Did you know that cider isn’t supposed to be sweet?

Austin Eastciders is on a mission: to change the way Americans think about cider, one pint at a time. The Texas-based cidery produces ciders with apples sourced from Europe and uses white wine yeast to create sparkly beverages that are more effervescent than the bubbly sugary ones Americans are more familiar with drinking.

Launched in 2013 with the goal of making America fall in love with cider all over again, Austin Eastciders has since grown into a nationally recognized brand. ForceBrands caught up with CEO Johnny Heiselberg to chat about team culture and hiring strategies — because the only thing more valuable than an outstanding product made with wholesome ingredients is a team made up of talented, purposeful people who are passionate about selling it.

ForceBrands: How would you describe your company culture?
Johnny Heiselberg: Caring, candid, and always striving to do better.

FB: Building a great team is no easy task. What qualities do you look for in your ideal hire?
FH: It varies a little by role and seniority but there are a few core traits that are fairly universal with the ‘A players’ on our team:

  • Drive: being ambitious for self and for the team
  • Candor: having the courage to share what needs to be shared in a constructive manner and of course the humility to genuinely listen to candid feedback as well
  • Optimism: things evolve very quickly in our environment. Ambiguity is inherent in our journey. Optimism and belief fuels momentum and will get us “there.” There is no room for fear of failure
  • Energy: lots and lots of it!

FB: What’s been the most memorable moment in your time at Austin Eastciders?
JH: There have been lots of highlights: The opening night of our new cidery; shipping that first order to New York City; seeing our billboards all over Austin; sponsoring a metal show (and watching all the metalheads cradling cans of our Blood Orange) — and many, many more highlights. Overall, though it’s been the incredible pace of growth. We shipped our first can of our original cider in January 2015. I was employee No. 9 in March 2015 and now we are at more than 60 employees. In July 2016, we were headquartered in a 20-foot shipping container and we’ve since expanded to 35,000 square feet. In 2015, we expanded into our third state, New York, and we’ve since expanded into more than 10 different states across the country.

FB: Who inspires you? Do you have any words to live by?
JH: A hero of mine is Winston Churchill. So, let’s go with, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

FB: What’s the perfect way to enjoy Austin Eastciders?
JH: You can’t go wrong with a pint of our original cider. I also enjoy our Blood Orange Cider with a splash of tequila or our original cider with some bitters.

FB: What’s next for Austin Eastciders?
JH: We’ll continue our mission to bring great craft cider to the masses. We’ve sent our first shipment to beautiful Tennessee in 2017 and plan to expand into 8-10 states by April 2018. Our focus is on investing in our Marketing and Sales infrastructure to support this growth. In November, we opened a tasting room, The Collaboratory, at our original cidery on the east side of Austin. We are so excited to share who we are in 3D (as opposed to merely in a can or keg) that we are actively looking at real estate for a second tasting room location in Dallas. So, stay tuned!