Firsts

A week on from my latest blog post, and it's not fizzled out just yet as I write this next entry. I'm not really sure how to begin, so I think I'll start with a brief overview of where we are today. It's Sunday morning as I look out the office window upon a very grey and foggy York cityscape, it’s the end of November and like many others, my wife and I spent Saturday putting up the Christmas decorations. Far, far earlier than normal but this year is an anomaly!! Lockdown 2.0 is coming to an end and so businesses around the UK are busy preparing in order to make the most of what December and the remains of 2020 might hold.  

At the end of 2019, I reflected upon the journey of the business so far. I plan to do the same, in detail, at the end of this year however for now I want to explore just one aspect of the business to date.

My experience of starting and running my own business has been filled to the brim with firsts. The first brew, the first sales meeting (which was horrendous), the first physical sale, the first online sale, the first delivery, the first regular customer, the first flat tyre for the work van, and so on and so on. These all took place in the first year of trading, but the second year has been just as full for new and old businesses alike. For us, they were the first zoom beer tasting, the first mini keg campaign, the first brew in our new home, the first kegging in our new home, the first canning in our...(you get where I'm going). 

I would like to think that the majority of firsts that have taken place so far have all been exciting and positive, steps into the unknown. However, obviously not all of them have. This week saw a new first, and one that was difficult to swallow but one that feels right and that we will no doubt learn and grow from. This week saw the first batch of beer that had to be recalled and ‘poured down the drain’.

We carry out extensive tests on all our brews to make sure that the product is right before sending it out to the consumer. As normal we carried out the tests on our latest batch of Another Wai-iti session IPA and we found the product to fall just short of the standards that we set for ourselves in terms of flavour, mouthfeel and colour of the beer.

Thankfully, we had only sold a few units and the majority of the beer was still on site, meaning that there was a minimal impact on the consumer. However, it falls at rather an unfortunate time. Overall sales have obviously dropped during lockdown 2.0. It has not been the same experience as lockdown 1.0 which took place in the summer, and once bars were allowed to serve take-away beers, there were plenty of opportunities to sell beer for people to enjoy outside in the sunshine. We are now in winter, where a cold pint in a plastic cup sat along the riverside does not have the same appeal. But this is not a problem, we foresaw this and decided to put our time and energy into preparing for Christmas sales and specifically our Christmas Gift boxes. Gift boxes that include our Session IPA. 

In any business reputation is key. This is true regardless of whether it is a small local, national or global business. If you deliver a poor service or a poor product, word will quickly spread. We cannot afford to put out sub-standard produce. It may be the first experience of our product for many of our consumers and if it falls short, they will not return. That is the bottom line.

If recalling the session IPA has a negative effect on Christmas Gift box sales, because now they have to be pre-ordered for when the next batch is ready, then so be it. This will most likely pale in comparison to the negative and, at the end of the day, financial hit we would take by putting out a product that we are not happy with. 

I take solace in the fact that Guinness recalled their alcohol-free beer only a few weeks ago, and I have seen plenty of big-name breweries posting videos of beer going down the drain on various social media channels.

We are rubbing shoulders with the big boys, but not necessarily in the way we would like to be.

So yes, another first for us this week. We have learned from it in both a business and beer regard, and I'm almost certain it won't be the last time it happens. 

Thanks for taking the time to read me waffle on and please leave a comment if you have any feelings or thoughts on the subjects discussed.

Cheers, James

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