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How a Southern Calif. military veteran got crucial funding to launch craft brewery 6 years in the making

November 9, 2017 | Success Story
spechops brewing company

With the discipline and precision of a seasoned soldier, David Casperson transformed his beer obsession into a 6,500-square-foot business, home to a tasting room and manufacturing plant that can brew up to 4,800 pints a day.

The journey to this point has been replete with the usual entrepreneurial challenges, from securing financing to building a support network from scratch. But the Marine Corps veteran was determined to complete the mission.

“I figured I had already beaten the odds,” said Casperson, who served in the Iraq War. “I was a Marine officer, I survived a war, I survived deployments.”

Today, he and his wife, Stephanie, own and oversee Vista, Calif.-based SpecHops Brewing Company, a military-themed brewery that pays homage to vets and other public servants including teachers and first responders.

‘None of this could have happened on our own’

The operation, which opened in the spring, is among an estimated 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., based on data from the U.S. Small Business Administration. As a group, their impact is enormous: Vet-owned firms employ 5.8 million people nationwide.

Casperson said becoming a small business owner, about a 6-year-long process, would not have been possible without some outside help — namely late-stage financing that funded a key equipment upgrade that impacted the opening of the brewery.

“None of this could have happened on our own, including the banking,” he added. “A lot of parts, you have to pull together and stay on top of.”

Craft beer from SpecHops Brewing Company

Turning a passion into a business venture

Casperson’s passion for beer-making began around six years ago, when his wife bought him a home-brewing kit. Being a Marine and stickler for following instructions, he managed to produce “batches of beer that came out very well,” he said.

After completing a brewing course at UC Davis and an internship at a local microbrewery, Casperson recognized the niche industry was poised for growth. He also noticed local universities were beginning to offer beer-making courses to aspiring brewers — creating a potential talent pool for craft-beer businesses.

By 2012, Casperson put his idea to paper. And within three years, he obtained SBA financing through a major lender to fund the build-out of the brewery.

When major banks say no, CDC says yes

Not long after, Casperson realized he needed additional funding to cover an unanticipated expense.

The brewery needed a new electrical panel and other equipment to increase the building’s electrical capacity. Without the improvement, the high-performing boiler wouldn’t be able to operate. And without a boiler, no beer could be brewed, which meant a delayed grand opening.

The bank that offered Casperson the SBA financing was unable to offer more funds but referred him to CDC Small Business Finance as a possible lender.

None of this could have happened on our own, including the banking.

CDC is a small business lender that’s also a non-profit organization. It provides financing to small businesses typically when a traditional bank is unable to provide the funding. CDC — which serves California, Arizona and Nevada — has more flexibility than a bank to meet borrowers’ financing needs.

After speaking with CDC and going through a vetting process, Casperson secured a $90,000 fixed-rate loan for the necessary equipment upgrade and general working capital.

If the financing with CDC had not gone through, he said he likely would have approached an investor. The consequence? Giving up a percentage of his business versus zero percent with a loan.

“We were relieved” the additional funding went through, he said.

How you can get funding, too

CDC Small Business Finance offers several loan options for business owners who want to grow their operations and are planning for their long-term needs.

Also, check out CDC’s VetLoan Advantage. The program – available to vets, active military and spouses – can waive and reduce fees in certain situations. Learn more about CDC’s initiative to mobilize military entrepreneurs.

Tell our loan experts about your business, and they’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you. Let’s talk! Reach us at loaninfo@cdcloans.com or (619) 243-8667.

Related reading: How buying instead of leasing real estate drove growth for vet-owned building contractor

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