It may appear to many that I’ve disappeared over the last month and with good reason. I’ve been preparing for Christmas, and as a “Christmas Eve to Boxing Day” kind of guy it is really hard to even think about it. The reality is that seasonality demand, think Christmas parties and gifts to loved ones, means I must prepare.
So with that in mind I have been brewing and bottling back-to-back quite a lot. In fact days of bottling, cleaning the fermenter and then immediately using the next day has been the modus operandi. It feels almost like a brewhouse 🙂
Why am I doing this so early? Well two things; firstly the market starts selling Christmas stuff in AUGUST!!!!!!! Secondly my beer takes one month to condition, so if I brewed mid November I would have already missed the window to sell!
There are of course challenges with this and the first one is cash flow. I have to invest a lot of money in stock that hasn’t been sold yet. So I’m balancing stocking up with what the business can withstand (and risking running out).
Again due to cash flow I typically only buy something as it runs out and I need it (to minimise cash sat idly on the shelf instead of the back account). I’ve therefore found just like when you buy a house and two years later EVERYTHING wears out at the same time, with the uptick in demand I’ve run out of boxes, labels, tape, some ingredients all at once (adding to cash flow issues).
There’s only me so when I’m doing production I’m not selling, marketing, doing paperwork, etc., so I appear to simply disappear. This impacts sales I’m driving and pushes prioritisation to the very limit (critical path only at the mo.).
The final challenge is logistics. As the temperature is dropping the microbrewery is expensive to heat (£250 a month!!!!) and I need a “warm room” that is a consistent temperature for the beer to condition in. I didn’t have one so this presented a big gap and could impact initial beer quality (the beer would take longer to condition).
THREE TONNES OF BEER
So last Monday I spent a day completely reconfiguring the microbrewery moving things out of rooms, moving my store room, freeing up space to create a warm room. I used bubble wrap under the doors and a small oil radiator that was thermostatically controlled. Finally I boxed and moved about three tonnes of beer into the new warm room, and by the end of the day I was knackered.
BOTTLING AND YET ANOTHER LEGAL LETTER
Later in the week I was busy starting a days bottling beer when I received the morning post. I opened the letter from a firm who protects image copyright on behalf of their clients. My heart instantly sank and I could feel this sickening feeling in my gut.
I had used an image on one of my blog entries that although appeared royalty free, required a license from the owner to use. The letter said I owed £1,500 and I had to cease using the image immediately. I had 14 days or legal action was going to start!
REMOVING THE RISK
As I was bottling all day I could do nothing, and when I got home first thing to do was remove ALL images from my website that I hadn’t taken myself. I wanted to completely remove the risk.
Next; research the company online, it could be a scam, and speak to my bank about the company (as they used the same bank as me). Were they fraudsters? I came to the conclusion that they were legit so time to settle.
I decided that given my current position I didn’t want to waste the mental tax fighting this, but I also couldn’t afford an expensive bill. I had used the image, there was no doubt, and needed to explain my situation and see if I could get a fair price (ideally nothing).
So I prepared what I was going to say, and how I was going to negotiate. I slept on it and next morning found the person on LinkedIn so I they became a person in my mind and not just a legal entity and gave them a call. I told them my story, essentially a précis of my blog, admitted I had used the image, and told them I couldn’t afford the bill.
I then did a “pregnant pause”. I stopped talking and wasn’t going to speak first. This leaves a MASSIVE awkward silence in the conversation, and as a naturally polite person I find mega hard!
It worked as the person, now not a legal entity, could empathise with my situation. He asked me to email him an offer and he would get back to me by end of day. I thanked him for his understanding, and immediately prepared and sent my email. He agreed and I paid it as fast as I could. End of (I hope!).
I could have spent hours, days even, being bitter about this. But I need to put it down to experience and I was lucky. It could have been much more expensive, they could have demanded more money, or I could have been dragged through legal battles. I was in the wrong and I settled as fast as I could. I’ve also stopped using imagery that I didn’t take (regardless of how legit it looks). Lesson learnt!