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Entrepreneurs Panel

Jeremy Roberts
David Pollock
Charlie Mullins
Richard O'Sullivan
Debbie Pierce
Laura Tenison
Michael Oliver
Jennie Johnson
Steve Purdham
Tony Caldeira
Julie Meyer
Brian Hay

Funding brewery growth

Debbie Pierce

The former market stall worker founded the Bury Black Pudding Company on the web in May 2002 on a budget of £1,000. The firm completed its move to a major production facility in 2005 and now churns out more than 20 tonnes of black pudding a week to cater for demand over the internet, at its longstanding stall in Bury Market and from its distributors including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Iceland and Londis.

Question: 

Q. I run a micro-brewery that sells bottled ales through a few local outlets. We have been approached by an investor who would like to help fund our growth but none of us has much experience in developing broader retail channels. Where should we start?

Answer: 

Remember that nobody has the passion to sell your product like you do. You don’t have to be the best salesman in the world, but you need to be passionate about what you’re selling and know your product. If you’re hopeless at sales then get a friend or colleague who isn’t to come along with you and help.

There are quite a few sharks out there who will promise to do wonders with your business, charge you a fortune, but won’t deliver. If you decide to get external help then don’t pay them up front, pay them when they’ve delivered.

Be careful what you give away to your investors and what control they have, try to keep it on an interest basis rather than giving away equity.

You’ll get most of the retail help and experience you need from organisations such as Business Link – fi nd out if they have a specialist food and beverage advisor in their team and ask them what food network groups operate in your area.

If you’re interested in selling to the supermarkets, contact their head office and speak to their local sourcing department. If you can sell to local pubs, contact their area manager. Some of the larger garden centres often have specialist food shops inside and there are local farm shops too.

Have you looked into the possibility of online selling? Maybe collaborate with/supply an existing online wine/beer seller. Every little helps to build your brand name and reputation.

But before you go chasing the sales, you must be able to deliver. There are usually no second chances with customers so think about how you’ll cope with the growth – what’s the capacity of your current premises and do you need larger machinery or more equipment? Never take your eye off efficiencies because you’ll need every penny.

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