ready for my performance.

8.  Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?

I was exposed to small business ownership from a young age. My parents owned a small desktop publishing business when I was growing up. I appreciated the flexibility that small business ownership afforded them. They were always there for my siblings and I. Sporting events, PTA, scouts, you name it; they were there. Watching them run a business and balance family life inspired me to be an entrepreneur.

9.  What is your favorite thing about running a business in Loudoun County?

Hands down it is the people. We’ve had some tough times and the good people of Loudoun have been there to rally behind us and show their support. Our goal is to give back to the community that has been so good to us.

10.  If you’re not in the office where can we find you?

I will be out and about visiting one of the many restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries that Loudoun has to offer. We gather great inspiration from talking to all the fantastic people in our industry.

11.  What is your favorite weekend activity in Loudoun County?

Watching youth hockey at the Ashburn Ice House. Go Ashburn Xtreme!!!

 Thank you to Chris Burns, of Old Ox Brewery, and congratulations again! Chris Burns is nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year, and Old Ox Brewery is nominated for Rural Business of the Year.
Register here for the Small Business Awards on November 2, 2017.