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What started with two founder shareholders and a dog in 2007 has turned into a strong craft beer revolution, an international movement and a meeting of minds employing almost 600 people, with 32,000 shareholders in less than 10 years. Brewdog is an entrepreneurial story that owes much of its single-minded success to its ‘just go for it’ attitude. Here Martin and James who founded the business discuss their journey through crowd funding to breaking into the US market and their relationship with long-term haulier and Palletline member ARR Craib.

Tell us about the entrepreneurial BrewDog story and take us through the past 9 years?

Back in 2007 Martin Dickie (my co-founder) and I were bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK beer industry. We managed to lease a small building, navigated some pretty scary bank loans, spent all our money on stainless steel and started making the beers we wanted to drink. Initially made in tiny batches, filled by hand and sold at local markets, our biggest mission when we set up was to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are, which is still true today. BrewDog is built on punk mentality and rejecting the status quo, and it’s through this attitude we’ve pushed the craft revolution global, opening 46 bars around the world, launching a brewery in Ohio, converting 50,000 people to evangelists of craft (our Equity Punk shareholders), and cementing the top spot as number one UK craft brewery

Is there still a real entrepreneurial feel to how the business is run today?

BrewDog was set up with a view to revolutionising the beer industry in the UK and completely redefine British beer-drinking culture and this philosophy has driven all of us to make BrewDog what it is today. From the ground up, every BrewDog employee is as passionate about great beer as we are, and is inherently entrepreneurial in their approach to what they do, and this combined individual effort makes us stand head and shoulders above the faceless suits driven only by their bottom line. We Cicerone train all of our staff, ensuring they have the best skills possible to inform and educate beer geeks across the globe.

At BrewDog how do you generate new ideas?

New ideas at BrewDog come in hard and fast from across the whole company and we love it. We hire people who love beer and who aren’t afraid to push boundaries, and this means we never stop trailblazing.

Tell us about your relationship with your supply chain partner ARR Craib?

ARR Craib have been our primary haulier since we started in 2007 in a small industrial building in Fraserburgh. In those days we shipped at the most one or two pallets every few days! We now have a purpose-built Brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire and we regularly ship over 200 pallets daily with ARR Craib. We ship to over 56 countries and ARR Craib offers an invaluable integral cog to our Global Supply Chain. They offer support not only for our finished goods haulage but also our raw material inbound freight for the brewery and packaging areas.

Why did BrewDog choose ARR Craib?

ARR Craib are a well-respected firm in the North East of Scotland - the management and office staff understand our business needs and the drivers are courteous and take pride in their jobs which is key when they are transporting the best beer in the world to our amazing customers!

How has the partnership with ARR Craib enhanced your business?

BrewDog has been the fastest growing food and drinks business for the last five years and having a partner who can react positively to the fast growth is essential. The reactive service of having 5 x lorries turn up for urgent orders within an hour to dealing with urgent hot shot services to keep our brewery going is the best reference you can have. We have some very impressive growth plans for BrewDog in 2017 and envisage ARR Craib to be a key partner supporting us to achieve this.

At BrewDog what do you think is central to your relationship with ARR Craib?

ARR Craib’s support team in the Aberdeen office is the key to our ongoing relationship. They understand and are fans of our business, and have frequently visited the brewery or one of our bars to partake in sampling our goods.

At BrewDog what do you think are the top 3 skills needed to be an entrepreneur?

Don’t start a business, start a crusade – Businesses fail but revolutions never die, you need a clear purpose, a mission, and a true reason for existing. We set out to make as many people as passionate about craft beer as we are and this continues to drive everything we do. Be selfish and ignore advice – My advice for those seeking advice, is don’t bother. Be driven, know what you want and do it your way. Don’t waste your time on bulls**t business plans – Planning is merely glorified guesswork; don’t waste your time in self-indulgent fantasies. You need a strong mission, a savvy understanding of finance and ability to react at lighting speed.

At BrewDog what do you think are the five key elements of starting and running a successful business?

When starting something new the overwhelming likelihood is that your business will fail, the cards are more than stacked against you. Eighty per cent of new businesses fail in their first eighteen months and the chance of becoming a long-term organisation after this is less than 1 in 20. You need to earn the right to exist and become relevant to your awesome customers.

Throw a little thought behind these:

  • Go get it – You better make damn sure you’re focused, ruthless, driven and motivated from day one. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it.
  • Run in a pack – The business landscape is ruthless, and being an only child puts you at an immediate disadvantage. A co-funding pup will make you faster, better and sharper.
  • Bake your own pie – If anyone ever tells you to look for a gap in the market, tell them to go to hell. Don’t look for gaps, don’t be a pathetic leech scrambling around for crumbs off someone else’s second-rate pie. Bake your own goddam pie.
  • Know your numbers – When it comes to finance, you need to be a yodaesque grand master of playing by the rules before you can even consider breaking them.
  • Keep the faith, Punk – People hated our beers when we launched. They hated the flavour, the packaging, branding, everything. But we simply did not care. We told people that we brewed the beers we brewed for our own enjoyment, not theirs. Be selfish, do what you want and always believe.

As a business if you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

My advice for those seeking advice, is don’t bother. Advice is for freaks and clowns.