Tequila, Solar Power, And The Small Business Of The Future

Fred Isbell

We’ve suffered through record heat in the Boston area this summer – heat waves of more IMG_0023than 90 degrees and the worst humidity in the 28 years I’ve lived here. I even read in The Washington Post that a city in Iran reached an all-time high of 165 degrees – a world record! I’m not going to go down the rat hole of global warming. However, as temperatures continue to increase worldwide, it’s becoming clear that we need to take a better approach to managing our environment. I hope no one will disagree with me on that.

Technology has always offered options to better manage our world – and sustainability and “green” initiatives are just two of them. Things like electric cars, connected and wired cities, and more seem to offer the promise of better managing and maintaining our world.

Vermont: Taking green beyond the color of the mountains

For years, my son Brian swore he’d never follow me into the “family business.” No, we are not doctors or lawyers. Rather, we come from a long line of sales and marketing professionals. In fact, my father was a publishing sales executive serving the technology industry – a harbinger of my own high tech career. After graduating from Middlebury College, my son gave in to his natural calling and landed a position as an inside sales executive for a growing and prospering software company in Boston.VT 2015

To celebrate, we took a father-and-son weekend a few weeks ago in Vermont. As a Middlebury parent, I have become quite enamored with Vermont. The state is not only the Green Mountain State, but it’s also quite green in the many ways it manages its overall environmental impact.

So when came across a very unique distillery that showcased how truly green Vermont is, I was enthralled. Of course, having some tequila with my son made it all the better!

Small business = Growth business

One of Brian’s classmates works at the Appalachian Gap Distillery in Middlebury, VT.  As a craft distillery, the business advertises spirits made from a solar-powered distillery in the heart of Vermont.  We decided to come for a visit, tour the facility, and spend some time in the tasting room.

From my previous SAP experience with small businesses, I have seen firsthand why they are so critical to the growth of our economy – despite a variety of challenges when managing a growing business.  A small business owner wears more hats than anyone can imagine – from operations and finance to marketing, sales, and customer service.


During our tour, we learned that production is controlled by a series of sensors and iPads that monitor the distillation process. Talk about a modern manufacturing processing using the “3rd Platform,” as IDC calls it!

Even more interesting, distribution and logistics include not only current products sold now to customers, but also whiskey products that need to age in barrels for up to ten years.  This can be quite a complex inventory management process when you consider that the distillery is incurring expenses on a product that will not yield revenues until the year 2025.

While these are traditional small business challenges, the thing that really caught my attention was its solar-powered distillery.

The solar-powered distillery

As someone who, as a kid, enjoyed literally taking apart things to see how they work, I have been dying to get up close and personal with solar technology. Community after community has been installing solar panels to add power from the most ubiquitous and plentiful source we have.  I am forever inspired by my Radnor High School physics professor who ingrained the power of solar energy in me early on – 1,040 watts per square meter.

So it was not surprising to see that Appalachian Gap Distillery has a pretty cool solar story of its own.  Not only is the company producing all of its required power through solar arrays on its company grounds, but it’s also reselling generated power back to other businesses.  I’ve been intrigued by the concept of giving back energy since the first time I rented a Prius, in which energy from braking goes back into the main electrical storage system. Granted, diesel locomotives have done this for years with “dynamic braking,” but that energy is dissipated into a radiator system as heat.

Appalachian Gap Distillery’s approach is better for two reasons:

  1. It’s environmentally responsible.
  2. It supports economic sustainability.

After seeing a small business that is embracing the advantages of the 3rd platform for computing, a sustainable growth path, and solar power, I was very excited to have shared this day with my son. And for the record, I exercised complete responsibility in the tasting room since I was the designated driver. However, I learned well enough to take home a couple of bottles of the distillery’s awesome tequila for the next time I mix up a batch of margaritas. There’s nothing like mixing work and fun and celebrating what I hope is a new era of green and environmental responsibility fueled and managed by technology and innovation!

Find out how SAP is a perfect example of how back-end systems can help manage this for a business – and ultimately a community, country, and world economy. Visit our sustainability solutions area on SAP.com solutions and see how SAP Service & Support can help you on the journey to a sustainable, innovative future.

Fred M. Isbell is the senior director and head of thought leadership for SAP Services and Support Marketing.

FMI BNSF Aug 2015







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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.