‘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
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.”