PodcastsJanuary 27, 2017

Business is Boring #37: Jen Ferguson and Glen Williams on expanding their beer, hot sauce & records empire


‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.

This week Simon is in merry old post-Brexit England, specifically East Dulwich in London, talking to ex-pats Jen and Glen. They’ve made a solid niche for themselves by opening up a craft beer shop that also sells hot sauce and records. Hop Burns & Black has won awards and press coverage and now the owners are looking to expand the business.

Simon (over a selection of tasty beer) talks to them both about how they set up their atypical business in a strange land, the ins and outs of pushing NZ craft beer overseas, and what their plans are for expanding the brand.

Either download (right click to save), have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

You guys have made your dream a reality and it’s going really well. The store’s great and getting the accolades as well. What advice do you have for people who are maybe sitting there in jobs that are good jobs but they don’t feel like they’re living their dream?

Jen: Obviously the big thing is do try and pursue your dreams. We’ve sat on this for a few years thinking ‘should we do this? Shouldn’t we do this?’

Glen: If you see that gap in the market then it’s there right now so you’ve got to act on it right now.

Jen: It’s all very well saying ‘follow your dreams’ but I think it’s more follow your dreams but make sure those dreams are backed up with research and do as much as you can to ensure a chance at success. We saw a gap in the market but we made sure that we were a thousand times certain that that gap existed and that we would be able to fill it by a lot of research, by standing outside many shops, by counting numbers of people, by surreptitious visits to other breweries. All sorts of things. It’s that really long process of putting it all together to make sure that what you’re doing is going to make sense.

Glen: There might be a lot of people listening who are thinking about online businesses, and we’re in the very early stages of that, but from what I’ve learnt so far, if you’re entering a market where there are already big players and it looks like there’s no other room for whatever you’re doing, I would put that aside and give it a go anyway. Because it’s such an interesting space. What we’re seeing so far is you can carve out your own niche and perhaps take some market away from those big players as well.

Jen: We held off on doing online for a long time because here in the UK the market is full of long-time players and newer entrants who are doing very well, so it’s quite a formidable field of players out there.  So we thought we’d dip our toe in the water, it can’t harm us. We’ll use Shopify which will tap into our point of sale Vend. And as it turns out it was pretty easy to set up, it was a sideline. But as we got a name for the selection of beers we have and having beers that no one else does, it’s grown and grown and grown. It now makes up about 20-25% of our turnover which, for something we thought there wasn’t a gap in the market for, is a real surprise and really exciting.

Keep going!