Donzoko Brewing Company
I’m brewing a German Helles lager, which compared to the average lager in the UK, is way more malty and smooth. The hops I use come from New Zealand and are a bit more fruity than the traditional German varieties.
I'm using other people’s breweries to produce the unfermented beer, then fermenting it out to the finished beer at my premises. It’s a low cost way of using some really high quality equipment, and I can grow quite fast without high capital expenditure, as I won’t have to install a new brew house.
I’m not taking any big loans or anything so it’s pretty good for that. All the finances behind me are savings and grant funding. I have my premises now and will hopefully be launching in July 2017 to sell the first kegs. I plan on doubling my capacity from December 2017, from making 1600 litres to 3800, and then a small canning line at the end of year 1 so I can sell directly to the customers and retail businesses.
What made you start your own business?
I was entering competitions and brewing at home during my degree. It was my third year here doing Chemistry and on my year abroad in Germany I was drinking a lot of fantastic German lagers, and when I got home I realised you couldn’t really get it here and if you did it was expensive due to being imported.
I wondered if I could replicate that elusive German taste, give it a twist and make it more marketable to suit people’s tastes over here.
Achievements so far...
I have fully committed to it now; when I put my money down to get some tanks imported from China it was £5,000 and I had never done anything like that before. I wired the money over and I was like, “I’m in now”. It was a pretty amazing feeling.
The tanks have been in a factory and then on a boat now for the last three months; they arrive in April. I’m in a bit of a limbo at the moment as I’m setting everything up, planning everything and getting stuff ready but I can’t really do much until I get my keys to my premises, but planning is the majority of the work I suppose.
Experiences on the Foundership Programme
The weekly meeting was really useful, especially at the start as it gives you structure and a path. Having the chance to meet with your mentor once a week, who knows everything about your business, what you’ve done and what you want to do is really helpful. Otherwise you end up in your own head and there could be a really obvious solution to something but you’re just overthinking it.
I was originally studying abroad, and then a Masters when I got back. Half way through whilst I was in Germany, I realised it was getting to the stage where I wanted to do something else. I wasn’t massively enjoying it and I didn’t want to work in a lab, I didn’t see myself in that scenario, so I decided I wanted to do something else. When I graduated I cancelled the Masters and went straight into the foundership.
I graduated in July and started the foundership programme in September. I had never done any business training or classes before so I had a lot to learn during the shift to business. I had to learn what a profit and loss looked like, what a cash flow is and much more, but it became easier after a while.
What advice would you give to someone starting a business?
Ask someone who has done it before. People seem to have a lot of preconceived ideas of what it’s going to be like and how much you need to sell and how much it is going to cost but if you ask someone who has done something similar, you can get a good idea of it’s going to be viable or not and what you can do to make it viable.
I didn’t have much of an idea until I started visiting breweries and asking brewers or people who had started businesses, even if they were doing something completely different. I found out things that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I still have a knowledge gap and I am relying on peoples advice quite a bit, but I'd rather admit that I need help than go it alone and struggle.
Web site: www.donzoko.org