Mike Clarke, CEO/Founder of Sauce Brewing Co.

Sydney | Australia
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Who are you and what is your background? 

Mike Clarke, IT/Telco entrepreneur of 20 years, craft beer fanatic and now brewery owner.

Your job and current title? 

CEO/Founder.

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In what city?

 Sydney, Australia

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A word to define what type of worker you are: 

Perfectionist

Where does your interest in microbrewery come from? 

The love of good beer, many years of garage brewing, and a desire to build something new.

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What makes your beer unique? Why? 

With 500-odd microbreweries in Australia, being “unique” is a challenge. What we stand for is variety and drinkability. We love to experiment and come up with new beers but ultimately we make beer that we like to drink and that we think other people will like to drink. We are massive hop-heads so close to half our beers are some kind of IPA.

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What is the size of the brewery (number of barrels per year, etc.)? 

2000L brewhouse with 4000L tanks. Just over 400,000L per year (3500 BBL)

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What tools are essential to your life (app, software)?

 I’m a bit old school in that I rely on email quite heavily for everything from communication to reminders to myself. But the critical tools we use in the business are the brewery management software, POS and back-end accounts, while utilising social media for the bulk of our marketing and customer comms.

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What does your office space look like? 

It gets the least attention and is usually the last thing I think about cleaning, but it is above and out of view of the main brewery and bar so it is a place I can work without interruption. It’s what you might call “utilitarian”.

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Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work? 

Outlook calendar (see – old school)

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Any "tips" to improve productivity? 

I just focus on what HAS to be done within a day or by a certain deadline. Once I’ve achieved that, I try to tackle the to-do pile.

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Can you give us a tour of your local craft beer brewery scene? 

We’re in the Marrickville which is the heart of the Sydney beer scene – with the most microbreweries per capita of anywhere in the country. Once known as the Golden Triangle, it’s more of a Wonky-shaped Octagon with a good 1-2 day walking tour of microbreweries all co-existing and working together to promote better beer.

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How do you control the growth of your microbrewery? 

We’re pretty new so we are focusing on growth right now – I guess you could say we are controlling it by focusing on our strengths and trying to do what we do really well, rather than a scatter-gun approach.

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What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy? 

Social media plays a big part but getting out and about, doing tastings at bars and bottle shops, food pairing nights and dinners – basically getting our beer into as many mouths as possible in an intimate setting – is how we get people to remember our beer. We do go to select festivals but you are there with 50 or 100 other breweries, it’s much harder to provide a memorable experience in that setting.

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About design, what does your brand represent/reflect? 

 The name started as a bit of word-play (Sauce being a synonym for booze) but ultimately our branding and who we are represents our core values. A little bit cheeky, a little bit experimental, but mostly we are about producing a range of beers that will suit almost any taste, that are brewed well, without being too out there or crazy.

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Design: how was it designed? By who? 

Originally we ran a competition for concepts for the main corporate branding, and the guy who won the competition has done most of our stuff since then as he’s just great to work with.

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What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day? 

Producing something that people love, seeing the happiness it brings, interacting with customers directly, and working with people who also love what they do, is something that cannot be beat.

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What is the best advice given to you? 

There’s no one best piece of advice. While researching this business I spoke to many people already in the game, about many things. It’s important to recognise what you do and don’t know, and be prepared to learn or pay for expertise you don’t have.

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What are your end and start routines? 

Breakfast, admin/emails, shower and then in to work. Every day is different from but I have regular catchups with my team leaders where we talk about the week gone by, and plan for the week ahead. Keep a close eye on social media and have a plan for the week’s communications. Enjoy the fruits (beers) of our labour at least a couple of times a week.

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What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur? 

Money. I had money from the sale of a previous business but as often happens, we blew the budget and so the last couple of months before opening were pretty tight. We also had some challenges with council and developers who weren’t exactly welcoming us to the neighbourhood.

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What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brewery? 

Be really, really sure you are in it for the long haul. Understand all the challenges you’ll face (talk to other brewery owners). Previous startup experience would be highly beneficial. Understand that in business, there are always things that can and do go wrong – be prepared to deal with them and take each new challenge as they come. Take your budget and double it.

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 Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without? 

My motorbike.

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At the end of a day, what kind of beer do you drink to relax? 

I’m an IPA-geek so usually something within that very broad style, but really I’m all about variety.

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