We’ve been selling great beer for five years now.
It’s strange – sometimes it seems like way longer than that, sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been five years.
A lot of things have changed since we started AleselA and a lot of things have stayed exactly the same.
We’ve done pretty well to make it to five years if you think about it, or if you know what goes on behind the scenes. From the get-go AleselA has been completely self-funded. We’ve never had a bank loan, been awarded any grants, no crowd funding, nothing. We’re quite proud of that. It’s been tough going at several points in the past five years but being independent has enabled us to stick closely to what we think is the best way forward for AleselA. Also, being skint is a great motivator on those days when you wonder why you’re doing this!
As well as not receiving any outside funding, we’ve ruffled a few feathers along the way too. An early falling out with a supplier taught us a few things –
- Trust your gut instincts when it comes to people. If you perceive someone as a complete bell-end on first meeting, stick with that perception.
- Amateur snake oil salesman (or as my dear old granny used to call them “plausible bastards”) don’t like it when you point out their faults or complain about rubbish service.
- Despite the initial fallout of….a falling out, it’s not the end of the world, or your business.
- Empty barrels make the most noise.
Indeed, this particular incident actually improved things for us eventually. We had to think outside the box, explore different supply routes. The silver lining was that we weren’t chasing the same sales as every other bottle shop in our area, and that gave us an edge. We had to actively seek out breweries to buy from, and in some cases, drive there and collect the stock ourselves. This led to us being the first in our area to stock names like Cromarty and Tempest and the first to stock some of the, now ubiquitous, names like Beavertown, Siren and Weird Beard.
We’ve ruffled other feathers too. There’s an awful lot of bandwagon jumping goes on and there are an awful lot of “experts” out there. Whether it’s business in general, brewing, running a bar, you’ll find a wealth of “expert” opinion out there in the blogosphere and on social media. Most of these “experts” are blaggers. (Not a typo: there are some very good, well written and informative blogs on a litany of subjects. However these tend not to be the “experts” who are more into blagging than blogging i.e. sucking up and spouting nonsense in the hope of getting free stuff. Blaggers)
Blaggers don’t like it when you point out that they’re full of it either. Or expose their blagging.
Of course recently we’ve seen the rise of the “Beer Communicator”. The less said about that the better.
On a more positive note, over the last five years, we’ve been to some beautiful parts of Scotland and England, visiting breweries and going to festivals. The research part of this job really is one of the best things about it! We’ve forged working relationships with some great people who’ve helped us get where we are today. We’ve had five years of modest but positive growth of the business. Branching out into the wholesale side of things has been a challenge (there’s still only two of us) but again, it’s pushed us to keep moving forward, try new things, work out better ways to do things and not to take no for an answer.
We’ve got some pretty wonderful customers. Some have been with us since the very beginning; some are recent converts to good beer. We honestly appreciate each and every one of them. Even the ones who place an order on the website, move house the next day to a completely different part of the country, don’t alert either ourselves or the courier company to that small fact and then phone up two days later to complain that their beer hasn’t arrived……..at their new address that they hadn’t told anyone about. Even that one. From the start we decided that customer service was going to be top priority. We’ve had our share of rubbish customer service over the years and we were determined that we would always go the extra mile for our customers. That has cost us dear at times. Like when courier firms go through a spate of mangling packages and pretty much every order you send out for a couple of weeks is just a mass of soggy cardboard and broken glass by the time the customer gets it. Not good enough. Our problem, not the customer’s though. Refund and/or replace, and apologise. We think that no nonsense approach has worked and been appreciated.
What does the next five years hold for AleselA? Hopefully more growth and expansion, building on the foundations we’ve laid so far. We’ve started the ball rolling on importing from some European breweries so that’s a whole new avenue to explore. We intend to increase the wholesale side of the business, adding more breweries’ beer to our list, looking for new and interesting stock. Pretty much doing what we’ve been doing for the past five years but getting bigger and doing things better. We’ve still a lot to learn, a lot to improve and a long way to go.
Five years ago, and a few times since, some thought and said that we wouldn’t make it til the end of the year.
Just shows you what “experts” know, doesn’t it?