Georgia Tech Alum Finds “Second Self” in Craft Beer Industry

When Jason Santamaria came to Georgia Tech, he wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about beer. Now, the co-founder of Second Self Beer Company spends his days running the Atlanta-based company and growing its footprint throughout the state of Georgia. In fact, Second Self recently contracted with Kroger to sell its products, including its popular Thai Wheat and Red Hop Rye, in stores in Atlanta, Athens and Savannah.

Jason graduated from Georgia Tech in 2006, earning his degree in Management. During his time on campus, he was a member of Pi Kappa Phi, and also ran a kitchen (where he attributes getting his feet wet in the food/beverage industry). After graduation, he worked in technical sales for IBM, but an interest in craft brewing—developed during his time at Georgia Tech—led him to partner with fellow alumnus Chris Doyle, Mgt 07, MBA 11, and pursue their joint dream of starting their own company.

“We decided to call the company ‘Second Self Beer’ because it was like our second identity,” Jason says. “This is who we wanted to be. Chris and I were really drawn to the craft beer scene because it’s always changing. People are always trying to find something new.”

The craft beer industry prides itself on being unique and very locally oriented, as well as focused on producing smaller quantities of beer than its larger national counterparts. Second Self, for example, was producing only about 1,800 barrels per year until a facility expansion earlier this year, which increased its annual capacity to 4,400 barrels.

“Our recent expansion is actually what got us into Kroger,” Jason says. “We were able to go to our investors and demonstrate that our beer is popular enough and demand is high enough to justify adding a canning line.”

Second Self has plans to increase its barrel capacity even further, to 5,500 per year—a plan developed through the company’s connections at Georgia Tech. A group of eight industrial engineering students won best senior design project this spring for their work with Second Self. Their project involved running simulations for rearranging pallets and equipment and utilizing facility space in a way that would maximize efficiency.

“It was great to work with students from Georgia Tech,” Jason says. “That group was really knowledgeable, and they were able to take our business plan, look at the equipment we’re planning to buy and come up with a plan to get us to a higher capacity. I was really impressed.”

Working with the industrial engineering students was merely the latest chapter in Second Self’s history of using its connections with Georgia Tech. In addition to Jason and Chris, the company’s lawyer, accountant, business consultant and investors are all Georgia Tech alumni.

This summer, Second Self will be opening a new tasting room, where enthusiasts will be able to sample new beers before they’re available in the larger market. Jason says the company also hopes to be able to host more events in their facility, including weddings, receptions and private parties.

While Second Self has seen tremendous success and growth, the company faced some real challenges getting started. The company didn’t open until 2014—about four years after Jason and Chris first had the idea to go into business. But thanks to hard work and determination, Second Self is now in a position where it’s looking to expand its reach outside of Georgia.

Jason is quick to credit his time at Georgia Tech for much of the company’s success, and encourages current students to build on the connections they’re making in school.

“When we started out, we realized pretty quickly how much we needed to learn about the craft beer industry,” he says. “Not just the industry itself, either, but the brewing process and the whole business side of things. Thanks to Georgia Tech’s alumni network, we were able to connect with our business consultant and investors, and every step of the way, those relationships have helped us work through the challenges of starting and running our company.”

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