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OU professor founds first all-female owned and operated brewery in Norman, aims to reclaim an originally female-dominated task

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The storefront of Equity Brewing Company, founded by Suzette Grillot, an OU international studies professor.

An OU professor founded and opened the first female-owned and operated brewery in Norman July 2 in the hopes of using the space to fill gender gaps in a male-dominated sector of the food and drink industry. 

Suzette Grillot, an international studies professor and founder of Equity Brewing Company, said she and her daughter created the company because of their love for making beer and desire to run a business. 

“I've traveled the world for my job and drink beer around the world, and so I visited a local brewery,” Grillot said. “I smelled the brew going on, and I was just like, ‘oh I love the thought of brewing beer.”

Grillot said part of the reason she was so excited to begin her brewery was because of the small amount of female-owned and operated breweries in the U.S. and to reclaim what was originally a female-dominated task. A 2017 article from the National Women’s History Museum notes that 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, brewing was done by women in the community.  

Only recently has brewing become a more male-dominated industry. A 2019 survey by the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade organization that protects and promotes small and independent U.S. brewers, shows that, throughout the U.S.,  female representation in breweries is typically in non-production or non-service staff roles, with only 7.5 percent of women recorded in brewer roles. 

“To me (Equity Brewing Company) is kind of like a reclamation project to make sure that women are present and visible in industries, particularly those that have their origins in women's work,” Grillot said. 

Stephen Swanson, the co-owner of a neighboring brewery Lazy Circles Brewing, said while no one else in Norman is an all-female owned and operated brewery, there are husband-wife partnerships and female leaders in breweries around Norman and Oklahoma City, including 405 Brewing, Canadian River Brewing and Cross Cannons Brewing

“I just think there's a lot of really strong women prospering in brewing … and what (Grillot’s) got going over there is really unique and cool,” Swanson said. 

Swanson also said he was very excited to welcome Equity Brewing Company into Norman because of their goal to better the community. 

“What makes (Equity Brewing Company) different from everybody else is that it’s kind of like going into your friend's living room,” Swanson said. “Everyone's got a living room in their home, but everyone's room is just a little bit different and has their own ambiance and their own field. That's how small craft breweries are, especially in Norman.” 

Grillot said it took a village to start Equity Brewing Company, but the Norman community and neighboring businesses also played a large role in getting the brewery going.

“If you don't have community support in small business, you don't have a business, so it's just the bottom line, especially in a brewery, or a restaurant, anything in the service industry like that.,” Swanson said. “People are 75 percent of the business … everything for a small business.” 

Grillot said, in addition to being the only all-female-owned and operated brewery in Norman, the main goal of Equity Brewing Company is to have a social impact on the surrounding community. 

Equity Brewing Company has partnered with the mutual aid organization Red Dirt Collective and supports anti-hunger programs for school-aged children by partnering with the Norman Public School system. They also partner with organizations that support the rights of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, including the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance and Norman Pride. 

“Everything we do we have in mind how and to what extent it will contribute to a social impact, and, particularly, to lift up those that are marginalized in our community and to level the playing field so that people — women, Black, indigenous, people of color and LGBTQ2S members of the community, have a safe space to enjoy,” Grillot said. 

Brooke Rood, owner of charcuterie business Forage & Gather Boards and business partner of Equity Brewing Company said she was excited to work with Equity Brewing Company because of their engagement in community support. 

“They have had this mission from the start to lift people up, to support women, to support people of color to support everybody and provide a welcoming space for people to come together, beyond just coming and having a drink and actually being able to host meetings, running fundraisers and just raising awareness in general,” Rood said. “You don't see that a lot of times with businesses that are just trying to be profitable. Equity (Brewing Company) is seeking to do a lot more than that.” 

Rood said the idea of an all female-owned and operated business is an important step to take in the Norman community because it can serve as an inspiration to all women in male-dominated industries. 

“Little girls can see them and be like ‘hey, this is something that I can do,’” Rood said. 

Rood said nothing makes her happier than seeing her 8-year-old niece standing on the stool, learning how a business works by watching the Grillots work in the brewery. 

“I'm just so happy when I watch her there, because she's gonna grow up knowing that she can start her own business,” Rood said. “And it makes me really happy to have this community of all women to surround her with. I don't ever want her to think she's limited, and I don't think she has that idea in her head yet, the way that (my) generation did growing up.” 

 

news reporter

Taylor Jones is a journalism sophomore and news reporter at The Daily.

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