No, this is not a manual on how to build a brewery. It is a Success story of a courageous couple which launched a successful brewery from scratch without any experience in setting up a business.
If you are dreaming about quitting your monotonous corporate job and start your own business, this inspiring story is for you. It is a story about Alessandro Zecchinati – an Italian lawyer from Gallarate, a town very close to Milan, who dropped everything he had: sold his apartment in his hometown, quit his stable job in Paypal and moved from Ireland to Croatia to build a brewery for the production of craft beer.
Corporate world and where it all has started
Me [Anna Boroshok – the author of the article] and Alessandro met when we were both working at Service Source in Dublin – the company that renews licences for IT companies. We were young and ambitious; Dublin was a growing hub of IT companies and a melting pot of different nationalities and it was fun. Our salaries were good and everything felt new and exciting. And all those were the reasons why Ale moved to Dublin leaving his career of a lawyer in a Tribunal of Milan behind.
In the Irish capital Alessandro worked as sales manager in the IT sector for Microsoft, Service Source and later PayPal. He has fallen in love with Ireland and with the amazing vibe of Dublin – a town with many opportunities, with residents from every part of the world and a fabulous night life. Apart from doing his corporate job, Alessandro was also deejaing in many private parties and then in some public pubs.
Yes, it was fun in the beginning but through the time the American motivational system of the companies he worked for started to become more and more suffocating and routine:
- Aggressive targets
- Monthly evaluations
- Calibrations against other colleagues
“In PayPal I had to sell PayPal solutions to online sellers and I had to make 50-60 calls a day, 3 hours in a row (or with at least 3 hours over the phone non-stop). It was mental. I was looking at lawn caretakers outside of my window and thought that they were probably more free than I was. That’s when I started having a strong feeling of having my own business. I knew I wanted to do something with my hands and not to sit down all day long in front of a computer. But I didn’t know where to start”, – says Alessandro.
Learning and searching for business ideas
Knowing that he wants to do something with hands, living near a seaside, and in a sunny country, Alessandro and his wife Veronika (with German and Croatian origins) started to brainstorm on business ideas. In parallel, Alessandro took a course “How to launch a start-up”. “It only cost 150 EUR but it gave me a very good basis for taking the right steps”, says Alessandro.
“We searched and analysed many business ideas, we even thought about growing saffron in Istria, Croatia but figured that it would have needed massive size of land that we didn’t have”, continues Alessandro.
One night sitting in his favourite Pub in Dublin, the brewpub Porterhouse, Alessandro asked himself “What’s my real passion apart from hiking in the mountain, cycling, playing soccer reading books and deejaing (these hobbies will never give me a salary)? And the answer came straightforward: “IT’S BEER!!! I have been drinking beer and tasting quality craft beer for more than 20 years. I even know the process of how to make beer because I helped many times my best friend Claudio in his home brewing experiments. So why not try to understand if opening a brewery would be possible with my limited financial possibilities?”
That’s where the whole adventure has started!
Market research and tough decisions
Alessandro shared the idea with Veronika who supported him and they started to take first steps towards their dream:
- They went to local Irish breweries and asked how was the demand (again they were told that the demand is much higher than supply)
- They bought books about breweries and beer making
- And they started drafting a business plan
As mentioned before, Alessandro’s best friend Claudio already knew about beer-making and home brewing:
Claudio Rossi worked for 10 years as an architect in Monza but his biggest passion has always been quality beer and wine. Home brewer for the last 20 years and wine sommelier, he was rewarded 3d best sommelier in Italy in 2012. Claudio made also internships in very important Italian craft breweries.
When Alessandro proposed him to join the project, he immediately agreed which is another example of amazing courage!
Small addition from the article’s author: Claudio has also turned out to be the guy who broke my leg some time ago in Dublin. No hard feeling though, Claudio! I am all good now.
When the picture was more or less clear, it was time for a tough decision:
To quit stable jobs with a good salary and to depart into unknown with not much cash in pockets. Since Veronika (Alessandro’s wife) was from Croatia and they both dreamt about living in a sunny country beside a seaside, the couple have decided to move to Croatia, to a place called Poreč:
“We are glad we have selected Poreč which is an amazing town on the seaside, a tourist destination and a beautiful place to live and run a business. It is strategically positioned: very well connected to Italy and the rest of Europe. Zagreb – one of the most beautiful cities of Europe is just beside, so we often go there. People are great here and food is amazing.”
In Croatia Alessandro and Veronika has rented a small but cosy and beautiful place to live in for their small family: Alessandro+Veronika=3-years old son Dorian. Once settled, they have started developing a business plan.
“We knew we were not going to have a luxurious life because we have invested almost all our savings into the business. I have sold my apartment in Gallarate (my hometown) and we all put everything we had into this brewery.” – Ale says – “For 1 year we were building our business plan in a very maniacal manner. In the end, the plan came out so good, so detailed that when we went to a bank for a loan (money we have invested were not enough) and it was approved straight away. And another bank gave us an incentive to secure the loan in the 1st bank.”
The company got the name Bura Brew. Bura (Bora in Italian) is a strong Adriatic Sea wind.
While building the business, the team tried to pay attention to every detail. Preparation was very meticulous. Just to bring you an example, they have spent 6 months to develop their beautiful logo which expresses the spirit of the logo: the wind, the fresh breeze and the sea.
The logo was developed together with Veronika’s brother – Maj Mlakar – who lives in Berlin and is an art director of Musik Express Magazine (same publishing house as the one of Rolling Stones magazine).
“We have bought all the equipment and started building the brewery from scratch”, Ale says, “We have rented an empty, beautiful and modern warehouse in Poreč and we transformed it into a brewery. Was it difficult? Yes, I wanted to quit so many times. Money from the bank were not coming on time, I couldn’t pay the contractors. It was really scary at times. But we were building our dream and I was feeling much more alive and free than in corporate world in front of a computer.”
1st results, 1st BOTTLES
“One year later we have finally produced our first bottles of beer. The feeling was amazing”, Ale grins, – “first orders started to come in and already in 4 months we started to get profit which was only expected in 2 years!”
Bura Brew has launched 3 types of beer:
– Optimist Golding Ale
– Redsand Amber Ale
– Tornado IPA Istrian Pale Ale
Now they work on release of new types of beer.
They started selling their beer in more than 90 places mainly gastro pubs, bistros, restaurants all over Croatia slowly expanding to Slovenia and Italy.
“Our brewery is open for everyone who wants to see our brewing process and to learn more about craft beer production. It is also possible to have beer tasting, buy beers as well as get some great gift boxes:
We sell 24 & 6 bottles gift boxes some of which also include Bura Brew glasses. We also have nice Bura Brew t-shirts.”
Finally, Ale’s life started looking exactly how he has visualised it:
He lives just beside a beautiful beach 5 mins away from his brewery. After work he grabs his kids (while building the business, his beautiful daughter Morena was born) and goes to play at a beach. There is no traffic, no pollution, and he does work with hands just like he wanted.
“My advice to people who dream about building their own business is not to give up on their dreams, be persistent, take necessary steps, and keep on moving no matter what”.
Where you can order Bura beer:
Contact Bura Brew: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Anna Boroshok