‘I’ve gone from civil ser­vice to fam­ily brew­ing firm’

Get‘Er brewed’s Deb­o­rah Mitchell and Daniel McGlade from oros on on their en­tre­pre­neur­ial ideas and how tak­ing risks has paid off

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page -

Co Antrim firm Get ‘Er Brewed has just signed a con­tract that will see it sup­ply 600 tonnes of malt a year to a ma­jor brew­ery. It is a far cry from the early days of the busi­ness, which was started by Deb­o­rah Mitchell while she was on a ca­reer break from her job as a civil ser­vant.

Get ‘Er Brewed was es­tab­lished less than six years ago by home brew en­thu­si­ast Deb­o­rah who orig­i­nally packed or­ders in her kitchen.

In the early days, Deb­o­rah built up the busi­ness by at­tend­ing craft and wed­ding fairs and so­cial me­dia was also an im­por­tant tool.

Since then, the web-based com­pany has gone from sell­ing home brew kits to novice brew­ers to sup­ply­ing craft brew­eries across Ire­land and the UK from a ware­house on the out­skirts of Ran­dal­stown.

“Our first or­der was packed out of our at­tic,” says 37-year-old Deb­o­rah ( be­low).

“It re­ally is in­cred­i­ble to think how far we have come.

“I used to brew my own wine and beer at home, it was a bit of a hobby and I saw a gap in the mar­ket.

“I wrote out the idea for the busi­ness in pen­cil on a piece of pa­per, no-one thought it would come to any­thing, yet here we are.

“We have just signed a deal with Rye River Brew­ing Com­pany in Co Kil­dare to sup­ply them with 600 tonnes of malt a year.

“When we started out, we were sell­ing home brew kits for about £30 and now we’re ship­ping 2,000 pal­lets a year.”

Build­ing up a skilled and ded­i­cated team has been in­te­gral to mak­ing a suc­cess of the busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to Deb­o­rah.

For the first num­ber of years, Deb­o­rah pro­cessed and packed or­ders, mon­i­tored stock lev­els, or­dered stock, ne­go­ti­ated con­tracts with sup­pli­ers and en­sured cus­tomers re­ceived the best ser­vice pos­si­ble, all as a stay at home mum to her two daugh­ters, Eva (11) and nine-year-old Olivia.

But as the busi­ness grew, Deb­o­rah took on staff to help her meet the grow­ing num­ber of or­ders.

She says: “Get­ting the right peo­ple work­ing for us has been cru­cial. We only em­ploy peo­ple if they can do the job bet­ter than us, so for ex­am­ple, Clay­ton, who is our ware­house su­per­vi­sor, has the po­si­tion be­cause he can pack pal­lets bet­ter than me.”

The sheer vol­ume of prod­ucts also meant they had to find premises, first mov­ing to a site on a farm out­side Ran­dal­stown.

It was there that Get ‘Er Brewed be­gan to col­lab­o­rate with the farm to de­velop Hill­stown Brew­ery, which now pro­duces and sup­plies beer to in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers and su­per­mar­kets such as Tesco and Lidl.

At the same time, Deb­o­rah de­cided to tap into the grow­ing phe­nom­e­non of craft brew­ing and ex­panded into whole­sale, pro­vid­ing in­gre­di­ents and equip­ment to the craft brew­ing in­dus­try.

She says: “We prob­a­bly fo­cused on home brew for the first three years and then in the last two and a half years we have fo­cused on the craft brew­ing sec­tor.

“Ba­si­cally, there has been a mas­sive ex­plo­sion of growth in that sec­tor and there wasn’t re­ally any­one ser­vic­ing the Ir­ish mar­ket with a one stop shop.

“We made the de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish our­selves as that one stop shop.”

As the com­pany has ex­panded, they also made the de­ci­sion to move to larger premises out­side Ran­dal­stown.

They now em­ploy five peo­ple full-time and three part-time roles with plans to take on more staff in the com­ing 18 months.

Get ‘Er Brewed now im­ports stock from around the world, with Deb­o­rah due to travel to Aus­tralia in the com­ing months to meet with a range of hop farm­ers.

“All the com­pa­nies and sup­pli­ers that we work with now ap­proached us as op­posed to the other way around,” she says. “I am a firm be­liever in do­ing busi­ness face-to-face, I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to meet peo­ple in per­son be­cause you get to know them and they get to know you.

“It’s much more per­sonal and I think you do bet­ter busi­ness that way, we have def­i­nitely found it is the best way to build a re­la­tion­ship.

“We are very much a per­son­able busi­ness, it’s the way we deal with our cus­tomers and it’s also the way we deal with our sup­pli­ers.”

Of course, build­ing up the busi­ness has been a steep learn­ing curve.

Be­fore Get ‘Er Brewed, Deb­o­rah had no ex­pe­ri­ence of start­ing up her own busi­ness.

“It’s def­i­nitely been a steep learn­ing curve,” she says.

“This is a fam­ily busi­ness, there was no cap­i­tal ready to help us build it up and we started it from scratch.

“Ev­ery­thing that we have now we have built up our­selves, in or­der to build the busi­ness, we have had to gen­er­ate the rev­enue our­selves and that has been chal­leng­ing.

“But I think in many ways that makes what we have now bet­ter.

“We’re more at­tached and in­vested in the busi­ness be­cause of the work that has gone into it, be­cause we cre­ated it our­selves and we weren’t given fi­nance to set it up.

“The one piece of ad­vice I would give to any­one start­ing their own busi­ness is to work harder than the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Up un­til this year we have worked to dou­ble our turnover ev­ery year and that is some­thing we have achieved. We are def­i­nitely com­mit­ted to con­tin­ual growth.

“This year, we also de­vel­oped and launched a gin, Frankie and Eileen’s, in May which came about as a re­sult of our own craft beers and our re­la­tion­ship with Drinks Inc.

“Our fo­cus last year was on the mi­cro­brew­ery side of things and per­haps we didn’t give the gin as much at­ten­tion, but we plan to fo­cus on that a lot more this year.

“Our long-term growth plans are to keep the busi­ness as a fam­ily-run busi­ness, some­thing we can pass on to our chil­dren, we don’t have an exit strat­egy.

“It is hard work but we re­ally do feel like we have achieved some­thing and it’s some­thing we can be proud of.”

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