Jun 01, 2015 - 11:00am

Chamber Quarterly Special Edition: Tapping the Potential of a Business Dream

Former Managing Editor, Digital Content


At the age of 25, Michael Francis left his engineering career path to chase his dream. “I love making beer,” says the founder of Payette Brewing Company. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

2015 Northwest Regional Finalist

Payette Brewing Company
Michael Francis, Founder
Garden City, Idaho

NOTE: It is time to nominate businesses for the 2016 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, and community involvement is a key component. Payette Brewing Company – a 2015 DREAM BIG finalist – launched “Payette Forward,” a charitable program that donates sales on a given night to nonprofits. Apply for the 2016 award and challenge businesses in your community to donate time, money, or resources through #bizgiving on Twitter.

Payette Brewing Company has become Idaho’s second-largest brewery because its team members are never satisfied with the status quo. It has become a standout among stiff competition thanks to its quality product and “Payette Forward” charitable giving program.

How did the company get started?

Michael Francis, even before earning an industrial engineering degree at the University of Washington and landing a job at Boeing, always knew he would end up back home in Boise, Idaho, running his own business.

But that business and path forward were unclear—until Michael received a Christmas gift from his brother, the book Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

At the age of 25, Michael took a leap, quit his job, and started his road back to Boise. He first moved to Chicago to receive brewing training at the Siebel Institute of Technology before returning to Seattle for more hands-on work with Schooner Exact Brewery. On the opening day of the NCAA basketball tournament in 2009, Michael spent the entire day with his brother in a Chicago sports bar, watching basketball and outlining a business plan.

Michael then moved back to Boise and spent months finding investors to ensure that the lucky day would finally arrive: Payette Brewery delivered its first keg on Friday, May 13, 2011. “I love making beer,” Michael says. “It’s a fun industry to be in and really rewarding. And in the end you can drink your product.”


Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce
My No.1 lesson is to listen to everything everyone has to say and ignore most of it. … But at least you can take bits and pieces from everyone, and try to put together your own opinion and your own plan.
Michael Francis

What is the brewery’s role in community involvement?

ThePayette Forward” charitable program, which includes Kegs4Kause and Payette Forward IPA, has made a difference for area nonprofits. “Giving back to where we live and making Boise a better place is really important to us,” Michael says. With Kegs4Kause, Payette donates 50% of its proceeds from beer sales in the tasting room on a given night to a nonprofit.

The company also has a connection with the Idaho way of life. “About a year and a half into the business, we started putting our beer into 6 packs,” Michael says. “We chose to do cans because it fits the Idaho lifestyle: Everyone likes to get out—ride their bikes, camp, hike, fish, raft the rivers. Those are all places you can’t take glass.”

A River Runs Through It

Francois Payette was a fur trader who explored the area, and Michael grew up kayaking on the Payette River.


In summer 2015, there are plans to break ground on a $6.5 million project to expand the brewing facility, offices, and tasting room. The company wants to increase its market share in Oregon and Utah, where the brand is relatively new, before expanding into Washington state, Montana, and Wyoming in 2016. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are next on the radar.




The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam's Club, celebrates the success of small business and honors its contributions to America's economic growth. The winner, seven regional finalists and 100 Blue Ribbon winners will be acknowledged on June 9 during America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.

About the Author

About the Author

Former Managing Editor, Digital Content

Eric Nelson is the former managing editor of digital content at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.