The Emotional Side of Small Business: At Jersey Cider Works, Growth Isn’t The Goal

“I have every right to be scared here,” says Charles Rosen, Founder of Jersey Cider Works, a New Jersey-based hard apple cider company that’s brewing more than hard cider.  “I have taken all of my money and invested in agriculture in the middle of climate change. We are in a business, in the cider business going against huge companies and I am working with some guys who are literally murderers; so, I should be scared all the time and I am amazingly not scared,” says Rosen.

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Dedicated to tapping in to New Jersey’s rich farming roots and helping improve the community and economy, Rosen hires formerly incarcerated people to work on the once abandoned farm in Asbury (just west of Newark).

“Somebody’s past doesn’t have to define them. These are opportunities for learning, these are opportunities for taking what’s happening in the past and make a shift,” Rosen explains.

The farming, picking, brewing and canning are all done on location.  Since officially opening in 2015, Ironbound Hard Cider has shipped more than 12,000 cases, 15,000 kegs and can be found in over 600 locations.

Rosen and his team offer hands on job training for his employees, counseling and a safe place for former inmates to learn valuable real-life skills.

“He gave my family, my kids [a chance] to see that it’s not that dad just has to be a drug dealer or just be in a gang or ripping running streets, dad can also be a man, a responsible man, and work,” says James Williams, Crew Chief and former inmate.

“I am feeling a sense of accomplishment, I am feeling a sense of pride, I am feeling a sense of success I have felt in nothing I have even ever felt in anything else that I have done,” adds Rosen.

Unlike other small businesses, Rosen’s dream for Ironbound isn’t necessarily growth. “We decided we do not want to take Ironbound nationwide. What we would like to export is a model. So we are looking at doing moonshine in Virginia and looking at doing a beer in Detroit,” Rosen said.

In May, Ironbound will be unveiling a Summer Cider, infused with organic black tea and fresh squeezed lemon.

Be sure to watch Charles’ full story above and how they overcome the hardest struggles on the farm.

This is part of’s The Emotional Side of Small Business series that taps into the human side of building a business – the part that doubts, questions, regrets, and celebrates accomplishments.