Melbourne’s Hawkers Beer launched a $1.1 million equity crowdfunding campaign today to fund a taproom development and increased capacity.
Hawkers founder Mazen Hajjar said that the 170-capacity taproom and additional 40hL tank capacity would allow them to better service their community – this includes Hawkers’ staff who are also set to be recipients of an employee share scheme with the brewery.
If the Birchal crowdfunding campaign, for which the team are currently seeking Expressions of Interest is successful, the team will be enlarging office and venue space. Their existing site is currently home to a production brewery and cellar door.
“We’ve been a production facility for ages, and for us it’s all about the beer,” Hajjar told Brews News.
“Our locals are literally buying from the cellar door and are constantly asking, ‘do you have a taproom where we can hang out and have a beer?’ It was finding that time when we have a bit of space in terms of we have enough people on the team, and the headspace to think about the next natural progression for us.
“The other main reason is that we are now introducing an employee share scheme, so we’re sharing with people who have built this company but we also want to share with the people that have been supporting us for ages, giving them ownership of the brand, bringing in the community and celebrating the team and the beer.”
He said a brewpub-style venue was a vital component in connecting with their customers, and would also enable them to tap into the popularity of their existing cellar door.
“It’s always felt frustrating because we’ve always been almost at arm’s length from the consumer. You get the feedback via socials, but we’ve never really had the chance or opp to share our beer with our friends.
“We were looking at figures of how much we sold last year just through the cellar door, it was an astronomical number. If you’ve ever been to our cellar door, its two fridges and an office, people walk in and buy beer from the fridge.
“We wanted to formalise it and create that space where people can engage with us face to face.”
Hajjar explained that the team chose equity crowdfunding over other forms of funding, joining other breweries including Black Hops,
“It’s not so much about the money or we would have done a lot of different things,” he explained.
“It doesn’t block us from funding avenues that we might use, but because our philosophy is to go to the community, we’ve got support from locals and country wide.
“Our approach has been to run a really profitable business, to ensure sustainability.
“We could have gone down the route of seeking other avenues of finance, but it coincides with us giving employees shares, and the staff are the people that create it, but the consumers are the people that actually drink it, share it and come back for more.
“They give us the fuel to be able to do what we do every day. So if you’re going to be sharing it with the people that are making it, then the consumer is just as much a part of it as the employees.”
He also explained that getting their story out to a wider audience would help the brand.
“One of the things that’s always held us back is that we’re all about the beer, not so much about the marketing. Hawkers is not famous for its marketing campaigns, or celebrity endorsements and things like that.
“It’s turning a product into a community. It gives us that natural place to keep doing it, and it’s just fun.”
There are issues with crowdfunding in terms of the security of investors, but Hajjar said he was confident in the process.
“The level of investment varies right. Normally people investing larger amounts are more sophisticated, generally speaking.
“In any investment there is risk involved. I think our track record over the last five years, growing company that makes 3 million litres of beer a year speaks for itself, and we’ve done it independently without having to tap into big money, and we’ve remained independent.
“So it’s up to the individual to figure out what their appetite is, how much they want to be involved and who they want to be involved with
“The protections are given to them by ASIC regulations around this stuff, it’s nothing we can control or effect.”
The venue has already gone through development for the 170 capacity venue and licensing.
“We can expand that again or we can always open up other venues. This is the first step for us in hopefully a new adventure, and we’re hoping to bring more people along with us.”
Find out more about Hawkers’ campaign on the Birchal website.