Alex Polizzi, Business and Hunter's Beer of Dreams
by Jo Shaer, on September 20, 2014
I think the thing that comes across most about Alex Polizzi as The Fixer is how many businesses there are out there who do not know their numbers!
We often watch amazed as entrepreneurs appear in the Dragons Den and ask for thousands of pounds of investment but don't even know if they have a viable business.
And The Fixer just confirmed this issue. Neither the owner of the business nor his wife who did the books actually understood their numbers.
It has certainly made the Lollies start looking at, not just the bottom line, but all the things that contribute to our final net profit figure.
Paul, the owner of the Hunter's Brewery was a lad who left school at 14 without qualifications but was eventually able to get a high powered job in the pharmaceutical industry.
Jacked it all in to start a business brewing beer
After a bad week at the office, he decided to jack it all in and do something that he liked the idea of - brewing beer. He liked beer and thought it couldn't be that hard.
Several hundred thousand pounds later, with his home and his marriage in jeopardy, he did have four brands of beer that tasted nice and he had hung his hat on his personal favourite - Devon Dreamer. Being based in Devon and selling to local free houses, it was going down very well. But he was never able to make a profit because he kept on spending money on equipment that did not work properly.
His antiquated manual bottling system was costing him a fortune and the promised automated machine was six months late - despite his having paid £45,000. He went off to their factory to find out where it was. The presence of television cameras helped to get the machine delivered but, when it arrived, it did not work properly. Trading standards was the only resource. I found it quite strange that Alex did not interfere. I was screaming at the TV that she should have been using her clout when all she would do was encourage him to think carefully and not have a kneejerk reaction.
Paul's wife was at her wits' end. She had given up her own job to act as his book keeper but she was not very sure of what she was doing - only that the figures were more and more terrifying and more and more of their home seemed to be owned by the bank.
In the meantime, in a taste test with the Brand Manager from a much bigger brewery from Cornwall, he discovered that he was actually backing the wrong horse when it came to Devon Dreamer.
It was something that was confirmed in another taste test organised by Alex in London. Everyone preferred the honeyed tones of Royal Hunt.
The truth was that Paul had chosen the one that he liked the best and not asked anyone else. When Devon Dreamer had sold well, it had been because of its name. It was an adequate beer, but not a patch on Royal Hunt.
Best of British Businesses
After a fabulous rebrand of his labelling by a London marketing agency, he had something that was able to turn his business around. A really good product that looked good and tasted great.
Alex helped him to get a strategy and some appointments in Bristol so he could go beyond the confines of Devon and, after a concerted sales effort, he was being stocked by some of the beer warehouses. Finally, she got him an appointment in Paris with an expert who specialised in bringing the Best of British to France.
Fortunately for Hunter's Brewery, business is now on the up.
It was a nice end to a programme that was quite fraught in places.