Mark Laack was born in Killeen and graduated from Copperas Cove High School in 1997 and from Baylor University in 2002. He started his own graphic design business, Maverick Arts, in 2005.
The business helps create custom apparel and promotional products, Laack said.
It specializes in military unit patches, T-shirts and coins. Laack has designed coins for the governor of Texas.
Looking for another business venture, Laack tapped into craft brewing, a 16-year hobby.
“I never really did think it was something that would become my business,” he said.
Laack started Black Hawk Brewing Supply with his mother in March 2012, opening a store at 582 E. Central Texas Expressway, Harker Heights. The store sells ingredients and supplies for making home brews, wine, cheese and sausage. It also has a selection of beer- and wine-related gifts, including about 20 T-shirts.
Laack recently talked about why he turned his hobby into a thriving business with Herald Business Editor Mason W. Canales.
How long did you have the hobby of home brewing before you decided to make it a business?
Brewing for about 14 years and wine making for three years.
What made you want to turn your hobby into a business?
I was looking for a next venture after spending the previous seven years building my custom apparel and graphic design business, Maverick Arts. I wanted my second business to be something that I was passionate about, while still maintaining my first business.
My mother also was looking for a new project, so we decided to go into business together.
We realized our shared hobbies, home brewing, was the one with the greatest potential for being successful as a business.
My parents have been home brewing for close to two decades, and we saw an opportunity to fill a niche market using everything we had learned and observed at other home-brewing supply stores over the years.
Was there something that surprised you about running a business that you didn’t anticipate?
How much I enjoy running the shop and all the great people we have met.
Many of our regular customers have become great friends.
It amazes me how they are willing to jump in and help in the shop when we are busy.
Are there any tricks-of-the-trade you would like share, when it comes to operating your own business?
The main advice I would give is to find something you are passionate about. You need to love what you are doing.
Your customers will be able to tell if you are not excited about what you are selling.
At the end of the day when you come home, do you still have a passion for home brewing and crafting your own beers?
I am more passionate about beer and wine today than I was before I started the business.
Being around the ingredients and equipment every day gives me great ideas for new beers and wines.
It is that plus the enthusiasm for our shared hobby that I get from our customers.
As a niche market, has it been hard to attract people to your business and hobby? And how did you cope with finding new customers?
Selling brewing and wine making is fairly easy. Eventually, anyone who loves craft beer or fine wine thinks about taking up the hobbies.
Our biggest challenge is constantly letting people know we are here.
As it is a niche market, we have to advertise locally and in nationwide specialty publications.