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Dover business partners brew a plan for success

Union Leader Correspondent

October 22. 2017 10:35PM
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tours 7th Settlement Brewery on Friday with Warren Daniel, Seacoast regional director for the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, left, and co-owners David Boynton, center, and Josh Henry. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

DOVER — David Boynton and Josh Henry are risk-takers, but so far their business decisions have paid off.

The owners of 7th Settlement Brewery, who had little cash of their own when they opened their farm-to-table brewpub at 47 Washington St. in November 2013, have already expanded from 12 to 45 employees.

But growth is just part of the story.

Boynton and Henry are the ones who made the bold decision to become a tip-free establishment in September.

They had many reasons for doing away with the traditional method of tipping waitstaff in the restaurant business. For starters, Boynton says it addressed the problem of inequity in pay between servers and kitchen staff.

Among other things, he argues that tipping promotes discrimination and harassment and really doesn’t influence quality of service.

The switch to no tipping has made pay for employees predictable, Boynton said, adding that they’ve now moved to full-time hourly positions with earned paid time off and health benefits. The business also now offers a profit-sharing program.

Their business model caught the attention of many, including U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who stopped by Friday to tour the restaurant and brewery, and talk small business tax reform and workforce development with Boynton, Henry and Warren Daniel, Seacoast regional director for the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center.

“Having small business values and principles represented when you’re talking about national policy change, whether it be tax reform or workforce innovation or funding of small businesses or business programs like the (Small Business Development Center), that is incredible, and that’s what we hope carries through,” said Boynton, who grew up on a farm in northern New Hampshire.

Boynton said he and Henry had about $5,000 each when they began pursuing the idea of opening the brewpub. They ended up using what Boynton described as a “creative mosaic of funding” to get the business plan off the ground.

The SBDC helped them set up funding. Boynton said they started with crowdfunding and pre-sales. They also received assistance from a federally funded community development block grant through the Dover Economic Loan Program, received a similar loan from the Strafford Economic Development Corp., and got a local bank loan.

Boynton said they’ve since refinanced with another bank through the state’s Business Finance Authority for what is now a nearly $1 million investment.

Shaheen said she was impressed by the growth in employees and their business plan that’s included bringing in locally sourced products and networking with others in the area.

Most of the menu is sourced from local farmers and fishermen, while the rest comes from local distributors.

She also commended them on their switch to a tip-free business, which required the brewpub to raise its prices from 16 to 21 percent.

“It’s exciting to be able to look at a small business that says, ‘We’re going to change the model for how we pay our employees. We’re not going to tip them anymore, we’re going to pay them what they’re worth. We’re going to provide health benefits. ... We’re going to make this a career for people in the service business,” said Shaheen, a ranking member of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee.

Warren also praised Boynton and Henry for their efforts to communicate their values.

“They communicate their ideals to the general public, especially to their customers. They did this with a lot of planning, a lot of financial planning. It was risky, there’s no question about it,” he said.

Shaheen also made her push for a less costly and complicated federal tax code for small businesses. She says the tax system is so confusing that most small businesses must use outside tax preparers to fill out forms and file returns. Boynton said they spend about $15,000 a year.

Shaheen said she often hears small businesses complain about the complexity of the system and how it costs them time and money.

Small business owners also want equity. She said most of the ones she’s met aren’t complaining about how high their taxes are, but about making sure large corporations are paying their fair share as well.

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