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Inspiring Growth: From Ouseburn to one of the world’s top 10 breweries – how to brew a recipe for start-up success

Newcastle-based Full Circle is a small brewing business making waves in the industry through its innovative approach to customer service and ability to meet the changing needs of both the on-trade and off-trade markets.

Ben Cleary, Founder of Full Circle, shares his story, alongside Nick Gholkar, a partner in our built environment team.

“On paper, we opened a brewing business at exactly the wrong time, with Covid lockdowns hitting just a couple of months later,” says Ben Cleary, who founded Full Circle in December 2019. “However, as we approach our second birthday, we’re experiencing strong growth across all aspects of the business. And I think it’s because we’ve kept things simple, from our strategy and planning to our branding and approach. We make great beer, provide a great customer service and offer good pricing. And that’s our sweet spot.”

With a custom-built taproom and store at Hoult’s Yard as well as an online shop, the brewery has ensured that no stone has been left unturned in providing the ultimate customer experience. Dogs and children are welcome, quality and affordable wines and cocktails are available as well as Full Circle’s core range of craft beers. They have also partnered with Scream for Pizza, a popular local pizza venue that has a concession at the taproom.

“People can relax and enjoy a beer and pizza – something they’ve not been able to do for a long time”, says Ben. “So, whether you’re a dogwalker popping in for a pint or out with your friends and looking forward to conversation, cocktails or a Cabernet Sauvignon, you can do that here at our taproom in Ouseburn, whilst overlooking how the beer you’re enjoying is made, from grain to mill.”

When the first Covid lockdown hit, Full Circle was about to see their beer sold in pubs across the region. However, the closure of hospitality venues meant they had to quickly change their plans and focus efforts on something they were going to build further down the line, their direct-to-consumer ecommerce offering. And Full Circle’s agility to adapt to a market that changed overnight has already proved its worth. They started to sell their beer, good quality wines and beer vessels online in April 2020.

Ben continues: “Orders flew in for our doorstep delivery service and customers responded extremely positively. This led to a great rating on Untappd, a mobile app that allows people to rate the beer they’re drinking. By June 2020, we were in the UK’s top 15 best breweries in the country rated directly by the people consuming our beer. This accelerated our growth in the first six months and led to contracts with two of the biggest beer subscription businesses in the UK. The response has been phenomenal, with orders coming in from across Europe. By September 2020, we had eight customers based in Europe who were taking approximately 60% of our stock at that time.”

Buoyed with their ecommerce success and a steady sales stream in bottle shops, Ben and his team fully embraced the on-trade market when pubs and bars reopened, securing their first contracts with household chains across the North East.

Talking about the company’s success, Nick said: “Full Circle has successfully navigated extremely difficult market conditions that, rarely, any business, let alone a startup, has had to face. Ben and his incredibly innovative and hard-working team have shown great agility and adapted while remaining true to their customer-centred approach to growth. Often, the key to success is through simplicity. Simplicity in your goals, your ethos and where your priorities lie. For Full Circle, they were determined to provide a great customer experience with their high-quality service and products, which is exactly what they’ve done and continue to do. I wish them luck in their very exciting journey ahead. Good things really do happen to good people, with a great business. Full Circle, right here in Newcastle upon Tyne, is definitely one of them.”

With 14 tanks and 20 keg lines, Full Circle beer is currently being poured in nine countries around the world. RateBeer, a global independent review website for consumers, recently rated the brewery in the Top 10 New Breweries in the World. It’s clear the company’s success, in such a short period of time, has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the last 18 months, Ben has increased his workforce from nine to 19 and 2021 turnover is expected to exceed £2million. In its first year, the brewery has sold the equivalent of 250,000 cans of beer based on volume produced, which is no mean feat.

Ben added: “Full Circle never stands still. We’re always looking for ways to improve our customer experience and meet the customer’s needs whether that’s a pub owner, an online shopper, someone who pops into our store or those who come to our taproom to socialise and sample our beer. We’ll always go above and beyond for them because, ultimately, their happiness holds the key to not just our success but our survival too.”

 

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