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Why HonestBrew is shunning the corporatisation of beer

From a standing start in 2013, HonestBrew has been a forerunner in the subscription beer business despite dealing with some unusual corporate bullying.
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Craft beer is big business, but getting bringing to many unique brands together is no small feat. HonestBrew co-founder Andrew Reeve how he’s built up thousands of customers doing just that, and how his entrepreneurial endeavours have ruffled a few corporate feathers.

(1) What have the growth landmarks of the last 18 months (since you were featured in our Future 50) been?

Where do we begin? Since we were featured in the Future 50, we’ve increased our focus on the transactional/ecommerce side of the business as well as subscription. We now list 500+ different lines from the best independent breweries around the world and we keep breaking our “best day ever” for sales online.

Key HonestBrew growth stats

  • Founded: 2013
  • Fundraising to date: £2.4m
  • Growth: Running at 3x growth rate
  • Staff: 16
  • Customers: 50,000
  • Products: 2,000 beers listed over time, 500 at any time

Personally, seeing our collaboration range grow and brewing beers with some of the best UK breweries (including Wiper and True, Northern Monk and Verdant) is something I’m proud of. As well as opening our first (pop-up) physical space at Old Street for two weeks in June. We’re really excited to launch a more permanent physical space in the coming months.

(2) Why did HonestBrew pick institutional investment over crowdfunding this time?

The HonestBrew team

The HonestBrew team

We were looking for investors who shared our vision. We started off the fundraising process thinking we’d get a cornerstone investor and put a portion on the crowd, but found ourselves greatly oversubscribed.

This round has allowed us to take institutional money for the first time and bring high-net worth skills into the business, adding value beyond just investment.

(3) What have the challenges of building out a brewery supply chain been?

Managing a large amount of moving parts, particularly as we continue to grow the number of lines we list. We’ve got a focus on freshness so it is key to us as we scale lines to ensure the beers are all turning over quickly and people are receiving beer at its best quality.

(4) How do you think you’ve evolved as a CEO?

As the team has grown my role has definitely changed, when we were just starting the business it was about doing as much as possible in any area of the business and wearing many hats.

Now we have a bigger team with a broad range of experience, my role is much more focused. I’m constantly looking at ways to push the growth of the business forward, prioritising the things that will make the biggest difference and making sure we have the best people in the team to achieve it.

The business has diversified out into supplying businesses

The business has diversified out into supplying businesses

(5) Have there been any customer services niggles to deal with, and how have you done this?

We are a really customer-focused company and as a whole our customers are really happy – we get loads of pictures of people sharing their beer, people talking to us about which beers they’re enjoying and even poems.

Our biggest challenge is making sure we’ve got enough people to chat to our lovely customers and managing seasonal peaks. When we do find niggles, we try and solve them quickly to avoid further similar enquiries, for example, making something clearer on the website or improving account functionality.

(6) What have you learnt about subscription customer retention that you could share with our readership?

HonestBrew founders

HonestBrew has raised money from angels, institutional investors and the crowd

We think that the concept of a subscription has changed over the past few years and we’ve adapted a blended model with both transactional and subscription.

For subscription, we focus on providing repeated quality service. It sounds obvious but too many companies focus on the first sale and not on ensuring the service and product is quality going forward. That’s why we offer personalised service (every case tailored to the individual) and curate what beers we list so carefully.

(7) You’ve indicated before that there is some multinational bullying going on in your space – how have you dealt with this?

As a company, our biggest priority is supporting independents and helping them to get their beer into the hands of beer lovers across the UK.

For that reason, when a craft brewery is purchased buy a large multinational we choose not to list them any longer. They don’t need the support from us any more as they have big budgets behind them, and we can focus our energies on promoting craft beer.

(8) How will HonestBrew continue to grow but remain independent?

We’ve got a good group of investors behind us who believe in what we do and the industry and are keen to see HonestBrew continue to grow and expand. It’s our vision to be the home of craft beer – whether you are ordering online, out with friends or looking for trade beer for your eatery.

The breweries we are championing are independents and it makes sense that we’d align ourselves with people who believe in this.

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About Author

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Real Business. He is also the editor of Business Advice, a title focused solely on a section of the business community currently underserved – micro companies. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative.

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