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

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“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.”

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