When Jeff Herbert and his wife, Jen, founded Superstition Meadery in 2012, he’d tasted more of his own homebrewed mead than he had commercial mead. It now seems like a reckless move—imagine opening a brewery having tasted only your own homebrew and a couple bottles of Stella Artois—but it more than worked for this meadery in Prescott, Arizona. That’s a testament to both the infancy of the American mead market just 10 years ago and to Jeff’s skill as a meadmaker. As Superstition’s reputation grew, so did the country’s thirst for mead.
Superstition’s trajectory paralleled (and owes a debt to) the nation’s craft-beer boom, but it’s also a straightforward small-business story. It began with a maxed-out personal credit card and a lease on 18 square feet of space on a winery’s property—yes, that’s 18, not a typo. Just seven years later, the Herberts were named national Small Business Persons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In its announcement, the SBA noted that the Herberts “successfully grew their business, increasing their revenue by more than 160 percent between 2015 and 2017, expanded their staff from nine to 20 employees, and extended their reach into international markets. Jennifer and Jeff truly represent the best of our nation’s small businesses.”
Jeff Herbert credits that success to the very criticism he most often hears about mead: “We took our biggest challenges—mead is really expensive to make and sell, and no one knows what it is—and turned those into our biggest assets.”