Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Dr. Brett Schönekess, Co-Founder, CFO and Master Distiller for Two Pine Ventures Inc.

Have you always worked in the drinks industry?

No. Originally I was in the biotechnology and life sciences industry in drug and medical device development. I then moved into public healthcare as the director of a pharmaceutical and i.v. purchasing, packaging and distribution facility.

Why the change?

I wanted to get back to being in an entrepreneurial space and out of the public health care behemoth.

Where did the idea for Two Pine Ventures come from?

As a scientist, distilling is a natural extension of my love of chemistry and university education. My original idea was to set up a microdistillery in Bragg Creek, AB. Bragg Creek is a vibrant community, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and a gateway to many outdoor sports and activities.

It has bars and restaurants but no brewery or distillery. I ran into some regulatory and development issues, so took a step back and worked with my hiking friend and local businessman and entrepreneur, John Hromyk, to formulate a larger, more comprehensive vision in the spirits space.

And what about the concept of Destination Distilleries?

John was one of the early developers of Destination Wineries in the Okanagan with the Hillside Winery. He saw increased loyalty and improved margins by creating a destination. Wine relies on growing and farming grapes, which is an extra complication we don’t have with distilling. We reviewed John’s experience and just expanded the idea into the spirits space.

The drinks industry is notoriously “recession resilient”. How has it affected Two Pines?

Well this recession is like no other, so some spirit developers, namely craft that rely on visitors at their facilities, have not done well. It's been a challenge for us to keep our sales through the AB distribution system and liquor stores active, and it has handicapped our ability to raise capital. But the demand is definitely there.

We have pushed forward to get listed in B.C. and are now working to open up the B.C. market for SNODAY™. The SNODAY™ brand came from enjoying the outdoors, and Covid has definitely reinforced that. We are expanding our contracts with ski hills this winter and golf courses for the summer, a great way to get more people to sample our products!

Has it changed your growth plans for the next few years? Do you plan to go international?

We have always thought of expanding our number of facilities into many small towns and tourist centred areas in Canada. This would enable us to gain the maximum benefit as a craft distiller from a branding point of view, but would also allow us to access the financial benefits. Internationally, the export of Snoday™ Spirits will be our way to move our spirits worldwide.

Why did you choose equity crowdfunding?

I was intrigued by the concept when it came out and the ASC (Alberta Securities Commission) asked for public comment. I have previously been involved in capital raises via angels, all the way to public market financing, and this mechanism was novel.

The ability to tap into a broader, smaller potential group of investors that were not friends, family or business associates, but also did not require the larger public offering costs and due diligence requirements was a plus. Having previously invested in a company that eventually went on to be crowdfunded via FrontFundr, I was confident in the platform and the mechanism.

Canada, and in particular Alberta, seems to be having a bit of a moment when it comes to spirits and awards. Why do you think that is?

I think it is a recognition of some world class, well developed spirits, great raw ingredients on our doorstep and the fact that the Alberta companies are putting themselves out there to say as much. There is a strong supportive community in our industry.

Can you tell us a bit about the awards Two Pines has won? Will you be entering more competitions?

We’ve won Judges' Choice at the Alberta Food and Beverage Awards for our Snoday™ Vodka in 2019, and in 2020 for our Snoday™ Gin and Single Malt Spirit. We also won a Silver this year for our Vodka, and a Gold for the Gin and Single Malt Spirit at the China Wine and Spirit Awards, which is a rigorous, blind tasting competition. We have picked a few other spirit competitions in Europe to enter, so stay tuned.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I spend all my spare time with my family. We are big into backcountry camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, hunting, skiing and snowshoeing. Lots of mountains were climbed this year especially with Covid restrictions on travel, as we stayed around home and explored more of our mountains and trails in the Bragg Creek area.

What’s your favourite drink to warm you up on a chilly autumn night?

That’s a tough one, but our Snoday™ Single Malt Spirit was perfect as the snow fell last night in Bragg Creek.

What would you say to someone who is planning to invest in Two Pine Ventures?

TPV is a great opportunity for someone wanting to be a part of our distillery. We already own the land, have the approvals, and are ready to build. Distilling our award winning spirits in our distilleries will increase our production and profitability. Our vision is to build world class destinations for local and international visitors (post-Covid) and to support local economic development.

Two Pine Venture’s campaign is now live on FrontFundr. Head over to their campaign page for more information on how you can get involved!