Brewing Up Change

CPAs can be found in every industry, being experts at more than numbers – and they’re great with those, too.

Every month, CPA Manitoba spotlights the diverse and dedicated professionals that prove CPA is more than a designation. 

Looking back, I have been provided many great opportunities because I obtained my designation. If I didn’t take that extra step, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

The world of accounting is diverse. CPAs have the skill set to be innovators and strategic leaders in any organization or industry. Naturally, this can lead to CPAs taking on what some might consider non-traditional challenges. So, when Kyle Hemenway, CPA, CA was studying to become a designated accountant, did he ever think he’d be using that knowledge to help manage a brewery?

“No, absolutely not,” Hemenway said with a laugh. “One thing I do is never close myself off to opportunities, no matter where they may lead. I approach each career decision on a case-by-case basis. I wanted to work in an organization and role that I could truly be passionate about and I found it as a Corporate Controller at the Fort Garry Brewing Company.”

“From a young age I already knew that I wanted to become a CPA. My family has a strong accounting background and growing up in that environment really opened my eyes to what a CPA can do within the market,” explained Hemenway.

He went on to attend the University of Winnipeg and dedicated his studies to business and accounting.

“I found that my accounting courses helped provide me with the full picture of what business is all about. It was applicable in multiple industries and it allowed me to become a well-rounded professional,” he said. “I've always considered myself an entrepreneur first, and an accountant second because I like understanding and engaging in the operations of the entire business. Ultimately, that's what gave me confidence that my choice to pursue an accounting designation was the right one.”

Hemenway got his first accounting job at Grant Thornton LLP. There, he gained valuable experience working with a wide variety of clients, including small to medium sized businesses and government agencies.

“I was in the role for about two years when an opportunity arose to join Great-West Life (now Canada Life),” explained Hemenway.

While at Canada Life, Hemenway was a Senior Financial Analyst, performing tasks and duties such as financial analysis, financial reporting, budgeting, auditing and data integrity management.

In early 2017, Hemenway decided he wanted to round out his abilities by taking a job as Director of Finance and Business Solutions at People Corporation. In that role he was responsible for providing analysis, forecasting and analytical support to the executive team on corporate initiatives, priorities and directives.

With a wealth of diverse accounting and business experience, Hemenway accepted his current position with Fort Garry Brewing Company just over a year ago.

“They asked me to come on board and help provide strategic direction for the organization and that was an offer I couldn’t turn down,” said Hemenway with a smile.

His diverse background combined with technical accounting skills allowed for a smooth transition to the role of Corporate Controller.

“I'm responsible for all accounting and finance functions within the organization. That being said, I wear many different hats ranging from human resources, technology support and production as well as operational analysis,” said Hemenway.

At the time he started, the brewery was going through a transitional period, which included a new ownership group. This allowed Hemenway the opportunity to be part of the team that helped steer the company towards continued success.

“We wanted to focus on taking the business in a direction where it had not traditionally gone before. So, in some ways it was blank slate and a fresh start,” explained Hemenway.

Consumer trends in the beer market have changed rapidly over the last few years. The job for Hemenway was to figure out where those trends were heading and how Fort Garry Brewing could capitalize on it.

“One thing we noticed right away was an emphasis on healthier beers with more variations of flavour. The company was established in 1930 and has strong ties to its classic products (Fort Garry Dark, Pale, Rouge) but we felt it was the right time to diversify. We recently released the Northern Lite – a new light beer that contains only 99 calories. I’m excited to say we’re relaunching our Frontier Pilsner – a refreshing European Style Pilsner - later this year to celebrate Fort Garry Brewery’s 90th anniversary.” Hemenway added.

In addition to those projects, Hemenway has helped the organization with rebranding, a warehouse expansion, market and sales analysis, evaluating business opportunities and sourcing manufacturing equipment including a new canning line.

“Before the canning line upgrade, we were only able to can 30 beers per minute. With the introduction of the new canning line we now can well over 110 per minute. That’s helped us meet production goals substantially faster,” he explained.

Hemenway believes he owes his multi-faceted skill set to the training and education he received pursing his accounting designation.

“Looking back, I have been provided many great opportunities because I obtained my designation. If I didn’t take that extra step, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” he said. “After becoming a CPA, you're able to see the 360-degree picture. You know your whole organization, not just one specific section of it, and you're able to contribute to all the areas within the business.”

For anyone that is interested in obtaining the CPA designation, Hemenway has a valuable piece of advice.

“Always be open to opportunities, follow your passion and demonstrate your whole skill set. You will make yourself a valuable asset to any organization,” he said.

And what does the man who is so immersed in the burgeoning beer industry drink when he has time to relax?

“Our Portage and Main IPA is my favourite beer. IPAs are very popular right now and I think we have one of the best ones out there… I know I’m a little biased, but oh well,” Hemenway said with a laugh.

Connect with Kyle on LinkedIn: