Pouring resources into a growing team

Building new leaders' skills


Pouring resources into a growing team

Octopi Brewing, based in Waunakee, Wisconsin, is one of Wisconsin’s largest breweries and continues to grow. In September 2022, the company announced a $62 million expansion that will expand the company’s facility and create an estimated 150 new jobs. Octopi is committed to promoting employees from within and growing new talent, which means that many company managers and directors are relatively new to leadership roles, and the company consistently has new hires to bring into the fold. To ensure the company builds a cohesive team across job functions and cultivates leadership skills in new leaders and new employees, Octopi has partnered with the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business since August 2021, to provide team members a variety of skills-based leadership courses on-site at Octopi.

“Our team has been able to use these courses to better communicate with one another, focus on enhancing our collaboration, and increase individual skill sets,” says Octopi’s Human Resources Manager Jesica Aranda, who plans the workshops with SBDC. “We have a lot of people newer to management at Octopi, and these courses have provided opportunities to learn, grow, and bounce ideas off one another.”

The training sessions, held on-site at Octopi, generally take place quarterly, over a full day or two half-days. 10-20 employees are invited to attend each workshop, based on the specific skills their supervisors would like to help them develop.

Workshop topics have included:

“Our team is from all different backgrounds, with different teams working together,” explains Aranda. “We’re a manufacturing facility; we produce beverages; and we have teams that handle accounting, HR, scheduling, maintenance, warehouse, and production. We’re all working together to better communicate.”

Octopi owner Isaac Showaki reached out to the SBDC in 2021 about finding new ways to support Octopi’s leaders and help them grow, which led to the workshops. Aranda says it has been helpful to have the courses on-site, so people from different teams can get to know each other and continue to practice their skills after the workshop. Heather Ferguson, SBDC Program Manager, works with Aranda to bring SBDC topics to Octopi that focus on staff needs.

“We know it can be difficult for small business leaders to add developing a training curriculum to their already-full plates, so it’s wonderful to be able to provide that opportunity to newer leaders,” says Ferguson. “I’ve enjoyed working with Octopi staff, who – even in the midst of constant growth and change – arrive to each training with a positive attitude and eagerness to learn. It has also been great to see the business grow over the year and a half we’ve been offering trainings; every visit, there are new team members to meet and spaces to see!”

“The people here are excellent, and offering staff growth opportunities keeps people here who are invested and want to learn and grow. I’m one of many who have had growth opportunities provided to me that benefit both me and the company.”

~Jesica Aranda, Human Resources Manager at Octopi

“People have learned patience, new skills and techniques, and self-awareness,” says Aranda. “They are more aware of what they possess, in terms of skills, and what they want to work toward.”

Aranda found the communication workshop particularly valuable.

“We talked about our communication styles, and I realized how I could better communicate with my supervisor,” she says. “It was helpful to understand the kind of employee I am and the communication styles I can use with different team members.”

Aranda appreciates the fact that her company is investing in its employees and new managers in this way.

“The people here are excellent, and offering staff growth opportunities keeps people here who are invested and want to learn and grow,” she says. “I’m one of many who have had growth opportunities provided to me that benefit both me and the company.”

Interested in working for Octopi? Octopi is hiring

Interested in hiring the SBDC to plan a training program for your organization?

Complete our Group Training Interest Form

You have a lot of priorities on your list, and creating professional development opportunities for your team is just one of them. By choosing our proven, affordable leadership classes, you can:

    • Offer an added benefit to emerging and aspiring leaders and front-line managers
    • Count on small class sizes designed for the business community with skill-building in mind
    • Free up your time to focus on organizational initiatives
    • Give your team a fresh perspective with [typically] day-long sessions appropriate for new and mid-level managers
    • Choose to build a developmental leadership curriculum without having to start from scratch!