Interviews

General election 2015: Chapel Down CEO Frazer Thompson – I'm voting as...

6 min read

13 April 2015

Former editor

Business leaders in the SME space are a vital ingredient in creating a strong and diverse economy for generations to come. As such, Real Business has canvassed opinion on what a number would like to see from a future government.

Throughout the rest of April and first week of May, we’ll be pulling together question and answer sessions with some of the UK’s most exciting, and opinionated, businesses.

The “I’m voting as…” feature series will go straight to the point of what business leaders think has been done wrong and right, followed by their wish list for a new administration. This time up its Frazer Thompson, the CEO of a fast-growing beverages business.

Who are you and what does your business do?

My name is Frazer Thompson, and I’m the CEO of Chapel Down. We make and market England’s leading sparkling and still wines and also Curious Brew and Curious Apple, award-winning craft beer and cider.

We sell them to top end UK retailers and restaurants such as Marks and Spencer, Majestic, Waitrose, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and The Royal Opera House – and increasingly to a customers looking for something a bit different and distinctive in a number of export markets.

How has your business changed over the last five years?

The focus on producing wines and beers that no one else can do has paid off. Consumers love our brand. In fact it’s a “CoolBrand 2015”. We have secured two rounds of funding, latterly through crowdfunding where we raised a (at the time) world record £3.95m in just 21 days from 1500 new investors. The fundraising has allowed us to plant more acres of vineyard in South East England and develop our beer sales rapidly. 

We have recruited 33 per cent more people in the last five years in all areas of the business to grow more fruit, make better wines and beers and sell them. It’s exciting and we have some great partners and shareholders who help us build our brands.

What are your growth plans for the next five years?

Make wines and beers that others can’t through excellence, innovation, insight and perspiration. Sell more of them for a premium price to great customers in UK and 12 focussed export markets. Make more profit and invest it to create stronger brands. Our investors and the management believe that the growth potential is fantastic and we have the brands to do it.

What kind of government would you like to see elected?

One that says what it’s going to do and then does it. I want to see clarity (although I’d like to see a revolution) on duty in UK market. I’d also like to see continued support for UK exports and the GREAT campaign internationally. 

However, most of all, I’d like to see thresholds for EIS investment increased dramatically and a faster and more sympathetic planning system. Good businesses need cash to grow. Investing in British businesses can be made more attractive still. We should be encouraging more people to invest in companies they believe in and share the passion.

Read another from our general election 2015 series:

Do you think government in general is doing enough to support businesses of your size?

I don’t like direct government help such as grants. Healthy businesses don’t need them. It’s a huge frustration when you hear of some people getting grants when they don’t need them or just because they were quicker to apply. 

Encouraging investment through EIS has been transformational and can go further and crowdfunding looks set to be a very interesting opportunity for growth companies. In short,  I want an environment that is less burdened with regulations, unproductive costs and that gives me a better educated, better motivated and happier pool of talent and much larger pool of potential investors motivated to invest for the medium term in businesses they like and understand.

Has the impending general election caused any uncertainty regarding how you run your company?

None.

In one sentence, please finish this line: “I’m voting as…”

I am voting as a CEO of an exciting English drinks business with ambitious growth plans both here and abroad and with a small army of small investors behind me (and some quite big ones too!)

Read more from our general election coverage:

Do you agree with Frazer Thompson? Is there anything you’d like to add? Please let us know in the comments box below.