Alumni Give Now »
UW-Whitewater Image

Henry Schwartz BBA and B.A. ’11

Arndt 450x450Award recipient Henry Schwartz Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

Written by Kristine Zaballos | Photos by Craig Schreiner and submitted

Henry Schwartz would like you to know about his team.

“I love creating, and I love being able to see and have a team around me who come up with cool concepts. This joy first hit me in 2016 when two members of my team saw a problem, brainstormed a solution, presented it to the rest of us, and then implemented a solution. I didn't even know there was a problem and they implemented a solution! That made me realize we had a great team.

While MobCraft Beer’s success story may seem to be about an appealing product and the unique idea behind it, it’s really about a great team — and the leadership and entrepreneurial mindset that has allowed it to meet the challenges of a competitive environment, a changing industry and the pandemic, among others.

Schwartz, who earned a BBA in entrepreneurship and a B.A. in Spanish in 2011, is the recipient of the UW-Whitewater’s 2023 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, presented to alumni within 15 years of earning their degree and based on criteria that includes a demonstration of professional achievement and volunteer or civic involvement.

Arndt 450x450
Judges including alumnus Henry Schwartz of MobCraft Brewery, center, applaud a student presenter at the 2015 Warhawk Business Plan Competition hosted by CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization) at the University Center.

The team at MobCraft Beer, which alumnus Schwartz co-founded in 2011, skews heavily Warhawk. Kayla Thomas, the director of operations and Schwartz’s college roommate, earned a B.A. in graphic design with a minor in advertising. Adam Thomas, director of barrel operations, earned a BBA in information technology. And Operations Manager Andrew Gierczak, a MobCraft co-founder, is the twin brother of Tony Gierczak, who was in the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization on campus with Schwartz.

MobCraft’s growth — from an idea developed as an undergraduate student to one that won the 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest and its move from its initial facilities in Madison to its current headquarters in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood — has been impressive. Its current annual revenue is estimated to be $4.5 million.

“There are 225 breweries in the state of Wisconsin, and we are the 25th largest brewery,” said Schwartz.

Along the way, the team has faced its challenges. Right off the bat it was funding. An initial infusion of cash came from CraftFund, a Wisconsin-based crowdfunding platform where 52 “co-owners” invested $48,000 to get the company started. But seeking traditional investment proved more difficult.

“It’s hard to get an institutional investor to back a company that’s just going to experience steady growth over time,” said Schwartz. 

Schwartz was invited on Shark Tank in 2016, appearing in episode number 727, but the investor team’s lack of interest or experience in beer and their skepticism over Schwartz’s commitment to build a dedicated facility dampened their interest.

“Mark Cuban even spit out the sour onstage, which is pretty ridiculous.”

MobCraft opened their Milwaukee brewery and taproom in 2016, with an SBA loan of $1.8M. An initial focus of the increased brewing capacity was expanding the company’s geographic reach.

Arndt 450x450

At front, John Chenoweth, then dean of the College of Business and Economics, listens as alumnus Henry Schwartz tells the story of the UW-Whitewater graduates who began MobCraft Brewery during a visit to the MobCraft Brewery and Taproom in Milwaukee, which hosted alumni from the area, in 2018. 

Then the pandemic happened.

“COVID really threw some crazy stuff at us,” said Schwartz. “We had to come up with ideas for how to sell beer. Our big sour beer festival was already planned for the end of March, so we had to pivot — we had $14,000 in advance ticket sales that we’d either have to refund or do something with. So we ended up doing a virtual sourfest, and wow was this successful.” 

MobCraft ended up doing 48 different virtual pairings over the course of the pandemic, which brought in about $100K worth of revenue. That, plus the Payroll Protection Program, kept the business going. 

“Every week people would come, pick up their kit, we’d all jump on Zooms over the course of the weekend. We were able to make this virtual community of people who attended our events over the course of the pandemic.”

A product created out of desperation is another big winner for MobCraft. 

“We had all this beer fermenting in the brewery and aging in the cooler but nowhere to sell it. We took 24 different beers and made an advent calendar. The first year we made 2,000 and sold out in a week and a half. That advent calendar is our number-one selling product both in revenue and volume now.”

A collaboration with MKE Black, which celebrates and boosts Black businesses and culture in Milwaukee, came from a meeting between Schwartz and Ayrton Bryan, MKE Black executive director.

“That was a fun circumstance in the middle of COVID over beer,” said Schwartz. “We both ended up crying because of the passion he had. We both thought we should do something to connect our community and provide some fun learning.”

As a result, MobCraft brewed Black is Beautiful Imperial Stout in collaboration with various MKE Black members, with proceeds benefiting MKE Black.

More recently, MobCraft has refocused its growth to opening three new locations, based on a successful Wefunder equity crowdfunding campaign. Their second location opened in the Curtis Park area of Denver, where Schwartz was born and still has family, and two more locations will open in Woodstock, Illinois, in 2023, and in a former firehouse in Waterford, Wisconsin, in 2024.

To drive these initiatives, Schwartz has his team, whom he refers to as a hodgepodge of goofballs, misfits, passionate people, and kind, genuine humans. 

“It’s the number one thing we get out of annual reviews: ‘I genuinely love the people I am around and I like to be here,’” said Schwartz. “With some of the staff I’ve hired, one of their interview questions is, ‘Are you a good person?’”

As the team looks to the future, the Warhawk connections continue. David Adam, who earned a BBA in accounting in 1987, is on the MobCraft advisory board. 

“He’s really helped us by pushing the strategic planning and financial planning forward. We just redid our strategic plan, revisiting our goals from 10 years ago.”

Schwartz lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Lisa Rohde, who is an occupational therapist, and their daughter, two-and-a-half year old Lindy. A second child is expected in August.

As his family grows so will MobCraft, as long as it cultivates the people it serves, according to Schwartz.  

“We create and grow community while turning ideas into beer.”

Contact Us

Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
800 West Main Street
Whitewater, WI 53190
(262) 472-1105

Alumni Social Media

Alumni Association on Facebook     Alumni Association on Twitter     Alumni Association on LinkedIn