Victory co-founder shares experience with Downingtown students
By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News
DOWNINGTOWN — Some achievements are truly a victory.
Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet, who have been best friends since they met in fifth grade, opened Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown in Feb. 1996, about 15 years after they left for college. Covaleski majored in fine arts at Temple University and he used his graphic arts background to sketch the plans for the bar and restaurant.
Victory is a manufacturing and distribution operation that sells its products in 35 states and six other countries. Additionally, there is a hospitality aspect of the business that involves seating for up to 900 people in its three taprooms.
“Downingtown is the source of all of this,” Covaleski told Downingtown West High School students during the “Career Café.” They opened additional locations in Parkesburg and Kennett Square after overcoming setbacks in becoming entrepreneurs.
After writing out their business plan in January 1994, they began asking friends and family members to buy shares of the company to help start their investment with financial assistance from those shareholders as well as a small business bank loan.
The first setback they experienced that summer had required a name change in their proposed business. They originally called it Independence Brewing because that fit the identity of their business plan that they discovered together when they studied abroad.
“We saw this almost as a second American Revolution. It was almost like breaking away from the colonies and expressing something new here in America with something borrowed from Europe,” said Covaleski, explaining that they learned about the brewing industry and they planned to “bring back all these good ideas and make it happen here. So we felt very independent, we thought that was a strong name for our company.”
He explained they received a letter from Independence Brewing Company attorneys requesting a “cease and desist” use of the name, which was apparently an established business. Covaleski explained it was before the creation of the internet and they did not know about that competition.
The value of the name Victory did not resonate with them until a short time later when he heard a quote from late President Theodore Roosevelt who said in part about a person “who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
While they both already had steady jobs, they felt like they were too young to give up on their idea and live with regret. They changed the business name to Victory with the vision that they were going to succeed.
“It’s also an interesting challenge to give yourself a name that is that forward looking,” said Covaleski, who encouraged the students to look at challenges and obligations as opportunities.
Their business vision remained the same with the idea to make import quality products fresh for a local audience to enjoy in a safe environment. They began with a team of 35 employees and now have 415 employees. Covaleski wore many hats when building the business and he realized that he had to train others to learn certain job responsibilities to sustain the company and allow it to grow. He said while it can be difficult at times to operate at multiple locations, he believes that having employees that are the “heart and glue” of the operation are what makes a business function successfully.