From Foodie to Malt Brewer: Andrea Stanley’s Story

February 29, 2024

March is Women’s History Month and as part of our mission we are highlighting stories of women-owned businesses past and present. Recently, we interviewed Andrea Stanley, the visionary founder and CEO of Valley Malt in Holyoke, MA. Her entrepreneurial dream was sparked by a passion to connect craft brewers to local agriculture.

In this article, Andrea shares her journey, challenges, and opportunities that helped her succeed. Dive into this inspiring interview to learn how she collaborated with New Valley Bank to build her dream business and learn how you can connect your business with the resources you need to grow and thrive!

1. What inspired you to start your own business, and how did you get started?

The craft beer and local food movement in the early 2000’s inspired me to think about where food and beverages are made and how. I had been interested in all the fun ways that farms and businesses in Western Massachusetts were growing, making, and marketing locally produced goods and wanted to be a part of that exciting movement. When I realized that I could help connect a craft brewer to local agriculture by starting a malthouse and being the “middle man” I thought I was onto something that could really benefit both local farms and local breweries.

2. Can you share a bit about the early days of your entrepreneurial journey?

I vividly remember being so invigorated by this new idea to start a malthouse that I would stay up late to write the business plan and research everything I possibly could about malting and brewing. It felt as though I had been bit by a “malt bug” and I could not stop thinking about it and how to make this vision a reality.

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur, and how did you navigate through them?

When I started Valley Malt, I was still nursing my 6-month-old and had a 4- and 2-year-old. I was physically exhausted, as most parents of young kids are. I realized early on that the demanding world of entrepreneurship is not terribly accessible to mothers of young children. Part of my journey as an entrepreneur and parent is the ongoing balancing act of nurturing both my family and my business. It never feels like a perfect balance because there is never enough time in each day or week but I have grown to accept that this is a normal challenge that most working parents feel.

My 4-year-old is now 18 and she possesses a lot of entrepreneurial qualities that will help her navigate her career path with confidence and purpose. It has been rewarding to see that my work ethic and risk taking as a female entrepreneur has rubbed off in a positive way on my kids.

4. What are some key milestones and successes your business has achieved?

When the New York Times wrote an article about Valley Malt in 2012, we could not believe that our story was being told in such a mainstream newspaper. This is when we realized that perhaps Valley Malt was not just a “proof of concept” but more of a main player within the craft beer movement.

5. Are there any projects or initiatives you are particularly proud of?

Our new facility in Holyoke is something I am particularly proud of. We built it during the pandemic while supply chain issues were at their worst. It was a very stressful and uncertain time, but seeing it through from a vision to reality is so rewarding.

6. How does your business contribute to the local community, especially in supporting and empowering women?

Although we operate within the male-dominated industry of beer and farming, our production and office staff are comprised primarily of women. We feel that by providing well paid work for women in manufacturing, we are contributing to the future we want to see.

7. What advice do you have for other women considering entrepreneurship or aiming to grow their businesses?

Take calculated risks. You cannot succeed without taking risks but make sure that the risks you are taking are the right ones for you and your business.

8. How has working with New Valley Bank contributed to the growth and success of your business?

My cousin owns a brewery in New Hampshire and I was always jealous of how she talked about her banker. Someone who understood and loved her business model and wanted to support its success within their community. When we were introduced to New Valley Bank & Trust in 2019, I finally felt like we had found our banking partner. Having this kind of relationship with your bank is a very special thing.

9. Which financial solutions or services played a crucial role in your business development?

Receiving a GAP loan in 2021 to help us build a grant-funded Grain Hub was crucial for our business. It is this kind of trusting relationship that allows us to go after opportunities as they present themselves, which in turn, has allowed for us to succeed beyond what we thought possible for a business of our size.

At New Valley Bank & Trust, we work together to connect your business with the resources you need to grow and thrive. Contact us to explore your lending options today.

Share Blog

From Foodie to Malt Brewer: Andrea Stanley’s Story