John Munn, final year Management with Marketing student, Year in Enterprise student and president of the Leeds Enterprise Society didn’t set out to run his own brewery business!
Whilst always having an entrepreneurial spirit, playing in and managing bands, it wasn’t until his second year at University, on moving into a student house that he ‘fell in to brewing’. John and his housemates decided to make use of their spare basement room, and save on essential student ‘beer money’ in the process, by trying their hand at brewing, concocting home brews and wine of different varieties. It became a hit with all that tried it.
In the run up to Christmas, John was looking for a Terry’s Chocolate Orange Ginger Beer recipe when he stumbled across a recipe for ‘Braggot’: a traditional Viking drink, made with 50% mead, and set about making in a wok! Where the Ginger Beer recipe failed, the Braggot excelled, giving John the inspiration for his business: Relic Brewery.
After a bit more research and deciding to focus on the production and selling of mead – a drink more recognised in the market, and more affordable.
In Easter 2015, John spent a month over the Easter break studying and working in China, an opportunity funded by the British Council in partnership with the University of Leeds. A week before he went to China, he found out about the Year in Enterprise programme, deciding to apply whilst there…writing his business plan the weekend his friends went to watch the Grand Prix in Shanghai!
Being successful in his interview and offered a place to study a Year in Enterprise, John was able to work entirely on developing his business. With a few hiccups initially (which John reflected ‘was a great learning curve!’) John used the scholarship funds to obtain brewing equipment, spent the summer developing the recipe and begun making useful contacts in attempts to get his business up and running.
‘The Year in Enterprise is a win-win situation; you either get to develop a business that becomes a success or gain skills and experience that puts you at the top of the list for potential employers.’
Whilst on his Year in Enterprise, being involved with staff at SPARK and the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, brought it’s own useful benefits. Dr Sarah Underwood, Director and Associate Professor of CEES introduced John to Robert Barnes, Chartered Accountant, Private Equity Investor and Chairman of the Guernsey Pub Company, and Enterprise Ambassador of CEES.
Being a Chemical Engineering graduate of the University of Leeds, Robert offers his time and gives invaluable experience to a number of students at Leeds. With a background and contacts in the brewing industry, Robert regularly meets with John to talk through his ideas, helps to predict any problems he may face, and offers advice on solutions. Robert also offers to attend various events with John and introduces him to useful contacts.
Robert also provided John with an amazing opportunity by flying him to his brewery in Guernsey where he got to work with the Head Brewer and Distiller for three days. Through seeing the process in operation, visiting the warehouse, talking about the recipes, visiting clients, sitting in on a board meeting and talking to the influential people in the industry, gave him an insight into a real, working, and successful brewery business.
‘Getting to visit, see the workings of and meet the people behind a successful brewery was amazing – it was great for my confidence but also helped me to identify what my strengths were. It was an opportunity I would never have got had I not being doing the Year in Enterprise.’
‘Overall, the opportunities that come with the Year in Enterprise – the scholarships, the confidence boost, meeting potential investors and customers through networks, meeting other entrepreneurs – is priceless.’
In addition to studying in his final year of Management with Marketing and running Relic Brewery, John is also the President of the Leeds Enterprise Society – a role he ran for as he believed the student-led enterprise society was in a unique position to support young entrepreneurs in ways that would augment the efforts of both CEES and Spark. With the society he aims to empower his fellow students by helping them to build a culture of entrepreneurship and show that starting your own business is a plausible option for young people today.
‘Being President of the [Enterprise] society has been really hard work getting it up off the ground but the running it, alongside the other committee members, has given me great experience that I can definitely use after graduation – in my own business or employment: understanding and managing people, and being able to adapt my approach to get the best from others, managing my time and a team. I’ve also been able to use some of what I’ve learnt in my degree into practice!’
After university John is hoping to continue with and grow his brewery, getting Relic beer into the shops and eventually opening bars in every major city across the world. He does, however, also have some back up plans! He has been offered a job as a consultant and would also like to be involved in the running of Global Digital Week but is certain he will be self-employed (at some point!)