As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Stipp.
Maria Stipp is the Chief Executive Officer of Stone Brewing (joined Stone in September 2020), the ninth largest crafter brewer in the U.S. She oversees the company’s East and West Coast brewing production facilities and its bistro and tap room locations, as well as distribution to more than 40 countries. As a female CEO and leader, Stipp continues to help Stone grow into an industry powerhouse while also maintaining the company’s stellar sustainability initiatives and impact on the greater community.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m certain if you would have asked me this even a few months ago, I might have shrugged my shoulders and said “luck?!” Now after some time to think it through there is a reason I’ve returned to the beer business, specifically craft brewing. I’ve been consistently struck by the people. I have friends I’m in touch with consistently from my early days at Miller, my days at Lagunitas and now at Stone. Saying you have friends in the industry you work may not be novel. However, for me, my personal bar of being “friends” is a high one and I’ve met some incredible people in this business. Why this is, I’m not sure. But that response is attached to a different question!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
For me, I had to learn confidence. My gut and mind pointed me toward the right answer in most all cases but my confidence to either speak up, stand for something unpopular or upset the direction I was getting from my superior was difficult. I think I can say with certainty that my parents had something to do with this issue! Not that they are bad folks, in fact, very much amazing people. The fact is they are 89 and 92 and the generational difference of women in the workplace is substantial. For context, my mother graduated from high school in 1950. I had to learn on my own how to stand up for myself and get my voice. I hope I can help other women through this journey as it seems many of us gals have weird gag orders for all kinds of reasons!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I’ve been told by my close friends that I am a workaholic. I never appreciated that term as I felt I would always put my family and friends first. However, for a period of my life, I certainly didn’t. To be clear, I didn’t have a fall-back plan, meaning my money was the only money. So you could say I was a workaholic or you could say that I did what I did because I needed to support my family. In addition to that, I have been really fortunate to work in roles that were really FUN. It wasn’t always fun, mind you, but I have had roles that challenged me in a good way. So the combo of NEED and CHALLENGE drove me.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
So true, grit is king. So many memories of times that it would have felt better in that moment to quit. But to what end? I’ve seen others quit and be happy for the decision and then email me asking about job openings. To respond to “how are things going today”- Things are going better now than ever. I have a true sense of being myself, leading with what’s best for the company and people top of mind and not having so much insecure baggage to carry around. I love the memories of my career but I’m not so sure I’d like to relive it!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was invited to present at the largest account top to top meeting with other much higher superiors in attendance. I realized the morning of the meeting that I forgot my dress shoes. I wore my running shoes with my suit and I looked ridiculous. When I got to the venue I immediately apologized for my silly appearance. In that moment I became popular to the client…we laughed and started talking like real people. It wasn’t about the top brass meeting the top brass but transitioned to real people talking like real people. There is power in mistakes.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Stone stands out because it’s not a traditional beer company and it’s not a traditional craft beer company. When you meet the people, they are outstanding talents. They could work anywhere. Their pride drives their excellence and it’s not as much about being a craft beer company than it is to deliver an AMAZING BEER EXPERIENCE. Go to one of our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations in San Diego and you’ll get it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would say balance is important. I would also say one day at a time. Beer has been around for 10,000+ years so I think we can take a few days off and things will be okay. Also, we don’t have to solve every issue the day its created. I’m convinced we can take a few days for that!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I always say my dad is 92 and still my hero. He put me to work mowing 5 acres of a lawn at 10. I detasseled corn at 13 (look it up). I had a job on my 16th birthday. He was wealthy but it never defined him or the family and literally no one ever knew it in his circle of friends. He was self-made. He didn’t have to tell people his accomplishments. All he really wanted was for his family to be happy and successful enough to support their own family. A depression kid is different than a millennial. I’m so happy to have been raised by a depression kid with a heart the size of Texas.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is a work in progress! I think my kids will bring so much goodness to the world and I can hope that my influence will help them do this in a way that is meaningful. I also make sure to respond to these types of opportunities so I can pass along what I’ve learned and hopefully inspire others.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
This could take me a week to answer so I’ll do the first part of the 5 things I wish someone would have told me first:
1. When you feel alone, ask for HELP. 2. When your friends ask for attention, give it. 3. When you get direction you don’t agree with, ask yourself first if it’s wrong or just wrong to you? 4. When you see yourself working harder than the people to the left and right, feel GOOD about it. And 5. When you find love, you’re sitting on a gold mine, take good care of it.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
I’ve worked for the sum totally of 6 founders so far. This territory comes with highs and lows so know that in advance. The low was saying goodbye to a friendship and the high was learning from a person that didn’t have the mental boundaries that I was born with. Super challenging some days, incredibly rewarding other days and once in a while really, really hard. I wouldn’t change a thing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Movements should be saved for really important things like racial justice or defining moments of our humanity. I’m not sure I’m worthy of this question. I suppose if there is one person out there struggling with being proud of who they are, call me. I was the weirdo in my family, circle of friends, etc. Hint: the nerdy weirdos have value and I’ve found they make pretty fantastic leaders because we have SERIOUS and LEARNED EMPATHY.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Stonebrewing.com and @stonebrewing on socials.