Nick and Gulen Smith have travelled the world but in the last five years, they have embarked on their most intrepid journey yet, going from complete business novices to co-founders of a successful brewing business, the Steam Machine Brewing Company.
After returning to the UK in 2014, Nick said the pair were sure they could turn their home brewing hobby into a viable business idea:
“We were really inspired by businesses we saw on our travels, especially in Australia and New Zealand – independent family wineries and breweries were springing up everywhere. This led us to think about opening a brew pub or brew house, but we had absolutely no idea of how to run a business at all.”
Nick tapped into the expertise of James at TEDCO to help them develop their vision.
Nick said: “We talked through the type of brewery we wanted to set up, as only a handful of UK producers were making beer inspired by the American market at the time. It took us 18 months to launch, but by then we had products, a brand and a route to market all worked out – and we haven’t looked back.”
Steam Machine received a £15k start up loan, matching savings from Nick and Gulen, which they used to buy brewing equipment and for marketing and brand development.
At first Steam Machine was producing beer for the national market, working out of a tiny unit: “We were targeting high end bottle shops and bars, but we didn’t account for the huge local response, with people constantly knocking on the door wanting to buy beer.”
Now Nick and Gulen very much see themselves as serving the local community in Newton Aycliffe. Nick says: “We get lots of repeat custom. They are loyal to a tee round here, and every customer becomes an ambassador for our products.”
Now in its fifth year, the company employs four people full-time. Nick is the head brewer and Gulen manages the rapidly growing hospitality side of the business.
“We always have lots of ideas for growth. We’re still settling into the much larger production facility, which offers a bigger bar and shop area, a training area for corporate training and conferencing, and we can also offer brewery tours.”
The company is now focused on new summer beers for the national market, proving that adapting to change is helping their growth and popularity amongst beer drinkers:
“We used to have a core range of beers but the market shifted as hundreds of new breweries arrived and were doing similar things. People wanted something new, so that’s what we now do. We use our passion for local produce and foraging to come up with exciting new combinations – but each one is on a limited run, so when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
James Craft, TEDCO Enterprise & Development Manager, said:
“It was an absolute pleasure to support Nick and Gulen. Right from the start their passion, enthusiasm and willingness to learn gave me confidence in their idea. I offered advice and guidance on the business plan and cashflow forecasts to apply for a loan. Finding the right finance was key to getting this business started.”
If you have an exciting business idea and are looking for support to turn this into reality, then the DABS programme could help. Simply learn more about the DABS programme or register your application today!