How one entrepreneur risked it all to establish his small business

The Guardian Small Business Network, supported by Vodafone, hosted an inspirational evening in Reading to improve business and tech knowhow.

For many entrepreneurs, the process of taking your business idea from thought to reality can be daunting. Most people come up with an idea based on their experiences within a certain industry and how they can improve it. But what if you didn’t? What if you didn’t have any knowledge of the space you were trying to break into?

Well, this is exactly how Darron Anley, Founder and Managing Director of Siren Craft Beer, started out. As a Non-Executive Director of an IT company, his former career couldn’t be further from his dream of breaking into the world of craft beer.

Darron spoke about his transition into the competitive microbrewery industry last month at The Guardian’s Business Made Simple event, supported by Vodafone. These events allow people to learn from experienced entrepreneurs and provide them with the necessary skills to thrive in the business domain. The Guardian’s recent event in Reading was the perfect opportunity for Darron to reveal his challenges and successes, and inspire other potential entrepreneurs.
 

A leap of faith

It began in 2011 when Darron made a life-changing decision. He sold his IT business to focus on his dream of owning a brewery. At the time, there were 1,250 microbreweries in the UK and the market was in decline. But, despite the fact he was new and inexperienced to that industry, he didn’t put his dream on hold. It was his passion for flavour and his desire to use this as a way to carve out a niche in the world of craft beer that gave him the drive to keep trying.

So, a year later, he went to the US Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, which, he told listeners at the event, was “practically evangelical.” It was here he hit a turning point and realised he was definitely in the right space.
 
“I fell in love with the industry. Every single brewery at the conference was trying to build a community, not just with their customers but with their competitors. They shared ideas, recipes and resources, and I knew then that this was a culture I wanted to be a part of. The advice I was given was, whatever size brewery you’re thinking about building – double it.”
 
He learned to go above and beyond his initial business plan. So, what started out as a brewery with ten barrels became one with thirty-five – far beyond his initial expectations.
 

From myth to award-winning business

After completing a brewing training course, Darron launched Siren Craft Beer in 2013. Since then, the brewery has gone from strength to strength. With experimentation at the heart of the business, its beers aren’t just attention grabbing, they taste great too, like the breakfast stout – Broken Dream. It binds smoke and coffee aromas with chocolate, milk and oats to create a thick and velvety beer.

His attention to flavour and use of unusual ingredients hasn’t gone unnoticed. In its first year, Siren Craft Beer was awarded Second Best Brewery in the World by RateBeer, who have also rated it among the top 100 breweries in the world for the past four years.

Today, Siren Craft Beer distributes its products across the UK, exports to fifteen countries and is sold by leading retailers and Michelin star restaurants.
 

In it for the long run

With more and more multinationals buying smaller businesses, there’s a risk that the number of microbreweries in the UK is going to drop. But, in his presentation at the event, Darron assured listeners that after four years in the industry – he’s not going anywhere.

He’s planning to expand the community of beer enthusiasts by building a tap room, which will give his customers a personal experience.

Siren Craft Beer stands apart from its competitors thanks to Darron’s philosophy of experimentation, imagination and temptation. This follows through to his top tips for any start-up: don’t be afraid to take chances, even if the outcome is unclear and, be true to what you want to achieve. Without belief, you have no force pushing your business forward.
 

All things data

Also providing insightful tips for entrepreneurs at The Guardian’s recent Business Made Simple event was Laura Knight, a data visualisation expert and graphic designer. She told listeners, knowing how to handle data is a must in the business world. You need to:

• Identify your audience
• Understand what they want to know
• Choose the right format
• Make it visually engaging

Ticking these boxes will create a data visual that effectively tells a story. Data, after all, should enlighten and inform its audience to enable decision-making and problem-solving. These inspirational masterclasses are a regular Business Made Simple feature so, if you want to improve your data skills, head to The Guardian and keep an eye out for an event near you.

If you have a taste for more than just beer and you want to set your business up for success, sign up now to secure your place at these unmissable, free events. The fourth event of the series will take place January 16th, 2018 in London and, following that, Manchester (February 27th) and Birmingham (May 24th). Until then, check out our interviews with experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts, and gain valuable advice for your own business journey.