A cooper is an occupation that most people may have thought would have disappeared with buggy whip makers and farriers. For the most part, they were correct. In Minneapolis, there used to be numerous cooperages, but over the years, the number declined to where there were only two remaining.
Surprisingly, one of those enterprises dates only from 2007. It was begun by a woman who saw the trend in craft brewing and recognized that it would likely lead to a movement towards craft distilling. And craft distilleries would need barrels, as the creation of fine spirits demands lots of oak barrels.
The construction of barrels is difficult, which creates a barrier to entry in the market. She was lucky in that her father was experienced as a cooper and still had some equipment. Building a barrel is highly skilled task as the staves have to fit precisely together, held only by the metal bands and without glue or other fasteners.
In addition, to function as barrels to age spirits like whiskey, the insides of the barrel must be properly charred, as the charcoaled interior sides play a significant role in flavoring the liquor, and if it is not done correctly, can lead to bitter flavors being imparted to the whiskey.
She began her business small, but quickly expanded as the demand for oak barrels grew, with Minnesota alone now having 14 craft distilleries. Demand overseas for well-known American brands has also driven demand. She now has a 10-month waiting list for her barrel production.
Starting a new business can be tremendously rewarding and exciting. No matter how skilled you are at your occupation, you still may be confused by many legal issues related to starting a business. Checking in with an attorney for help in designing and implementing your businesses organization structure and documents can help place your business on a firm legal foundation.