JOE’s Start Up Diary, Week 1 - Michael Cowan of the Manor Brewing Company
Each week here on JOE we’ll be bringing you the personal thoughts and tips from Irish entrepreneur Michael Cowan, founder & CEO of the Manor Brewing Company.
The first cut is the deepest…
Coming up with the idea of a craft microbrewery in the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland was probably the easiest part of starting up the Manor Brewing Company.
After all, I live just 15 minutes down the road from the head waters of the Liffey (so unlike a well known Irish stout, our pure granite filtered mountain water actually is ‘local)’, and my background in product marketing and brand development with Guinness, PepsiCo, and Red Bull over the years, made starting a drinks business a logical progression for someone on a ‘tractor beam’ towards creating my own consumer brands; particularly as Ireland had just gone nuts for craft beer and crafted drinks in general. My time had come!
The journey started last summer, while I was still working as Head of Marketing at Red Bull Ireland. The first step was researching the market, and building knowledge of the market place. I spent nearly every other weekend at craft beer festivals (Dublin Craft Beer Cup, Irish Craft & Cider Fest, London Craft Beer Festival, Manchester Beer Con, amongst others). I met several key industry people, brewers, visionaries, consumers, potential investors and interested parties, and even kissed a few frogs!
The biggest frustration we’ve experienced to date was assuming an invitation by Enterprise Ireland to attend a Start-Up Workshop last summer might lead to seed funding and support. Having attended a two-day process and presented our business plan, we were told to come back to them ‘when you have a product & customers’. In other words, when we were established.
Clearly one of us was confused as to what the term ‘start up’ really means! I did point out to the lovely lady at Enterprise Ireland (& their consultants) that when we have a successful product and domestic customers we wouldn’t need their limited support at that point. So we moved on.
However, we did heed their advice in a way, and from that point on we went about creating our range of craft beer (brews, packaging, branding) and focussed on getting to market as quickly as possible.
Our biggest break early on, was being introduced to Richard Hamilton, a passionate & knowledgeable craft brewer as well as a recent PhD in Philosophy from Trinity College. When I asked Richard what his doctorate was in, I was hoping he would say ‘The Philosophy of Beer’! Unfortunately it wasn’t, but nonetheless he’s a real talent with over 12 years brewing experience. So we teamed up, and to date we have developed 3 styles of beer – a Lager, an IPA, and a Dark Ale – which are currently being tweaked and market tested.
We also started developing our new branding and packaging back in January this year, using Dublin design agency Huguenot, which is nearly ready to reveal to the world, and we will give JOE readers an exclusive preview of our new Irish craft beer brand in our 2nd Start-Up Diary edition. So make sure to check that out next week.
The Manor Brewing Co is delighted to be working with AIB now, and thankful to JOE for allowing us to share our story and document or journey as a start-up craft brewery.
We hope you will join us for the journey over the coming weeks, months, and years.
See you back here next week…