When they began home brewing to save money during their university years, Carla and Tom never anticipated that they would one day own a facility capable of producing one million litres of beer per year with two brewery locations across Hobart, Tasmania. We recently caught up with the duo to learn about how they have scaled and their plans to take on the mainland.
SQ: How did it feel to start your own business? Was there anything that made you nervous or excited?
C: Looking back, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into - it was a big step! Cutting back hours at our permanent jobs meant less income and more bills to pay each. Not knowing if we’d survive certainly made us nervous. But I’d have to say that the excitement of what might lie ahead outweighed the stress of starting a new business.
SQ: What do you think helped make your business successful?
C: For the first 2 years we worked our butts off and we still do. Brewing, cleaning, lifting, and working the bar 5 days a week, sometimes till 1 am before starting our day jobs at 9 am. Yes we had a few staff, but we couldn’t afford to pay many people, so we did most of the heavy lifting. We owe our families a lot. They helped us out every week by doing what they could and are still our number one supporters.
This allowed us to build relationships with our customers and that is why we have been successful. Yes, brewing good beer certainly helps, but without the loyal customers that come back week after week, and the ones who buy our beer at their local bottleshop, we would not be here today.
SQ: Tell us more about your beer, what makes it unique?
C: While we have a strong core range, Tom loves to experiment. He’s not one for drinking the same thing day in, day out. Back in the early days of T-Bone he began experimenting with unique beer flavours and that is where one of our most popular beers was formed - Choc-Milk Stout.
SQ: What roles do you and Tom play in the business and how has this evolved since you started?
C: Tom is the creative behind the beers - he runs a pretty tight ship on brew days. I manage the day-to-day running of the business. The admin never ends and I could never be friends with the person who created emails. I like to think I’m down to earth. If there is an issue, I prefer to find a solution rather than lose sleep over it. From day one we have always had our own roles, but at the same time, we like to stick our beaks into each other’s business. I guess there aren’t many elements of the business we both don’t know about.
SQ: Why did you choose Square to power your business?
C: It actually came down to the cost. With our old tech, by the time you’re paying for your fees, subscriptions, and devices, the price just keeps going up. We did a bit of research, Square was simple and offers custom rates for businesses like ours. So it just made sense to switch over and save a bit of money”.
SQ: What’s your favourite Square feature?
C: Our operations are quite simple, we don’t offer table service and we don’t serve food, it’s purely people coming to the bar. We like that we can run quick and simple tickets/tabs and utilise reporting.
SQ: You’re now in two locations and expanding the wholesale side of the business. Can you tell us more about the decision to expand your business and the hurdles you have had to overcome?
C: We love the idea of ‘mainlanders’ drinking Tasmanian beer. There is certainly a demand for it, but getting it to them is challenging. It’s one thing to sell your beer locally on an island that takes 3 hours to drive from one end to the other. It’s another to try and decide what state to tackle first, find a distributor, pay freight prices to get it across the Bass Strait, more freight to get it out to venues, get people to buy something they have never heard of, and repeat it all again and again. It is definitely our biggest challenge yet!
SQ: What piece of advice would you give to new or aspiring business owners?
C: Do it! It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.