Creativity on display at the SWA Conference

lord karan bilimoria

In his speech to close the business sessions at the Scottish Wholesale Association Conference, Lord Karan Bilimoria of Chelsea delivered in mellifluous tones the brilliant story of his Cobra Beer business.

He said the key to success in any business is being creative. As a child he had been derided for a lack of creativity because of his inability to draw, he said – a skill he is still working on. But it was only when he began his business career that he discovered he had creativity ‘in spades’. Being creative is an ability that should be taught to everyone, he said.

One of the best examples of creativity at this month’s conference in Crieff was an update on the Craft Beer Clan. At the last SWA conference JW Filshill’s Simon Hannah walked away with an idea, and the interim he has put together an ‘A-team’ of business experts and started exporting beer from Scottish craft breweries to outlets around the world. By focusing on the provenance and the stories of the producers, the Craft Beer Clan has made an attractive proposition drawing on the reputation of Scottish food and drink and combining it with one of the biggest opportunities in the trade right now.

The room for speciality beer growth on home shores is enormous too – beer labelled as ‘craft’ accounts for 10% of beer sales in the US but currently just 1% in the UK.

Another wholesaler I met recently that has spotted the craft beer opportunity is Libra Drinks. Run by former Molson Coors employees Gary Beagley and James McMurtry, the Nottingham-based outfit specialises in introducing niche brands to customers and they are being creative in how they get their customers to buy from them. An online platform means they offer pubs and bars the option to buy on the web.

“The biggest challenge is getting the website up and running and getting your customers to use it,” says James.

“There will be some customers in the future who will not use a supplier unless they can place an order online,” says Gary. “We don’t know what percentage of customers that will be but we don’t want to be excluded from that.”

Whether you sell beer or not, there will be lessons you can learn from their creative approach.

Read the July edition of Better Wholesaling to learn more about Libra Drinks and what sets them apart from competitors. Subscribe here.


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