David and Clare Hulama started Round Rock’s first (and, as of now, only) manufacturing tier craft brewery in 2014. It all started with David’s immense passion for homebrewing and the couple’s desire to establish a place where families can enjoy the craft brewery scene in Round Rock. That’s why in 2009, David quit his job and went to The University of California at Davis to undergo a six-month long Master Brewers program. According to Clare, “We always knew that he was good at brewing beer, but sending him to the program was the tipping point for us.” At UC-Davis, David honed his skills and obtained his Dipl.Brew certification, which paved the road to establishing Bluebonnet Beer Company.
When David returned from UC-Davis, a timely phone call from a previous colleague brought him back to Dell. However, the couple was determined to never leave themselves wondering “what if?” David and Clare knew that if they didn’t start their brewery now then they would never do it. This drove them to finding a location for the brewery and hiring a legal team to assist with the state and federal licensing. “We didn’t know what licensing we needed; we didn’t know anything about starting a business, but the Round Rock Chamber and City of Round Rock were very helpful in getting the information we needed,” according to Clare.
However, starting a business is a process, and David and Clare learned firsthand that “there is no manual on how to start a business, especially when you don’t know what you don’t know.” They did as much research as they could and learned along the way. Early on, they did not have any mentors in the craft brewing industry, namely because their mentors would see the Hulamas as their competitors. Instead, the two learned on their own and did almost all of the start up work—including building their own website—by themselves.
After a year and a half of being open, the couple has been able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. “I like the fact that we get our friends and neighbors to come out and show us support. It encourages us that we’re doing something good that the community enjoys,” David said. However, when reflecting on owning a company, they admit that it is more work than people may expect. “I won’t say that it’s given us any more freedom yet. It seems like we are still working around the clock,” said Clare, “but it’s worth it. There’s nothing better than seeing somebody enjoy what you do.”
When asked what advice they would give other entrepreneurs, they kept it simple: Do your homework and start sooner (and with more money!). They warned that things are always more expensive and take a lot longer than you expect. They also noted that when it comes to money, not everyone is willing to take a chance on you. “When you’re starting your business, you think that it’s a great idea and people will get behind you. But, then you meet with those realities and it doesn’t feel so good. So, we started a lot smaller than we had anticipated,” said David. However, the couple claims that it taught them how to run a business at a smaller scale, which was a valuable lesson. They noted that the smaller operation allowed them to learn how to run their business with less at stake.
The idea for Bluebonnet Beer Company was always in the back of their minds. With their hard work and perseverance, David and Clare Hulama have moved the company from mind to market, creating a place for the community to enjoy classically-styled beers made right here in Round Rock.