By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Unfortunately for most people, a clear picture of what life will bring us doesn’t just appear! And it has been said that it is not wise to passively sit and simply wait for things to happen, but to go about doing what we can to make it happen. Shinnston native Leslie Marra knows all about that.
A 2001 graduate of Lincoln High School, Leslie is the daughter of Frank Marra of Shinnston and Susan Marra of Lost Creek. She left high school and was studying to become an occupational therapist at WVU. Three years into her studies, she recalls reading the book and watching the movie “Into the Wild” … and her path changed.
“I was born and raised in West Virginia and didn’t know much about the rest of the world,” she said. “But I decided to venture out and learn about it, and in 2008, I moved. I picked three places I thought I might like and ended up in the Asheville, NC area.
She was raising a daughter and working a couple of jobs and then moved to Kernersville, NC and resumed her education at Winston-Salem State University, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She says she had every intention of continuing her education and earning her Master’s degree, but her path took another turn when she started doing promotions for Lonerider Brewing Company part-time. Since 2014, she has been a full-time employee and is currently the company’s Sales Operations Specialist.
“They call me ‘the gal behind the computer’,” she said. “I have learned the ins and outs of all that has happened with this company, and some of my responsibilities are new item setup, working with the brewery’s production and sales team, sales reports, wholesaler management, inventory tracking, event coordination, and I am the point of contact for orders and new accounts. The best part is that for the most part, I am able to work from home and I am given the freedom to do what I want to promote Lonerider. But my role is definitely not 9 to 5; I am constantly trying to promote the company and stay on top of industry trends.”
Lonerider Brewing Company is based out of Raleigh, NC and just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in January of 2019. That is a long time in the brewing industry, she explained, because new breweries are popping up every day and it is very competitive. Through the years Lonerider has grown and established quite a portfolio of award-winning beers. Last year, Lonerider was awarded the World Beer Cup and is among the top 150 breweries in the U.S., distributing their quality products to eight states. The distillery is located in Raleigh, and adjacent to it is its popular Tap Room. Lonerider has also expanded and has a ‘Hideout’ in Wake Forest as well.
Lonerider has a kind of “cowboy” theme. Lonerider brews “Ales for Outlaws”, and their brand is highly recognizable by the names of their beers – such as Shotgun Betty, Saloon Style Ale, Cowboy in Black, Gunslinger, Pistols at Dawn, and Deadeye Jack to name a few!
Leslie noted that Lonerider has now branched out into Spirits and is currently producing a new Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon that is distributed at ABC stores throughout North Carolina. While craft beer began as a trend, that trend has become an industry that is seeing unprecedented growth and one that is predicted to remain relevant in the coming years.
Leslie recently set up a new account in The Netherlands, so enthusiasm for craft beer is not just in the U.S. but has global followers. And she is determined to keep Lonerider Brewing Company growing.
“I didn’t study marketing, but I’ve been successful at it,” she added. “There is nothing better than word-of-mouth, so I also enjoy going to on-premise accounts to promote Lonerider products, allowing people to sample it, and getting the word out that way.”
Sumit Vohra, the CEO of Lonerider Brewing Company, says that Leslie keeps the sales operations moving smoothly and is a big part of the company’s philanthropic involvements.
“I am respected in my career and in the craft beer industry. But this is not where I thought I would be. The typical path is to finish high school, go to college, graduate, and work in your field of study. My path took a different turn,” she concluded. “My unconventional path led me here and I’m doing something that I absolutely love and have so much room for growth and learning. I am doing what most people seek to do … I am getting paid to do something that I love! So it is not really ‘work’. That is what I will teach my daughters. I will encourage them to get an education but, because work fills such a large portion of one’s life, I want them to find something that they LOVE doing – just as I have.”
Leslie Marra is somewhat an “outlaw” herself. She took a u-turn career-wise and she learned that it is important to think about more than money, but finding fulfillment and happiness in what you do.