We sat down for a chat with Alan Mahon, Founder at Brewgooder to discuss the social enterprise business, craft beer with a social conscience and providing clean water for residents in Malawi through their Clean Water lager.
Can you tell us about yourself and your role within Brewgooder?
My name is Alan Mahon and I am the Founder of Brewgooder. We started the company two years ago when we saw a need to to bring a craft beer to the market that also fulfilled a social role; with us it’s providing clean drinking water. When I left university I got sick from drinking a local water source in Nepal, but I got back on my feet and was healthy, I knew there are millions of people across the world who don’t have that luxury so I thought it would be a great industry to bring a social conscience with good times together.
How did the Brewgooder journey begin?
After that experience in Nepal, I thought this was a sign to do something that benefited other people. So I spent a whole year applying for the International Department for Development grad scheme and I got through to the very end and got knocked back. Which at the time was devastating but it’s worked out for the better. That meant I had to search for a job and I found one at social enterprise Social Bite and that allowed me to see there was the possibility to do everything that I was excited about around business: brand building, sales, building a company from the ground up - but also delivering on a social mission. I had that passion around water and a passion around beer and I thought there were that many good beers on the market that it must be easy. After a few experiments we found out that it wasn’t so easy and we realized if we wanted a beer that tasted great and could deliver profits sooner rather than later, we’d have to work with contract brewers. So the idea came to us to work with the guys at Brewdog and in a matter of weeks they said that was something that they really want to back so we launched on World Water Day 2016. We crowd funded the first production run and we’ve since been growing in retail and on trade bars and restaurants.
Can you tell us about your experiences in Malawi?
Malawi’s a beautiful country, with great people in it, but it’s very poor. I fell asleep on the road to one of the projects that we visited and you could have been going back thousands of years, that’s how little has changed. But when we went back the second time in May 2017, we had funded two projects, one of which was the solar powered well and that had taps, which changed the nature of how water is sourced in a community from a time point of view. It’s largely women that do the sourcing of water so this way they are able to spend less time doing that and more time doing hopefully things that are more beneficial economically and socially. The second well was in a remote part of Malawi, which is largely a rural country anyway, and if someone had said, “this is the last town on earth”, that would make sense because we travelled miles.
Can you tell us more about past and upcoming projects in Malawi?
With the growth of the business and the charity fundraising we were able to fund sixty different projects in 2017 and early 2018 and we’ll be visiting that in a few weeks time to gather the evidence and the stories of the people whose lives are being helped by it, and also to see how things are working if we can do things better. We went from 5000 people with water in 2016 to 40,000 in 2017 and we want to bring that by the end of 2018 to 100,000 so we have to be smart about how we spend the money we see coming through from the commercial growth of the business.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a social enterprise business?
It’s unlikely unless you’re wildly successful from a social enterprise point of view to get on that ladder where you get an Audi then BMW then Mercedes then a yacht then a super yacht. That’s probably not your motivation anyway, but the quality of life factors: you can still build a brand, you can feel good about what you do, you can hire people, create jobs, create opportunities and see that your life has been dedicated to improving the lot of others and you can enjoy yourself by doing it. So I would encourage anybody thinking of trying it and if you help a few people, it’s still better than none.
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