More Than Beer

Richmond's New Buskey Barrel Cider Co. is working to turn cider into cents.



Will Correll started off like many entrepreneurs — running a neighborhood lemonade stand when he was a kid.

He moved on to selling pints of blueberries that he picked and loaded into his red wagon and peddled door-to-door to his neighbors in Franklin. By the time he was in the eighth grade, Correll had started a small fence-building business with friends.

“That’s when I got my first taste of entrepreneurship,” Correll says. “I knew it was for me.”

Now, Correll is gearing up to open a much larger business, the Buskey Barrel Cider Co., which will produce the alcoholic beverage that dates to colonial times and recently has surged in popularity.

Hard cider has an alcohol content similar to most beers, but the fermenting process is more like the one used in wine. The ingredients are simple and few — crushed apples and yeast. Ciders can be sweet, but Buskey Barrel is aiming for a semisweet, drier version, which is where the market trend seems to be heading, Correll says.

He learned about the booming cider business while he was a student at Hampden-Sydney College.

“I was very active in the entrepreneur society at Hampden-Sydney, and I was helping some guys out with a project when I heard about the cider industry explosion,” he says. “I started reading up on the history of it, and I liked what I read.”

Shortly after, he learned that the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had released a feasibility report about starting a cider business in Virginia. Armed with his research and the entrepreneurial lessons he learned in college, Correll put together his business plan. He entered the Start Peninsula competition in Hampton, which rewards young entrepreneurs with startup money.

“I went out there expecting to learn how to lose and what I would do different the next year,” he says, “and I ended up winning.”

He was awarded $10,000.

During the last semester of his senior year, Correll convinced the administration at Hampden-Sydney to allow him to do an independent work study so he could spend time on his project while earning course credit. The school also provided faculty assistance and put Correll in touch with influential alumni.

“Most people think that the time to start a business is after you have graduated, but I think it is just the opposite,” he says. “There are so many resources available to you while you are still in school. I had the luxury of bouncing things off professors all the time.”

Correll also enlisted the help of the Triangle Business and Innovation Center, a mentoring program that helps new businesses get off the ground. The group was impressed with Correll and his idea from the start.

“He’s sharp, extraordinarily articulate and very confident,” says Bill Bean, director of the center and a business professor at the College of William and Mary. “Investing in a company is all about confidence, and he certainly had that.”

Correll came up with the name Buskey Barrel after learning that buskey was a term used by Ben Franklin and his friends, who enjoyed drinking hard cider, to describe the feeling of being tipsy.

“I really like the alliteration and the tie into the history of cider and colonial times,” he says.

Buskey Cider is now in the Alcoholic Beverage Control approval process. Correll plans a fall opening at 290 W. Leigh St. in Scott’s Addition, behind Fat Dragon.

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