Our small business star this week is Matt Lane, entrepreneur and founder of BeerBods, a beer club and subscription service launched in 2012 with the aim of getting the nation drinking better beer.
Offering a largely unique service that allows subscribers to enjoy the taste and story behind a beer, all delivered direct to their door – before discussing with fellow subscribers online – Matt’s business began with a simple love of beer.
He searched for beer that challenged what was already on the market, and what he perceived to be inferior products. He held beer tastings in a shed and, witnessing their growing popularity, decided to set up a one-page website asking people to sign up if they wanted to be a part of a beer subscription service. Gaining 250 members in the first 24 hours, he launched BeerBods.
1. All I had was an idea and raw passion
I didn’t have a team, I didn’t have any investment and I didn’t have a business plan. All I had was a little idea to get more people drinking better beer.
I persuaded some friends to build me a very simple website, rented a warehouse for six months and got some credit from breweries to buy the first lot of stock. I also got some friends and family to help me pack beer.
When you’ve got nothing but raw passion and excitement as a bargaining tool you’ll be amazed at what people will do for you. Eventually we turned it into a fully functioning business.
2. Adding value wards off the competition
Since we launched in September 2012 we’ve seen a number of similar companies enter the market, so it’s getting more competitive all of the time. We see that as a positive thing – it keeps us on our toes.
The great thing about copycats is that we’re always one step ahead. They can copy what we’ve done but not what we’re about to do. They also can’t pretend to have the same passion and belief in what we’re doing – and customers can see that.
We’re also constantly looking for more ways to add value for customers and stand out from the crowd. For example, none of our competitors offer a social ‘beer club’ element quite like we do.
3. Listen to both ends of the supply chain
Our relationships with our suppliers are just as important as our relationships with customers. We’re here to bring them a big audience and help them thrive, so listening to brewers and what they need from us is important.
Our message – Drink Better Beer – isn’t just a marketing slogan, it’s why we exist. Our customers know that and that’s why they get behind us and keep their subscription going. I really believe that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
So everything we work on, from new ideas to marketing campaigns, centres on getting more people drinking better beer.
The beer tasting club will always be at the heart of what we do because we’ve built such a strong community but we’ve got tonnes of new ideas that’ll get more people drinking better beer.
4. Social media is fundamental to the business, not an afterthought
Social media is at the heart of everything we do. It isn’t an afterthought to sell a few extra boxes of beer. We have an online tasting every Thursday night where people compare notes on that week’s beer. All of our subscribers are consuming the same product at the same time and going online to talk about it. No other company, as far as we know, sells or engages with customers like that.
We have about as much to spend on marketing as we do on coffee for the office, so creating great content continues to be a great way of attracting new customers and keeping existing ones really engaged. We also use social media to share content, find new suppliers and deal with customer enquiries. There is no element of our business that social media doesn’t touch.
5. Big investment comes from a belief in the product
Earlier this year we decided to get some investment and ended up raising £150,000 from 101 investors – all existing customers – in less than 36 hours. At the time this was a crowd-funding record. That showed people really believed in what we are doing.
We’ve also been featured in The Guardian, Financial Times, Independent, BBC Good Food Magazine and Jamie Oliver magazine, to name but a few. To have publications like that saying nice things about us means a lot.
6. Stay ahead of the game with a passion for your business
If I was to offer one piece of advice, it’d be: do something you love. Launching a business is tough. Really tough. There’ll come a point when you’ll think “why am I doing this?” and only if you have a real passion for what you’re doing will you stick at it. Oh, and people will only love what you do if you love it first.
Find out more about Matt and BeerBods by visiting: http://beerbods.co.uk/
For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.