Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Gregg Billmeyer of Columbia, Illinois, knows the beer industry. Twenty-eight years in beer marketing and sales with Anheuser-Busch InBev in St. Louis, Missouri, acquainted him well with the market and spurred him to notice unique, entrepreneurial opportunities.
In 2016, Billmeyer started Quest Beverages to introduce Americans to craft beers from Mexico.
“We noticed three main trends — the growth of the Latino demographic in the U.S., the growth of Mexican imports like Corona and Modelo, and the growth of craft brands,” said Billmeyer, a 1983 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in marketing and minors in management and speech communication. “When you combine these three trends, introducing craft beer from Mexico made a lot of sense.”
Billmeyer and the Quest team — consisting of two additional former Anheuser-Busch employees, logistics executive Mike Redohl and master brewer Dan Driscoll, and Mexico-based finance executive Eduardo Muniz — met with Mexican brewers and attended craft beer festivals in Mexico to develop the perfect, best Mexican craft beers to launch their business.
Today, Quest packs and exports four beers from Cerveza Urbana and Cerveza Rrëy throughout Missouri; Houston, Texas; the Chicago, Illinois, metropolitan area; and Los Angeles, California.
On starting his own company:
The idea of starting a business has always been very exciting to me, and if you have an idea that you think is marketable, it’s fairly easy to get things started. For our business specifically, given that we are operating in the alcohol space, there were a lot of regulatory filings, licenses, etc. to apply for which can get complicated. But I want to build these brands into the biggest Mexican craft brands in the U.S., and what’s not to like about being in the beer business? While competition is very intense and it’s a very crowded market, it’s a very fun product and business to be involved in.
When you own your own business, you wear a lot of different hats. You get involved at both the strategic and tactical level. If you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, you should really develop a general manager set of skills.
On his favorites moments thus far:
It is probably when we decided to go forward with our idea. To be honest, we were on a boat in the Caribbean when we formed the basic idea for our company. So the process of taking it from an idea to actually visiting Mexico several times to meet with brewers and then ultimately seeing our beers in bars and grocery stores, the whole journey has been pretty exciting.
On his time at Southeast:
Southeast is unique. I think you get a major college experience with a personal touch. The professors are accessible, the class sizes are manageable and the classes are practical so you can get as much out of the experience as you want. I think Southeast did a good job of preparing me for the future.
On advice for Southeast students:
To current and future students, I would say get involved as much as you can and experience everything and stretch yourself — whether it’s sports, academic clubs, social organizations or just meeting lots of new people. Specifically, I would recommend taking a minor that will stretch and challenge you to learn a different set of skills than your core interest. It will make you more well-rounded. And enjoy the overall experience because while the pressure you feel to manage your class load and make grades can be a grind, you definitely will look back on these times as some of the best of your life. For graduates, I would say build and maintain relationships. Stay involved with the University at some level, and network –use your experiences and connections and leverage those to point you in a direction you want to follow.