David Kitchen is the founder of Ballistic Beer Co, a local success story brewed in Salisbury.
Combining his role of CEO with that of Chief Beer Taster, David is toasting nearly two years of business success and rapid expansion in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
“I like beer! I worked as a chartered accountant, banker and diplomat, but chucked it in to run a chain of home brew stores. A lot of the home brewers were really good, but the costs involved with going commercial made it quite prohibitive for them,” he explains.
“Ballistic Beer has had $1 million invested in it, but like most small businesses owners, I’m an optimist – I don’t view it as a risk. When the opportunity came up to establish my own brewery and create great beer, I jumped at it!
“We had an incredible first year of trading, with four gold medals for our beers, nominations for Best Bartender and Best Brewer at The Beeries awards and we grew our team from two to 20.”
How did you raise the capital to finance your venture?
I spent some time working in Hong Kong and brought a couple of friends I made there on board with the project. I’d spent two years writing the entire business case and researching properties to present to investors by that point. They introduced more friends and soon we had the necessary funds.
What value do you place in business plans and why?
If you don’t plan, then plan to fail! I’m not one for reviewing the business plan every quarter, but I’m certainly always working towards it subconsciously. The clearer you make your plan, the easier it is to move forward.
Where is your business located and why?
Salisbury, which is four minutes from my home. I did look at Woolloongabba and West End, but Salisbury was more economical, from a rental point of view. As soon as I saw our current venue, I knew it was the right place.
How do you market your business?
We do a lot of social media, but we also attend a lot of events and festivals, and run tasting sessions in bottle shops.
What is the biggest challenge in running this type of business?
Staying on top of the wave. As recently as 2014, there were relatively few breweries in Brisbane. Now we’ve seen two open within 2 km in just the past six months. Customer awareness is high now, but so is competition, so we work hard to stay ahead.
What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
The $50 I spent on advertising for a brewer. He came from London for the job and has made a huge contribution.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information?
I read Australian Brews News for news and commentary on beer and brewing. I also listen to a lot of podcasts and definitely recommend Small Business Big Marketing.
Who do you seek advice from for your business?
My two directors, brewer and sales manager, although I’d also like to find a business mentor.
How do you manage risk?
I’m risk averse in many ways, but most small businesses are run by optimists who don’t always see things as being as risky as they might be. You can manage risk to a certain extent by never making contract decisions on the spur of the moment.
What three things should someone consider before starting a business?
- Ensure you’re passionate about it.
- Make sure your significant other half is on board with the idea.
- Be prepared to work seven days a week when starting up.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning a small business?
Sunday afternoon beers! I enjoy the environment we’ve created at the brewery and we’ve become a nice little community hub in Salisbury, families will stop by to chat and come to our events.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in business?
Take the time to go through your telco contract thoroughly! You’re inevitably pushed for time every day, but it’s really important to read the fine print.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
We’re still trying to nail down our vision and business mission. It would have been great to nut it out on day one rather than later. It’s important to ensure everyone is buying into the same thing.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time? In five years’ time?
In short, growing! We are focussing on aggressive growth, but in a structured way. We are looking at ‘10 times’ growth over the next five years, and two years before going international.