James Hughes is Co- Founder at Brewgooder – a beer company and social enterprise based in Scotland. Brewgooder are on a mission to end water poverty for 1 million people.
James is on a mission to create a positive impact on the world, Brewgooder is a brewery who’ve set their sights on more than just brewing beer. The company was founded back in 2016 by James and fellow beer enthusiast Alan Mahon, they have gone from strength to strength, now having a team of 15 working together to create good beer and a better planet.
A warm welcome James, Thank you for joining us and we are happy to have you here.
1. I was wondering if you would be willing to introduce yourself to our reader and brief intro about Brewgooder?
And you! I’m James, co-founder of Brewgooder a beer brand and B Corp based in Scotland. Back in 2016, we set out on a mission to build a beer company that could positively impact the lives of 1 million people, by ensuring that each and every single can and pint of our beer enjoyed by our drinkers would directly support the funding of people & community projects undertaken by the Brewgooder Foundation.
Since then, we’ve been on a journey that has seen us bring over 8 million pints and cans of our now award-winning beer to thousands of drinkers across the UK, and most importantly enabling the Brewgooder Foundation to reach and empower over 160,000 lives across dozens of projects that span vital areas such as clean water and sanitation, hunger and inclusion, all delivered by trusted impact partners. How did you and Alan meet who shared the same passion? And how did you get your concept for the Beer Business?
2. How did you and Alan meet who shared the same passion? And how did you get your concept for the Beer Business?
I had recently returned to Scotland having been in London for a couple of years and I was looking to launch a start-up. I was introduced to Alan through a mutual friend one night over a beer…! and we connected through that shared ambition for starting something from nothing and making an impact. He then shared the idea for Brewgooder after he’d spent time in Nepal where he had been exposed to severe poverty and inequality and had come back motivated to make a positive difference in the world.
The idea for our impact brand being beer specifically caught my imagination as for so many years beer has been such a powerful unifier of people and communities, particularly in the UK. So the idea of every beer with friends, every party, every celebration across the country and eventually the world being channeled toward making better lives for others was an ambition that I was motivated to bring to life.
3.What is your biggest challenge in this business and what did you learn from it?
Starting and running any type of business is a significant undertaking – I applaud anyone that even attempts it…! There’s challenges every single day of every week, but something we’ve experienced recently is going from a team of just Alan and I to 14+ people very quickly, and suddenly you realize that your focus and attention must become internal in terms of creating the optimal infrastructure, culture and effective means for a team to happily and efficiently co-operate, which is a completely new challenge on top of the external, outward facing and I guess ‘growth’ activity that you naturally focus on during the earliest days. Being our first business, this has been a steep learning curve for us both and something we probably didn’t anticipate when we first set out.
4.What was your life looks like before coming into this business and what is your favorites throughout this journey?
For all the stress that starting and running the business has brought onto us both, it is also the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done. From seeing our product on supermarket shelves and bars, to building a team of super talented people, to seeing reports from our impact partners on what our Foundation has been responsible for, there’s never a week where I feel I would want to do anything significantly different from what I’m doing now. We have worked hard to create good momentum with our brand and hopefully these types of highlights only continue to increase in frequency over the coming years!
5.What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?
I think product market fit is super important. It’s never been easier to start a business but the downside of that is that a lot of businesses can be started without properly validating the demand for what you do! A lot of stress and complexity of starting a business can be prevented by knowing the in’s and out’s of your target customer and the size of the market, and if you do this thoroughly you will have ‘champagne problems’ such as “not being able to keep up with demand”, which are far superior problems to have versus those associated with investing time, energy and capital into a brand and stock that you are struggling to find a customer for.
6.How does your day look like or routines do you follow each day?
Currently no day is really the same at Brewgooder, so a very rigid routine doesn’t tend to work! I of course will have calls and meetings, but I also enjoy booking out space where I can focus on ideation, feeling like I can organise into clear workstreams and am not overwhelmed by too many tasks. I also work better in the afternoon and into the evening versus the morning, have been like that even prior to my Brewgooder days!
7.You are B- Corp certified, which is great. Tell us about the struggles and challenges during the certification process?
Our original B Corp certification process was handled by our former colleague Zoe, so I can’t personally claim to have felt all the struggles and challenges associated with that(!), but I know for sure that she went through a lot of paperwork, phone calls and due diligence on behalf of Brewgooder which we will forever be grateful for.
We have since re-certified, and the process is unquestionably thorough, but I don’t really see how it could be anything other than that in order to upkeep the standards and credibility of the certification and B Corp community itself, and if anything we’d encourage B Lab to make the process even more stringent in time.
8.Who is your biggest inspiration and motivated you to be successful in Brewgooder?
It’s difficult to see past my co-founder Alan for this one - There’s a level of application and intensity that he brings that is impossible to replicate as consequence of it being his business, but also his own personal motivations that go back to his time in Nepal, and ultimately while I have my own personal aspirations for what I want to achieve with Brewgooder I am equally motivated to ensure that the hard work and ambitions of Alan are materialized via this company at some stage.
9.Considering the fierce competition in Today’s business world, how would you highlight your company’s competitive advantages? What makes it stand out of the crowd?
I think a key differentiator is that we ultimately founded Brewgooder for very different reasons to the vast majority of other beer brands out there, which is absolutely no attempt to undermine anyone else, everyone’s reason for being is just as valid as ours. But Brewgooder primarily exists and operates in order to fund the work of our Foundation.
Whilst we have commercial goals and ambitions for the beer side of the business, and of course want to ensure our products always look and taste as good as they can, increasing the output of the Foundation is always the ‘yard stick’ on which we base these decisions on.
10.What’s your way of hunting talents and building effective working teams to achieve great results?
We have tended to benefit from LinkedIn and personal network a lot when it comes to sourcing talent and new team members. We are also increasingly embracing the remote work setup, our Managing Director is based out of Fleet and our most recent senior hire is based in Bristol. I envisage this continuing for us as we become more comfortable with the remote setup and model.
11.What’s your personal manner for balancing work and life?
This is an area I’d love to get better at for sure. I think COVID and work / life balance becoming more intertwined and blurred than ever before – largely because of work being quite literally all we could do for 24 months(!) – has definitely left its mark on me. But I’m determined to get better, and whether its reduction in days worked or being more pro-active in ‘switching off’ I’m certainly of the opinion that there’s certainly more to life than work. Come back to me in 12 months on this one ;)
Thank you so much James for having a conversation with us. It was amazing to know about you and Brewgooder.