Online Business Made Simple

When Kevin Lemp of 4 Hands Brewing Company needed to launch an online store, keeping things simple was a top priority. Enter Simplify Commerce by MasterCard.

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

Kevin Lemp, co-founder and president of local craft brewery 4 Hands Brewing Company, had always wanted to start his own business. He just wasn’t sure what it would look like. At Columbia College in Missouri, where he earned a degree in marketing, he was also introduced to the art of brewing craft beer and was forever changed. He had no idea at the time that this new love would turn into a viable business opportunity.

4 Hands Brewing Company co-founder and president Kevin Lemp | Photo by Wesley Law
4 Hands Brewing Company co-founder and president Kevin Lemp | Photo by Wesley Law

“I always wanted to have my own business. I thought it was going to be more in the restaurant industry, but then I saw tremendous opportunity here in St. Louis to start a brewery. With experience working at a distributor, I really knew the sales, marketing and distributor side. So, I felt pretty confident in choosing that path. We first opened in December 2011. To see where we’ve come from since that day–it’s fun to think about.”

In creating 4 Hands, Lemp decided early on that the brand would have a diverse and broad beer portfolio. “We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” Lemp says. “We wanted to appeal to the entire beer spectrum. We brew what we like to drink, and we hope other people appreciate it, too.”

Other people most definitely appreciate it. In St. Louis alone there are approximately 1,000 points of distribution. But 4 Hands’ popularity has grown beyond St. Louis. Their craft beers are sold in the states of Missouri and Illinois and in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. And the brand has grown into merchandise as well. After creating a buzz at the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FOBAB) their first big event outside state lines, fans from across the country began asking for 4 Hands gear. Because of the three-tier system in the beverage industry, manufacturers aren’t allowed to sell their alcohol products directly to consumers, but they can sell T-shirts and hoodies.

“Once you get so many emails saying, ‘I live in California, but I want that T-shirt,’ you start to make the push for an online store,” says Lemp. 4 Hands sells everything from hoodies, glasses and skateboards to gift cards for customers. For help getting its online store launched, the 4 Hands team turned to Simplify Commerce by MasterCard.

Lemp with the Simplify Commerce team, on site at 4 Hands Brewing Co. | Photo by Wesley Law.
Lemp with the Simplify Commerce team, on site at 4 Hands Brewing Co. | Photo by Wesley Law.

Simplify Commerce makes it easier for businesses to connect with their customers, enabling them to pay how and when they want to pay. Small and medium-sized businesses can quickly and easily take payments of any major card brand online, in person, via mobile phone or through social channels. When a customer purchases a shirt, gift card or barware on, they’re doing so through Simplify Commerce’s platform.

4 Hands is located in St. Louis' Lasalle Park neighborhood. With a focus on providing a well-rounded portfolio, they offer four year-round beers along with a slew of seasonal beers. Photo by Wesley Law.
4 Hands is located in St. Louis’ Lasalle Park neighborhood. With a focus on providing a well-rounded portfolio, they offer four year-round beers along with a slew of seasonal beers. Photo by Wesley Law.

“Simplify Commerce has made it hassle-free,” says Lemp. “Our customers get the stuff they want, and we get paid. Online sales have been solid, with orders coming in daily.”

“4 Hands Brewery has been a merchant with Simplify Commerce since 2013. We were excited to have one of our first customers be from the St. Louis area,” says St. Louis native Deb Barta, who served as senior business leader and Incubation Executive Officer at MasterCard Labs and now serves as Simplify Commerce’s Global Platform Lead.

Simplify Commerce was the first idea to be built and launched as an incubation within MasterCard Labs, MasterCard’s global R&D division. Think of MasterCard Labs as a quick “test and learn” division that sparks new thinking without the pressures of immediate commercialization needs. This is where some of MasterCard’s most exciting ideas are born.

“We pulled together a cross-functional team in early 2013 because startups and small businesses were asking us if there was a faster and easier way to take electronic payments of any card brand,” says Barta.

MasterCard Labs knew they could help and quickly moved the idea through prototype, pilot and full US commercialization within six months. About two years later, Simplify graduated into MasterCard’s global products organization for global expansion and scale.

Deb Barta, Simplify Commerce’s Global Platform Lead. | Photo courtesy of Simplify Commerce

Day-to-day life at Simplify Commerce is bustling. “We have a saying on our team,” says Barta, “that ‘innovation without execution is only ideation.’ We have a healthy mix of creativity balanced with thoughtful execution.” That thoughtful execution by a team of engineers, customer partners, beta programs and community outreach is making it easier for businesses like 4 Hands to accept payments.

Using Simplify Commerce also lets Lemp focus on other important parts of his business. “Our next step is to coordinate the products and online sales with our seasonal beer releases,” says Lemp. “We just had our 2016 planning meeting where we created next year’s seasonal calendar, and we have some pretty cool stuff coming out. There’s going be a four-pack Imperial Stout with vanilla and cinnamon that I’m pretty excited about.”

There are also talks of expansion, but Lemp says that the biggest focus is serving 4 Hands’ loyal customers. “We’ve got a really awesome community, and right now we want to make sure we are making the best beer possible for them.” And with Simplify Commerce taking care of his online sales, Lemp can keep his focus on his customers.

 Simplify Commerce Offers Features to Fit Your Business

Personalization and Simplicity. Simplify Commerce is a secure online payment solution that is simple to set up and easy to use. Each merchant has their own dashboard where they can see payments, sales and orders in real time. The dashboard also features e-Invoicing, options to store customer details and contact customer support.

Pay in New Ways. Top-notch security gives merchants peace of mind. Payments can be accepted via Apple Pay, online, in person, via mobile apps and through social and e-mail.

 Customization Features. The platform also includes payment management features designed to make running a small business easier, such as hosted payments, branded e-Invoices, recurring payments, and fraud management.

Developer Tools. Development has been simplified, too, with fully customizable APIs and SDKs in nine popular programming languages, including iOS and Android. There is a developer library with sample source code, along with a variety of developer tools.

This article was published in EQ print issue 1, Fall 2015, in collaboration with Simplify Commerce, a member of the EQ Partner Network.

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Jackie's two biggest passions in life are writing and travel, and she is grateful to be able to combine both into a profession that she loves. A storyteller at heart (with a Masters in Counseling and Psychology), she enjoys digging deep, getting to know people and businesses, and helping them tell their unique stories.