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Heidi Dalibor is the co-CEO and founder of New Barons Brewing Cooperative (NBBC). She is also the General Manager of the brewery's taproom, 2018 S. 1st St.
"We are Wisconsin's only cooperative brewery and our two main pillars are community and beer, more specifically – lagers," says Dalibor. "We are more than a production facility and a taproom; our mantra is that we care just as much about what is going on around a pint glass as what is in it."
Dalibor grew up in Grafton and currently resides in Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood. She started the brewery with John Degroote in 2017 and opened their present-day location in 2020.
OnMilwaukee recently had the opportunity to chat with Dalibor and ask her eight questions based on the "8 Abilities" that all students achieve with an Alverno degree: Communication, Analysis, Problem Solving, Valuing in Decision-Making, Social Interaction, Developing a Global Perspective, Aesthetic Engagement and Effective Citizenship.
What does active listening mean to you? Do you consider yourself a good listener, and if so, how has this helped you in your personal and professional relationships?
To me, actively listening means actually hearing. Hearing not only the words they are saying, but how a person is feeling and what their experience has been. I think to do this you need to completely hear someone out while being present and mindful before starting to fill in pieces yourself based on assumptions or your own experience. This has been something I sometimes can do really well and other times really poorly. It is something I actively have to work on and I find myself stopping to remind myself to slow down, shut up and listen.
What was the last subject you were curious about and then pursued to learn more? How did you pursue it?
Oh, there are so many! I've found leading a business means constantly getting excited about learning new things. I'd like to learn more ways to realize the mission of using beer to bring people together to create and support our community. I pursue that through outreach and conversation. In addition, we are currently looking at expansion, which is such a multi-faceted subject and project. I am learning how to create a phase-two business plan and how to raise money for a build-out that will be a much bigger undertaking than our original plan and space. The brewing industry is collaborative in nature; I've sought out guidance and insight from other brewery owners as well as my own business partner and our Board of Directors. There is also definitely a 'learn as you go' aspect to any small business and more than a few times I've learned a lot from mistakes I've made.
If you can’t figure something out yourself, what source or person do you turn to first? How long do you wait before you ask for help? As a woman, do you think you wait longer to reach out?
I am lucky to have several incredible support systems, both professionally and personally. My business partner, John, has helped me many times and is often my first go-to. When it is service industry or event specific, I have a really large network in Milwaukee. It's an incredible community when it comes to industry and we are all there for each other. I would say when it comes to my professional life there are definitely times it takes me longer to reach out for help as a woman. There is an unfortunate sense of having to prove yourself in such a male-dominated industry. In my personal life, I used to be pretty bad at asking for help or support, but as I get older it comes much easier to me. Often times, keeping things in or to yourself will usually be a disservice not only to yourself, but to those around you.
What are your personal values? Who and/or what inspired them and how do these values affect your decision-making process?
There are many, but acceptance and inclusion of everyone is a big one for me. My mom was big in instilling this in me. We were the house you could go to when you were in trouble and she was a mom to so many more than me and my siblings. She didn't care who you were, what your background was, if you were struggling with addiction, had a rough family life, were lost in life or down and out for any reason – she offered a space for you. She also created a space for celebration and joy and support. I think that is one of the biggest influences I've had on how I am today. I thrive on bringing people together and also want to lift others up. I don't want anyone to be left out. I bring that into New Barons as much as I can. I work to make our taproom a place for everyone, all are welcome. These values affect who I work with – or won't work with. They affect what charities we support, what events we host or events we attend. We operate under a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to hate.
Technology and on-line communication/meetings/social has definitely changed over the years. Do these things help or hinder your growth – or both?
Professionally, I rely on technology quite a bit. It is very helpful to have virtual meetings and communication. The way the world operates now, social media feels like a necessity when it comes to business. It has helped us get the word out about NBBC, how we communicate with people and how we advertise. I do enjoy getting to share with others online what we are doing at the brewery and inviting others into our community. Personally, it's a mixed bag. I see a really ugly side to social media and it has definitely affected my mental health in a negative way at times. You rarely see the less-than-perfect realities of people's lives on social media and it can be isolating and ugly. People are truly foul to each other online.
On the flip side, I've seen it help people feel less alone when others share their stories. I have learned a lot of things online. I have found connection with others through mutual interests or experience. I do wish it wasn't so all-engrossing; screen time has replaced a lot of organic human connection. As helpful as it is now, I'm really glad it wasn't around when I was a kid/teen/young adult.
Where is the furthest you’ve traveled and what is a thing or two you learned from the experience? And what surprised you?
The furthest I have traveled from home is Ireland, but I learned the most on a trip to the US Virgin Islands. For part of that trip, I was traveling solo. I think traveling alone taught me so much about who I am and how I interact with the world around me. My favorite thing about travel is learning all the different ways that people live and how they view life. Time feels different in some places, the different foods you can try are incredible and the people you meet imprint on you. Maybe not a surprise, but it always brings back to my attention that there are so many paces of life in the world and the US culture seems to be far behind so many countries when it comes to things like the care of its people and work/life balance.
What are your favorite art forms? How do you challenge yourself to actively engage in the arts?
Hands down, music. Music is so personal and an incredible universal language. I think it is one of the most powerful things on earth. I played some instruments when I was a kid and used to sing quite a bit, but these days I engage by watching live music as much as possible. There is no better shot of serotonin or feeling of connection with myself or others than at a show. If we are talking about visual art, my favorite is any kind of street art. I saw a study a few years ago that stuck in my head about how the world is literally less colorful because of technology and automation. How terrible is that?! I absolutely love seeing murals, hand-painted signs or sculptures in the middle of a city block.
How do you/your work move Milwaukee forward?
Bringing people together is so important and is how we keep moving forward. There are so many things driving people apart right now and I want to keep creating space and reasons for meaningful connection. Cooperative business is all about leaning on each other, helping your neighbor and giving a voice to it's members. Milwaukee is such an incredible city filled with inspiring people. I look forward to every chance I get to use New Barons to contribute to it.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.