Equity for Punks: Brewdog founders offer shares to barflies

Scotland's largest independent beer maker, BrewDog, rolls out Equity for Punks share scheme through six new bars.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 23 Oct 2013

Renegade brewery BrewDog has been shaking up the industry ever since the venture launched in 2007. Co-founders Martin Dickie and James Watt started the business with a £30,000 bank loan, and have since created a portfolio of super-strength craft beers, opening three eponymous bars in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

The lads have also been masters at manipulating the PR machine, picking a fight with Carling-maker Molson Coors over an advertising campaign earlier this year (they lost, as it happens but that wasn’t really the point) and unveiling a host of bizarre, angry and provocatively-named beers from Trashy Blonde to Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

In 2009, the pair launched their pioneering Equity for Punks Scheme. The premise was simple: with your bottle of Hardcore IPA and packet of peanuts, you could also pick up a few shares in the business. ‘The banks haven't been lending to small businesses so we needed a way to finance our expansion,' explains Watt. Some 1,000 customers took part in the first round. Now, Equity for Punks is back, bigger and brighter.

Since July, BrewDog has raised £1.7m with Equity for Punks, both online and through its bars. BrewDog fans can buy shares for as little as £95 a pop. More than 5,000 people, including one uber-fan who forked out £10,000, have done just that. But then, BrewDog is one firm immune to 'brewer's droop'. The brewery has grown 200% in 2011 and is set to post turnover figures of over £6.5m this year.

This next tranche of investment is being directed towards a new BrewDog bar, set to open its doors a stone’s through from Camden Market, London by December 10. Five more bars are due to open across England in 2012. A new £7m low-carbon brewery in Aberdeenshire is also on the cards: ‘The new facility will give us 10 times the brewing capacity, allowing us to meet demand that is growing all the time,’ says Watt.

Convincing your customers to plump up the cash to help you expand isn't a wholly novel idea. King of Shaves founder Will King created KoS bonds in July 2009 with a similar purpose. He asked 5,000 customers to come forward with £1,000 to invest in the firm's marketing budget. The bond was issued over a three-year term and came with a juicy 6% APR. Will it pay out? We'll let you know next year.

But back to BrewDog. What do beer-lovers get for their cash? BrewDog promises ‘a lifetime discount in our bars’, ‘creative input into one of the world’s most forward-thinking breweries’ and, to top it all, ‘an invitation to BrewDog's legendary AGM.’

But many armchair investors are in it simply for the love, Watt explains. ‘Through their investment in BrewDog, craft beer fans are helping to shake the dust from the UK drinks industry and spark a craft beer revolution,’ he says.

‘Craft beer fans are not only turning their backs on the limp, pale yellow lagers mass-produced and peddled by giant global breweries, they are also becoming richer with every craft beer they drink.’

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