It seems like a lifetime ago when my friend told me about Britain’s Next Top Supplier. She felt that Hiver was the perfect candidate and encouraged me to enter. My business was only a few months old, and I couldn’t imagine that Hiver would have a chance. My friend called again the day of the deadline and I ended up completing the application (very) late that evening. I thought it would allow me to write down how I set up the business, and what it is to brew a honey beer properly.
Re-reading my application a year later, I can now see all the things that have happened as a result of winning that competition. I can’t believe it, it’s a different business – and what an experience it has been! Without a doubt, winning Britain’s Next Top Supplier gave Hiver a platform and the credibility to drive the business forward, achieving things more quickly and easily than I’d have been able to do without it. I’m delighted to be part of the process again this year.
The PR support that comes with the prize is really something. Magazines and radio shows can also feature my product now, as it’s available nationally: that’s amazing! The Evening Standard featured my story, and a buyer for a fantastic pub group called Geronimo Inns read the article. They were impressed by Hivers’s all-British ethos and requested a sample. As a result, all 40 of their London pubs started stocking Hiver in September.
Since then, the business has grown and we have sold over 150,000 bottles this last year. I’ve been able to put new systems in place, operating more efficiently and cost-effectively. Hiver is still a small start-up, but the difference to me personally is that I’m now paying myself a wage, which I wasn’t able to do at the time of winning the competition. That was my dream, really: to grow a business that I really believed in and for it to pay my way.
Every time I see an Ocado van I wave at it and wonder if there’s a bottle of Hiver in there. It’s such a thrill to know people are buying Hiver as part of their weekly shop, arriving with the big brand names. Ocado are brilliant for that– they can really work with the little guys, too.
Everyone has to believe in you and your product when you’re starting up, and cash flow is tighter than you like to admit. Even reaching the top 50 of Britain’s Next Top Supplier gives your product a credibility that is priceless. It also gives you a story that you can use to build relationships with your customers and suppliers. This can all be used to help you and your business grow.
If you’re reading this and wondering if you should enter: go for it! This year I’ll be on the judging panel alongside Lord Rose and Tom Kerridge, looking for brands with bags of potential and for people who will make the most of the opportunity. Aside from securing a listing with Ocado, which will help you reach customers nationwide, there’s a £20,000 marketing support package. I’ll also be there to help you throughout your first year with four mentoring sessions. To apply, complete the entry form here.
Who knows, in a few short weeks we could be meeting face to face – and I’m looking forward to it!
Hannah Rhodes, founder of Hiver Beer