Don’t we look young and fresh faced in this photo taken not long after we opened? I thought it would be fun to dig deep into the Hop Stop archives and find a photo from the early days to illustrate this second part of our look back over the last three years. Ruth got a lot of feedback on her piece from last week and now it is my turn. By the way please don’t come in and say how much older or worn out I look now, I already know.
Three Years On
It’s not drinking beer all day sadly. It might appear that way, but it really isn’t. Here is a look at the up’s and downs (mainly ups) for me of running a business for the last three years.
When Ruth broached the idea of going into business it was definitely one of those right time, right place moments. My wife (Ruth’s older sister) and I were living in New Zealand with our young son and had been contemplating a life change for a while with the idea of moving to the UK always floating around. I had been with the same large logistics company for seven years and while it was a great company to work for and really looked after its employees I always had a nagging thought that if I didn’t do something else soon then this would be it for me. So, when the opportunity for a change arose I took it. When I look back now it is amazing to see how all the pieces fall into place so quickly, almost as if it was meant to be. From deciding to leave NZ and arriving here it was only a matter of months, a frantic time of obtaining a visa for me, packing up our flat, saying goodbyes and preparing ourselves for travelling 30 hours with our 9-month-old son. Before I knew it, we were here and days later the shop was open.
So, what is it like running a small business? The short answer…bloody hard work which can bring huge rewards and a sense of pride that working for someone else just can’t replicate. It has given me a huge respect for anyone who is self-employed or operates their own business no matter how big or small. Being responsible (between Ruth and I) for making all the decisions to do with Hop Stop is both exhilarating, terrifying and liberating. There is no-one to answer to, there is no one to pass responsibility to, there is no calling in sick or taking a two-week holiday. I think in the last year we have probably had one Friday night off each and regularly work six days a week with the hours not exactly conducive to a social life.
Reading that you might wonder why we do it? Would it be easier to clock off at 5pm and be done for the day? To not lie awake at night thinking hmmm, should have we done that differently or worrying because the weeks sales have been slower than anticipated? Being in business is a risk and the more conservative part of me still struggles with that, getting a normal job would be the easy option, but easier doesn’t mean better does it?
What are the positives that keep me going day after day? And no it isn’t just all that wonderful, glorious beer to drink. I do it as the sense of pride of owning your own business is immense even if I am guilty of taking it for granted at times. Knowing that the hard work we put in results in rewards that benefit ourselves and our families directly not someone else is also a huge motivator. Thinking long-term and building a business that one day might inspire my son or daughter or even employ them is exciting as well.
So is the sense of satisfaction when customers go away happy or come back and say how much they enjoyed a beer I had recommended. In fact the interactions with all of you is large part in what makes this all so enjoyable, from the lady who comes in once a year to buy a bottle of stout for her Christmas cake, our obsessive Untapped tickers, the Friday night draught drinkers to the Saturday regular who each week delights us with his educative descriptions of the draught beer, the fun I get from dealing with you daily keeps a smile on my face. And it helps of course that I absolutely love beer and all that it encapsulates, not just the liquid itself but the culture, history and myth surrounding it all makes working in the beer world fantastic.
Currently we are just a small business (with big plans) but there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Ruth and I might be the faces you see every day and it is our business but it truly is a team effort. , My wife Becky and children Fred and Eloise, Ruth’s husband James and parents Terry and Libby and sister Sarah all are involved in various ways helping to make Hop Stop a real family business. My family back in New Zealand also keep a keen eye on what we are up to, Dad even put in some shifts when he was up here on holiday. Without any of them we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.
Finally pushing forward to the future is daunting and exciting in equal measure, opening the shop seems easy now compared to what we are planning for next year, but we want to grow and keep building on what we have started, standing still is not an option for us. At the same time, it does play on my mind that with Reigate (and one other big event early next year) on the horizon it means we will be spending less time in the shop, which means spending less time with all of you, our customers who have helped us make this idea become a success.
Titsey Brewing Crowdfunding
Talking about small business brings me nicely to Titsey Brewing and their crowdfunding campaign. Craig, the owner and brewer is running out of capacity and is crowdfunding to raise the capital needed to expand his brewery. Good beer and a top bloke (with a proper beard that make my effort earlier this year look a bit sad) find all the details you need to support him here.
Notice we aren’t wearing any Hop Stop clothing in the photo above? Our image and ‘corporate branding’ is something that has evolved until now it feels like all we wear is Hop Stop clothing. After many requests you too can look as good as us in your very own Hop Stop branded clothing, details coming soon (basically when the screen printer has finished).
Three new beers this week which I have detailed for your drinking pleasure.
Gadd’s Dogbolter 5.6%
A fireside sipper, six varieties of malt bring big roasted, toasted and chocolate notes to this dark porter.
Dark Revolution Velveteen 4.8%
If you like Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout, Wild Beer Millionaire or Tiny Rebel Stay Puft then I think Velveteen will be right on the money for you. Really smooth with a slight sweetness and creaminess from the lactose with oats adding their weight to the mouthfeel. Cacao nibs give a hint of chocolate and add to the bitterness provided by the hops. A lovely darker beer that comes in at very quaffable 4.8%.
Behemoth Brewing Dump The Trump 7.2%
In an effort to keep this email lighthearted I am keeping it a politics free zone and strictly commenting on the beer here which is well worth trying regardless of your political view. Dump the Trump is a West Coast style IPA with a big bitterness tempered by stone fruit aromas and flavours. The malt take a back seat simply providing a canvas for the hops to sing on oddly enough when poured into my glass the beer did look very orange.
Available Draught Beers
The return of Gadd’s is upon us, it has been a while since we have had draught from them plus we unleash a DDH pale from Mallinsons.
Dark Star Hophead 3.8% (cask) Clean and crisp pale
Dark Star Holy Vible 3.5% (keg) Full bodied, low strength
Brew By Numbers 11/03 Session IPA Mosaic 4.2% (keg) Fruity, zingy, refreshing.
Hallets Medium Cider 6% A medium cider funnily enough
Gadds’ Rye Pale Ale 4% (cask) Pale with a hint of spice.
Mallinsons DDH 5% (cask) Double dry hopped for a big aroma
Time and Tide All In Jim 5.4% (keg) Hoppy APA