Insight: From Business Management Graduate to CEO of Sustainable Craft Beer Brewery
Featuring Michele Tieghi (@germankraftbeer) in the Valentina (Havana)
What were you doing before you founded German Kraft?
Before starting GK I was a confused business student in London, wondering what to do after university. With a flat-mate (future co-founder) obsessed with beer.
Can you walk us through the early journey of the business? How did it all begin?
It all began with an idea from Felix, my co-founder, wanting to bring the fresh unpasteurised, unfiltered beer that he drank at his grandparents in Erlangen, Germany, to London. He was obsessed with the beer from Steinbach Brau, a 400-year-old brewery that made the best beer on the planet (according to him). Lagers in the UK had not yet hit the craft beer scene, and only lagers from big brands could be found. Craft beer was focused on experimental brews and not on drinkability.
What sets German Kraft apart from its competitors?
GK is different because it only focuses on fresh beer from the tank directly to pint glasses. We don’t bottle, can and barely keg our beer. It is all brewed on site, and served fresh directly to customers. By doing so, we cut wholesalers out, increase our margins while decreasing our carbon footprint by 75% by neither packaging it nor transporting it anywhere.
How did you go about choosing the location for your first tap room?
At the time, we were looking for a big enough place to have a brewery and a beer garden. After a year of failed search, my sister took me for a pizza in Mercato Metropolitano Elephant and Castle, to alleviate the pain of not finding a location in some fine Napolitana Dough.
When we arrived I was mesmerized by the location, it was huge, full of hustle and bustle, full of people with so many amazing food concepts. But a good beer was missing. The day after we went to their office to approach them and told them we wanted to put a brewery in one of their warehouses. We shook hands on the first meeting. About 4 months after that we were up and running with our first brewery inside Mercato Metropolitano. A dream come true!
What does a typical day look like for you?
6AM Wake up
7AM Jiu Jitsu training
8.15AM At the brewery, catch up with the head brewer on production, sort logistics out for the day
9AM Coffee catch up with the co-founders and catch up on any important developments
9.30-Noon Operation meetings with the GMs
1PM – 6-7PM: Future sites meetings. Solve any issues raised from morning meetings. Catch up on any specific projects that I am currently working on (currently we are changing our venue management ecosystem: rota, stock, events etc)
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout your career journey so far?
Covid-19 by far. As a hospitality, direct to consumer venue Covid tested us to the limit. Overnight we had to send 99% of our workforce home without knowing what support we would get. We tried to pivot the business to a delivery service on 5 litre mini keg for central London residents, but that proved to be a lot more work than expected as we were not set up for it, for very little monetary reward. Having to navigate 2021 with the ever-changing restrictions and our venues not specifically being just a bar or restaurant was very difficult.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to start their own business?
- Go for it. It’s a hard game but worth every drop of sweat. Having to learn and make decisions on your own is the biggest teacher you can have. I have learnt a lot more in my first 6 months of starting GK than my 3 years at university combined.
- Ask questions: So much stuff that took us months to figure out would have been solved faster and more efficiently if we had talked more to people in our industry and our mentors.
- Find a mentor: We are lucky enough to have some very strong business figures in our board of directors whom we can ask questions, opinions and help. Having the help of older generations whom have had first hand experience in running a business has been a huge help.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously: Staying humble is the best recipe to succeed. Always be a learner. There are always people doing better than you, learn from them and do it better.
What's next for German Kraft?
In a post covid world we are now even more aware of the power of having a robust business. This year we will spend on consolidating out venues and make them as efficient as possible. In the next few years we want to expand. We are currently looking at sites in the north of England and mainland Europe.
Michele's Round of Speed Dating with DMY