Wherever you look across Australia and New Zealand there is a quiet revolution going on. well maybe not so quiet! Of small business and start-ups taking on new markets and giving consumers what they want – a quality product. This week we take a look at a couple of small businesses to find out where they came from, where they are heading and why it is they decided to have a go. We start with a small business close to my heart the Mornington Peninsula Brewery (MPB) company – yes, I can hear what you are saying “typical Matt loving the micro brewers” but you have to appreciate that the movement to more quality products has been on the go for a while. Research from IBIS world shows that the craft beer market in Australia was already worth $179 million in revenue with annual growth between 2011 – 16 set at about 10.1%. At the time the research was conducted the sector had 164 businesses and employed just over 500 people. One of them is, of course, MPB.
Started in 2010 the business has grown to have more than 40 specialist beers and in 2014 opened a second production brewery in the Mornington with national distribution and now exporting to Singapore and Thailand. So what was the story behind how this little Aussie battler got its beginnings and where to from here? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead? Take a look:
It could be argued that Hawthorn’s Stuart Dew, with ten minutes of brilliance, founded Mornington Peninsula Brewery. His match winning 3rd quarter burst, cementing the 2008 Premiership for the Hawks, brought neighbours Matt Bebe and Malcolm McLean together to celebrate. Talk turned to beer and breweries and long into the night the euphoric pair discussed grand visions for a new brewery. Maps were poured over for possible locations; beer types, names and possible labels were bandied about. Next day nursing a hangover, and thinking it all a pipe dream, Mal headed to Glenferrie Oval to pay homage to the Hawks.
Matt however sat down to write a plan.
Meetings with Rod Attenborough finalised the vision to start a brewery based on tradition, industry and honesty that identifies with the Mornington Peninsula’s heritage of epicurean and leisure opportunities. At a meeting in February 2009 an industry stalwart advised to contract brew first and create a market. Despite that being the easier option it didn’t sit with the brewery motto:
Research began in earnest with it quickly becoming apparent that the more youthful Matt was the leading light and natural MD for the newly formed Mornington Peninsula Brewery Pty Ltd. He finalised the business plan, crunched the numbers and formulated the share structure. After locating a factory that seemed purpose built for the brewery, Matt completed the complex process of gaining the necessary approvals, permits and agreements required by MP Shire, LLV and SE Water. Rod with his pedigree history as an art director in advertising designed all the artwork and Mal gave his opinion on everything.
Many brewery systems were investigated, both new and second hand, and the decision was made to go with Ian and Wes from IBS. Invaluable support and advice was given by Neil from Matilda Bay, Peter and Dale from Bintani and Luke from Otway Estate along with everyone encountered in the micro brewing fraternity.
When the prospectus launched amongst family and friends it was a great relief to find that another 16 like-minded beer lovers were very keen to share the dream (and turn up for working bees to prepare the factory for fit out). With the starting capital raised attention shifted to project management as building and installation began in earnest. Matt left his HR manager position with a Biotech company in July 2010 to give his full attention (as if he didn’t already) to Mornington Peninsula Brewery.
So, lets get back to some questions – so why beer I asked? Well Matt tells me that as an HR and Training Manager he spent a lot of time travelling around Australia, New Zealand and Asia and as a consequence he found himself “trying lots of different beers and searching out craft breweries.” But it was living on the Mornington Penisuala that really made the difference because he was lucky to enjoy a local favourite “trying lots of different beers and searching out craft breweries.” And so he could see that the concept of establishing a local alternative could work as well as the fact Matt “Still loved beer and its changing landscape.”
Tell us about where you see the opportunities for your growth?
“A lot of growth nationally in Australia. 97% of Australian’s still drink mainstream beer. True craft makes up 3%. In comparison in the US craft beer is roughly 15%. Asia is a focus for long term growth especially Japan and China.”
The Government has just concluded the China FTA - do you have plans for China and if so can you share them with us?
“Yes, just came of Skype call with potential China distributor. We Commissioned a China feasibility study and it showed that our brand and product in the China market would be a good fit and we have a distributor coming out to Australia in October where we plan to sign an agreement.”
Being in small business can be pretty tough - what do you think of the Governments recent budget announcements to help out small businesses like yours?
“As Australia’s resources boom diminishes it is vital that the government explores what is going to sustain our future. Building small business is one of those. Small business has always been part of the Australian landscape and embraces the “give it a go” attitude we have. We have engaged in two Government programs that have been very beneficial in building our business.
If you could give two lessons to inspire other entrepreneurs to get going what would they be?
“Give it a go” and if you have the passion and drive you can make anything happen. Your Mum always said when you were little “you can be whatever you want” “dream big” – well she was right! The more risk you take the greater the reward – for me it was more a personally reward.
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