14 Apr SPOTLIGHT ON: Good Beer – Saving the World One Good Beer at a Time
James Grugeon is a man on a mission.
He wants to start a Good Beer revolution of a different kind. In fact he wants all of us to enjoy good beer that does good. He also has tremendous energy and is a man of multi-talents, having a long track record as a campaigner, activist and social entrepreneur. We put him under the Spotlight this month to help us understand more about the man behind the mission.
What is the philosophy behind Good Beer and how did it start?
It’s a very simple concept: we want to make it easy for people to get behind a cause they about – by drinking a good beer. In the process we want to raise the profile of and significant funds for a number of good causes Australians care about – like protecting the Great Barrier Reef for example. I used to run a charity about the same size as our first charity partner, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, and I know how hard it is to raise funds and to get people interested in supporting your cause. So this is about making it really easy for people to do some good while doing something they already enjoy doing – and in the process, giving charities access to a much larger mainstream audience and some great publicity for their good cause.
Grugeon says he started Good Beer Co. for 3 main reasons:
“1. I was encouraged by the work I did as Head of Partnerships for Powershop, the electricity company now dubbed “Australia’s greenest electricity company” by Greenpeace, to help them launch in Victoria and New South Wales. I set up partnerships that, at the time were a totally new approach, with charities and NGOs that helped those charities to raise over $1.5 million by recruiting customers to Powershop. We redirected marketing spend that would have gone to the big commercial aggregators like iselect to the charity and NGO partners by saying to people – switch to this company that’s greener and will give you better service and a better deal and you’ll be helping a cause you care about in the process. It got me thinking about how to turn an everyday act into something good;
2. I contacted two very successful social enterprise companies – Two Fingers in the UK that raises funds for the national prostate cancer charity and Finnegans in the USA that raises funds for food trucks that feed homeless people. Both of them were generous in their support, advice and encouragement – “if it can work here then it can definitely work in Australia!;”
3. I found two fearless launch partners in Bargara Brewing Company and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, both of whom got and supported the concept early on. Jack Milbank, the owner of Bargara Brewing Company stepped up after our very first conversation to offer to be our first craft brewery partner and has guided me through the process of brewing our first beer – and much more. Darren Kindleysides, the CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, secured the support of his Board, team and supporters to be the first charity in Australia to back a beer that gives back. Without them taking that risk in backing me and the idea it wouldn’t have happened.”
What do you love about Good Beer? What gets you up in the morning?
Grugeon is excited by the potential of The Good Beer Co. He wants to make The Good Beer Co beers available across Australia to raise a lot of money and the profile of/for the good causes they back. His goal is like most passionate social entrepreneurs: to demonstrate that doing business for good – social enterprise or profit for a purpose, is a good way to do business, for our society and the environment. He also wants to showcase how much good the craft beer sector is doing for Australia too – both in terms of the care it takes to minimise its impact on the environment and its positive impact on local communities across Australia.
“I love working in the beer sector and with Aussie craft brewers in particular. They are a passionate lot who care about making good beerbut they also care about supporting their local community, protecting their local environment, treating their local producers and suppliers with respect and – above all, the way their beer is made. As someone new to beer, I’ve found that passion infectious and I’ve been blown away by how collaborative, supportive and generous people have been.”
The story of how that generousity translates to action, is a credit to Grugeon’s ability to inspire people around him, and has resulted in many great wins for the company already. He explains:
“Like when Jack at Bargara Brewing Company and Darren from AMCS said yes and agreed to be the partners for our first beer, Great Barrier Beer. Or when over 350 people backed our crowd fund campaign and pre ordered a beer we hadn’t even brewed yet. Or when more than 800 people showed up to our Sounds Good event for Great Barrier Beer and the AMCS at The Triffid in Brisbane. Or when Matt from Brewski Bar put our first keg of Great Barrier Beer on tap and launched Great Barrier Beer. Or when Flyn Van Ewjik, Head of Environment from Qantas agreed to join our Advisory Board. Or when Tourism and Events Queensland shot a video on The Good Beer Co and Great Barrier Beer that got picked up by local, national and international news. There are lots more examples – but it’s the times when people have chosen to back us and to help us succeed that really stand out as highlights.”
The other big highlight was seeing people have their first taste of Great Barrier Beer and telling him what they thought of it. For Grugeon explaining the why behind the product is a great conversation starter.
What have been the major legal hurdles you’ve faced in establishing the company?
“Probably the same ones faced by most start ups. But in my case, learning about a new sector and starting from scratch in terms of the legal arrangements with various key partners. The Good Beer Co is a new concept so we’ve had to both work with and amend existing approaches and invent new ones. Which is where the relationship with Clearpoint Counsel has been great. We started off talking about the constitution of The Good Beer Co, then we looked at our key partners or relationships as a business and the legal requirements.” For the team at Good Beer Co, it’s a learning process but the aim is to standardise an approach that will work for numerous partners and for allowing them to scale up while continuing to recognise the need for flexibility.
What are 3 things you would advise someone thinking of starting a profit for purpose enterprise?
Grugeon has some great advice for budding social entreprenuers:
1. Do your research – is this something that there is a market or customers for and will people you need to support it get behind it? Get on the phone, skype and email to people who are already doing it or in a similar field, contact the people you’ll need to partner with and ask them what they think, seek their support and find out how their business works. Ask lots and lots of questions and remember that people – by and large – like to talk and will be up for sharing.
2. Make sure you have the support you need in place to do what you want to do because it will be a long hard slog as well as a lot of fun. That’s your partner, your family, your friends, your key partners and maybe your own funds, your time or someone elses funds. It’s hard work (seven days a week, evenings and weekends) and it will take time – we launched the crowd fund for Great Barrier Beer in November and I’ve been working full time since October 2015 and we’re still at an early stage. Remember when you’re tired or you’ve had a knock back that it’s a real privilege to be able to do what you’re doing and that there are people supporting you and backing you who you owe a debt of gratitude to.
3. Go for it, enjoy it and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The worst thing you can do is wait for everything to be perfect to kick things off because it never will be and you’ll never get started. You need to be brave, go for it and learn from the inevitable mistakes that you’ll make and the things that are guaranteed to go wrong along the way. Once you’re up and running you can make changes, improvements and take advice. If you’re still sitting in front of a business plan on a laptop worrying about it you’re not doing it! If it helps, work out what’s the worst thing that can happen if it all goes wrong (and check in with those closest to you on this) and it will help give you the confidence and courage to go for it.
As the Good Beer Co. journey unfolds, Grugeon is confident the message will also reasonate:
“so by enjoying drinking this good beer I’m also helping protect the reef?” Yes, he says. It’s that simple.
By Clearpoint Counsel Ed.