INVESTMENT | OUR APPROACH
In April 2013, Northern Monk was founded with just £5,000 gifted by a grandparent, a passion for the North and a determination to create some of the best beer experiences in the world.
After a few months (and a reality check) we took a loan of £7,000 from The Business Enterprise fund, a government-backed enterprise scheme. We’d made two beers, we had a website, a cellar we called home and we were set for the big time. We didn’t envisage requiring any further funding. A couple of months (and another reality check) later we realised that we were going to need some more support…
In July 2013 we received an email from a friend whose father was looking for investment opportunities. She’d come down to a birthday party and tried some Northern Monk prototypes. That friends’ father was David. David was a successful, self-made Bradford businessman who had made his money in adhesives for the building trade. He was looking for investments but really just wanted to be able to go to his local pub and buy a pint from a brewery he was a part owner of. You can thank David for the permanent Faith line at the Bah Tat in Ilkley. He invested to match the initial amount raised (we burned through money fast that first year!) as well as putting his faith in Northern Monk by providing us with a small loan. We used this to put our first brew kit into The Old Flax Store, and launched “properly” in 2014. We had a problem though, word of Northern Monk spread fast. So fast that we couldn’t make enough beer to meet demand, and we hadn’t yet saved enough to invest back into the business. David lent us further money, and we took on a loan from HSBC to max out capacity at The Old Flax Store. With a dedicated team, skilled brewers, a loyal audience of Monk supporters, and David dropping in every couple of weeks to tell us we should tidy up – we drove the business forward, and we made it work.
In 2018 we took on a second production site. Our capacity had increased significantly but we still struggled to meet demand. We decided this was the right time to crowdfund as we felt there was a genuine opportunity for people to join us, and a strong chance they’d see a return on their investment. On the 1st March the Northern Rising campaign went live. We were blown away with the support. We never expected so many people to pledge their hard-earned money to us. We were, and continue to be, truly humbled by the response. The funds raised enabled us to reach some of our biggest milestones yet, and we are eternally grateful to each and every person that contributed to the crowdfund campaign. We wouldn’t be here without your support. Once the campaign ended, we made a resounding commitment to achieve all that we set out to, and repay the faith shown by our investors (many of whom were also friends, family or staff here). One of our commitments was that this would be our one and only crowd funding campaign.
Fast-forward to today. It’s 2019, the new capacity is in, we’ve opened our second tap room, our state-of-the-art canning line is working around the clock and we’re running close to capacity, again. We are incredibly proud of what the team has achieved. We’ve invested in continuous improvement, have created more jobs in Holbeck and we’ve shined an even bigger light on all that we feel is great about the North. But we’re just getting started.
Like many of our peers we’ve had numerous approaches from big beer acquirers, investment firms and the rest. It has always been a resounding “no” from us. We have a strong independent spirit and if a potential investor doesn’t share our values, or our vision for the future, we’re not interested.
However, this year, we met a company that does. We were approached by Active Partners, who specialise in backing young challenger brands (www.active.partners). They are involved in some of our favourite brands including immersive entertainment company Secret Cinema (pictured below), healthy fast food chain Leon, outdoor apparel company Finisterre, and Honest Burgers to name a few.
We’ve been working with Tom and Will from Active for some time, in order for us to properly understand their business and for them to understand ours. They are deeply involved in the companies they support and make long term investments into truly authentic and visionary brands. The passion for the businesses they work with has already led to collaborations we’re really excited about. Will’s work with Finisterre and roots in surfing have introduced Sandy Kerr; the North East’s finest cold-water surfer, to our Patrons Projects. We’ve also hosted a week-long burger throwdown at MCR Refectory with Honest Burgers.
Active are wholly bought into our vision for the business, from our Northern roots, to our unwavering commitment to community and a values-driven approach. Yesterday we confirmed the partnership and we are looking forward to a new chapter at Northern Monk, with Active joining our team of shareholders with a <25% stake.
What this means:
- More of the same. We continue to invest in our business and our community – further capacity expansion, a few more Refectory sites, and more jobs in Holbeck. (We have also bought a new microwave, and toilet brushes for the men’s bathrooms.)
- We’ve set out on the journey to become B-Corp accredited, something we have explored in the past and are now in the process of attaining. B-Corp certified businesses commit to prioritising a responsibility to their employees, community, and environment. This is a community of pioneering organisations and leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Something Active have been involved in supporting Finisterre with. Finisterre was one the first UK clothing businesses to be accredited and we want to be one of the first UK breweries.
- The opportunity for all Northern Monk investors to sell some shares, if they wish to. For those that have invested we will be in touch with full details on how you can do this in the coming weeks. We understand offering participation to all shareholders in a funding round of this nature, this early, is uncommon, maybe a first in beer (?) but as ever we are determined to do this the right way.
- David is selling a significant portion of his shares. We are eternally grateful for the opportunity he gave us, and the advice that he’s provided over the years. He is passing his torch on…
- Most importantly, we fully retain our independence.
So it’s business as usual at Northern Monk, with some extra resources and support from Active, who want to amplify what we have already done.
So why have we told you all this?
Breweries across the world have been financed in a myriad of ways. We work in a rapidly growing, capital intensive industry where the big players have war funds in the billions. To keep up you do require capital. The majority of brewers do not disclose the source of their funds unless it’s a major acquisition. But we’re not most brewers, and as ever, we wanted to share this with you.
We believe we have something new to bring to the table. We believe we create good jobs and great beer. We believe this is the best way of keeping a values-led approach at the core of our business whilst maintaining the same pace of growth.
We know that this opportunity is all down to you. We thank you for being a part of our journey and look forward to our future with you.