GETTING A HEAD
CLINTON SCHULTZ LEFT SCHOOL AT 15, BUT ROSE TO BECOME AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT A PROMINENT UNIVERSITY. NOW HE’S TAKING HIS NON-ALCOHOLIC BEER BRAND SOBAH TO THE WORLD, THE LATEST STEP IN HIS PLANS TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK
“BEING ABORIGINAL, THEY’RE ALL FLAVOURS THAT I’M PRETTY PASSIONATE ABOUT AND RESOURCES THAT I THINK WE NEED TO, AS AUSTRALIA, GET BACK TO ACTUALLY USING MORE, BECAUSE THEY’RE FAR MORE SUSTAINABLE AND FAR BETTER FOR OUR COUNTRY.”
It was Christmas morning when Clinton Schultz’s children asked him to stop drinking “the silly drink”.
Five years on, and without a drop of alcohol passing his lips since, the indigenous Gamilaroi man has begun discussions with UK supermarket giant Tesco to stock his Sobah range of non-alcoholic beers after struggling to have his product accepted in the Australian market.
But for Clinton, the creation of Sobah is not just about making sure he has something to drink on a night out – it’s another step in his long journey to make a difference, a journey which began with the heartfelt plea from his children to give up alcohol.
Clinton vividly recalls the moment he decided to put the bottle down for good.
“I always just thought I was a happy-go-lucky drinker.
“It was Christmas Eve, and I’d had a pretty big one with one of my cousins. I went home and I was just pretending to be a ghost and a zombie and those sorts of things, and the kids were trying to sleep, and I’d sneak into the room and go ‘raah’, and they were kind of freaked out, then they started stressing because they couldn’t sleep and Santa wasn’t going to come and see them.
“They got up the next morning and said ‘Dad, can you not do that anymore, can you not drink silly drink’ – and I said no worries, guys.”
These days, Clinton is a registered psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Health at Bond University’s School of Medicine. He works in drug and alcohol rehab, suicide prevention and cultural capacity training.
He likes to keep busy, and it’s just as well – because alongside that work, Sobah is going from strength to strength, having just been named an Australian finalist in HRH Duke of York’s global [email protected] contest for entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.
If it was his kids that made him quit alcohol, it was the lack of drinkable alternatives that led Clinton to look at coming up with his own brews.
“As soon as I stopped drinking, I was purchasing a whole bunch of the non-alcoholic beers that are available in Australia, most of them are imports from Germany or Belgium or other places.
“They’re heavily processed and treated and quite neutral and bland in flavour, so I just got bored of them really quick.”
Clinton grew up making home brew with his grandfather, so he already knew about the brewing process.
He began experimenting with recipes for non-alcoholic beer, and hit on the idea of including bush tucker in his brews.
“Being Aboriginal, they’re all flavours that I’m pretty passionate about and resources that I think we need to, as Australia, get back to actually using more, because they’re far more sustainable and far better for our country,” he says.
“I think the more we can expand the industry the better it’ll be for everybody, you’ll have Aboriginal communities that can start enterprises around farming and producing the natural produce, and we’ll have more businesses actually using them.”
At the time he was running an Aboriginal food truck, which ended up as Sobah’s first stockist. The beers were a hit – customers started turning up with their jugs looking for takeaways, and Clinton began thinking of ways to can his increasingly popular product.
These days, Sobah’s range includes three beers – Lemon Aspen Pilsner, Finger Lime Cerveza, and Pepperberry IPA.
Despite the booming craft beer market in Australia and an increased public appetite for healthier drink options, Clinton is frustrated by the struggles of getting Sobah into the marketplace.
“It’s not just the individual retailers, there’s a real monopoly of the market, and it’s damaging, it’s damaging for the art of brewing and entrepreneurship because it can quickly discourage people from wanting to take a part of it, knowing that there’s just that big brick wall facing you when you’ve got a product and you’re ready to get it out there.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s individual bottle shops, through to the chains, through to pubs and clubs and other establishments.”
The reception offshore has been much warmer: Tesco approached Clinton to stock the Sobah range.
A carton of samples was delivered to Tesco recently.
The next step is for the Tesco testing panel to meet and taste the beers on offer, and all going well, Clinton hopes Sobah will be part of the chain’s world beer range for summer 2019.
When it comes to attitudes towards non-alcoholic beer, Clinton says his homeland has some catching up to do.
“Non-alcoholic beer is normal in Europe and in the UK, and growing faster in the States as well and all through Asia. It’s just Australia, we’re a little behind the times, we actually see that we’ll be more prominent, more successful overseas than here for the next few years.”
Clinton isn’t your everyday CEO. Leaving school at 15 to take up a chef’s apprenticeship, he also spent time at home looking after his six-month-old baby sister. Years later, his focus remains on helping others.
“It’s been a long journey. Pretty much everything that I delve into these days is about spreading awareness and working in the space of health and wellbeing, be that through the social and emotional wellbeing work that I do, or through the workshops that I run with kids out in the bush, or through Sobah, or even through the academic work through the teaching I do at the medical school.
“At the end of the day we’re (Sobah) a social venture, we’re not just selling a product, we’re trying to sell social responsibility. We’re committed to giving 10 per cent of our profits back to doing some good at the end of the day, so the more we can actually make the more we actually get to give back.
“The real driving force for me behind it is to be able to raise money to actually do drug and alcohol rehabilitation work, different to what’s done now.
“To give those that don’t have $35,000 to pay for a private holistic clinic the opportunity to get a more holistic experience that’s likely to give them more opportunity to recover and heal, that’s the bigger aim.”