Exactly a year ago we were ringing the bell to begin our PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign, at a launch party in Wellington’s Golding’s Free Dive. A meagre 31 minutes later we were celebrating the successful raise of $500,000 with a whole bunch of our 200 new shareholders.
Moments after the high-fives, backslapping, and congratulatory hugs died down I distinctly remember thinking: “Uh, oh!! Now I’ve got to actually go out and do what I said I could.” It suddenly dawned on me what a difficult year 2015 could become.
It has been even more difficult than I could have imagined but, also, so much more rewarding than I could have dreamed.
Having 200 shareholders is the opposite of what everyone would have had me believe when we looked at our capital raising options.
What is pitched, by those more familiar with traditional investment, is the burden of looking after shareholders. The reality, for us, has been shareholders as a source of inspiration and a constant reminder that we’ve followed the right path.
When I broke both my arms on a trip to USA, in July 2015, who was there to do my washing and be my tour guide at the end of each work day? Two of our fantastic shareholders. I couldn’t ever imagine the folk behind a private equity firm washing my undies!
Our shareholders are engaged in positive ways — from buying their beer to share with friends, to being brand ambassadors all over the world, through to providing excellent analysis and thought provoking feedback on our business.
In the year since we raised the capital to grow I have spent 40 weeks in UK, a couple in USA, and only a small amount in New Zealand. I’ve now moved my entire family (and a dog!) to England to pursue the great opportunity we see here.
We could never have pursued this opportunity without the capital invested and our crowd.
The most important thing we have done since raising capital is to take on Zane Smith — Yeastie Boys’ Master of Everything. Zane now runs everything in New Zealand and, although I’m still heavily involved from afar, I couldn’t have made the move to the antipodes (with no UK revenue coming in) without someone like Zane.
I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur — that is, someone who simply loved beer and fell into business — the urgency that I feel on a day-to-day basis probably pegs me as a natural business owner. I’m impatient about everything and it is never done as well as I’d like!
But you soon come to realise that it takes perseverance, and not visionary skills, to get a business kicked off in UK. Perhaps the next time we raise money, I’ll be able to hire the people who can take over the perseverance tasks!
When I look back at the year, we’ve done some things which we couldn’t (or at least wouldn’t) have ever done without our shareholders… we have:
- more than doubled our staff (albeit only from 1 to 2.5),
- raised our revenue by 50% since we started producing in UK, and that could have been a lot higher if not hampered by bureaucracy,
- moved to a model of self-distribution and online retailing in New Zealand, which will result in significantly higher margins and better connection with our customers,
- embedded the right relationships in UK to build our business from the ground up.
There’s a list, far too long to write here, of what I’d like to have done but haven’t been able to manage yet. But I’m not sure what I’d actually do if that list didn’t exist!
Most importantly, I couldn’t be much happier about changing tack on the way we have done things in 2015.
All this makes the year ahead tremendously exciting. With our processes and bureaucracy (mostly) sorted… Expect to hear big things from Yeastie Boys in 2016.