Shyla Sheppard, co-founder of Bow & Arrow Brewing Company, has mastered the art of the pivot. When the pandemic hit, she bought a canning line. Sheppard is holding Bow & Arrow’s new beer-wine hybrid “With Love from New Mexico” Golden Sour Ale. (Bow & Arrow Instagram)
A member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Shyla Sheppard grew up in rural North Dakota, in a community so small it had no post office or gas station.
Her grandfather raised buffalo and would take Shyla and her cousins out on the prairie. “He would tell us: ‘You see how thick the buffalo’s fur is on the front of their body? Did you know that in the fiercest blizzards and storms, they turn to face the storm?’ He taught us that in life, you’re going to face challenges, but ‘be like the buffalo. You don’t run away from it, you don’t turn away from it, you face it.’ It makes a lot of sense now, and I really try to emulate that,” Sheppard recently shared on Seneca Women podcast.
Today Sheppard is an unstoppable force in the craft beer industry. She studied economics at Stanford University, went on to work in venture capital and impact investing, and eventually made a big leap, establishing her successful brewery and taproom in Albuquerque. Bow & Arrow Brewing Company officially opened its doors for business in February 2016.
Bow & Arrow Brewery makes small-batch brews often infused with Southwestern ingredients like roasted blue corn or wild sumac berries. Bow & Arrow’s co-founder is Sheppard’s wife Missy Begay, Diné, raised on the Navajo Nation, who serves as the brewery and tap room’s Creative Director; the pair met while students at Stanford.
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Four years later, the coronavirus pandemic threw a curve ball in their business model that heavily relies on in-person patronage.
“The bread and butter of our revenue was through the beer hall — people coming in and buying beer by the glass or filling growlers,” Sheppard recently shared on Seneca Women podcast episode “Lessons in Facing Challenges Head-On: Shyla Sheppard, of Bow and Arrow Brewery.”
She was also in the process of opening her offsite taproom, Bow & Arrow Rambler Taproom, in the Four Corners area when COVID hit. “So that led to a huge pivot for us,” she says.
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But Sheppard isn’t one to give up or overly identify with the problem. She faces the storm, doesn’t turn away, and envisions a solution.
Sheppard seized the opportunity to bring her products to customers in new ways. The pandemic “has forced me to not let uncertainty paralyze my decision making, but really to focus on: What can I control? What can I do?” Sheppard asks.
In June, Bow & Arrow purchased its first canning line to make its craft brews more accessible to fans across the Southwest. Sheppard focused on increasing production of her in-demand beers, such as Bolos & Bling, a dry hopped IPA, for third-party sales through Whole Foods, Total Wine and various local bottle shops.
And she momentarily put plans for her satellite Four Corners tap room on the back-burner. “I’m still figuring out how and when that happens,” Sheppard says. “The current public health order restrictions are allowing for only 50% of patio sales and that location has no patio.”
Ultimately, encountering and navigating around difficulties have only honed Sheppard’s entrepreneurial resilience. “Why get worked up about something? Let’s focus on the solution and keep moving forward” is her modus operandi.
Visit Bow & Arrow Brewing at 608 McKnight Ave NW Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102. The outdoor patio is open modified hours, and food trucks are on site Wednesdays through Sundays. Fans can also order beer-to-go online for patio pickup.