'When you really want something you make it happen' - Hannah Rhodes, Hiver

20 QUESTIONS: The honey beer entrepreneur and 35 Under 35-er wants to move her business from London to Hull and thinks politicians should cut ties with the media.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 25 Sep 2014

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

I moved down to London with a view to working for the Foreign Office, but I didn’t even get round to applying for it. I did languages at uni, and I quite liked this idea of being able to live abroad, but I know now that I’d be absolutely terrible in that kind of structure.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

The naming process was the most difficult part of getting the whole thing off the ground. There’s so much tied up in the name. The working project title was Beehive Brewing, but it was inaccurate - I wasn’t starting a brewery and I was starting a beer brand. It was quite down to the wire when we found this definition in an old dictionary - Hiver means beekeeper in old English.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY WHERE WOULD IT BE?

I’m from Hull and I really like the idea that you can contribute to a local economy. I think a country is stronger if it has more commercial hubs. One day I’d like to support that and move north, but at the same time I recognise I’d have never been able to get my business off the ground outside London.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

I saved some money and the rest of it was on credit cards. It’s certainly not something I regret. When you really want something - and I’m not from a wealthy background - you make it happen one way or the other.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Investing in quality, British packaging and design has really paid dividends. A lot of breweries source their glass more cheaply from eastern Europe, but it’s a really important part of the brand that it’s all British and has innovative screen-printing on the bottle. It meant we could get into quality outlets like the Dorchester Hotel and Selfridges, and for them the bottle looked as good as it tasted - it fit with their offering.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

While there’s a PR agency, a sales agency and I employ the brewery, and an events manager I do not have a business partner and I’m guilty of trying to do and manage everything myself. I’ve probably been quite slack keeping on top of admin - I appreciate how important it is, but there is a lot of time pressure. Not having the resources to bring in help when I needed it has been difficult.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

I love anything that’s quality and enjoyable, but operationally friendly as well. Like the Dyson Hoover and the iPhone - they’re designed well, but it doesn’t mean they don’t do a great job.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

Yoga and boxing. Being really strict about having at least one day off a week and a couple of nights with friends that don’t include alcohol - especially working in the alcohol industry. Spending time away from the business is a real challenge.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I was 16 and I worked in Argos Superstore as a Christmas job on the weekends. There was a bit of a highlight when I was promoted from the warehouse to the jewellery counter - I got to measure people’s fingers for rings.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it was strawberry picking in Australia. I travelled around Australia for a year on a working holiday visa. I love anything physical and I love the outdoors, so it was a real shock to me. I wasn’t built for it and had a really miserable time.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

Working for Meantime Brewery. I was there for 5-6 years, and it was definitely a love-hate relationship. I felt incredibly passionate about it and I learnt everything there about beer and having to run a small business. The difficulty was we were firefighting every day. But if I’d not worked there, I’d have never had the experience to get Hiver off the ground.

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE WOULD YOUR TEAM BE NAMED?

I really, really hate that show. Basically, I wouldn’t go on it. It promotes terrible business values - one-upmanship, bullying. I don’t think it’s representative of the working world at all.

13. WHAT COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

I always wanted to be an astronaut when I was tiny and I just love everything about the Branson-inspired adventures of going to the moon and holidays in space. So if I had a huge amount imaginary money I’d probably throw it that way [at Virgin Galactic].

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

I’m not very materialistic in all honesty, so I tend to enjoy spending my money going out and on new experiences. Other than Hiver, it’s probably been plane tickets - I went backpacking for a month in Peru and I went on a holiday to Japan. With Hiver though, all of a sudden you get used to spending a lot of money - one production run is £30,000. Numbers kind of have no meaning anymore.

15. SUIT OR JEANS?

Jeans and dresses. The day probably starts with me in jeans and a t-shirt, preparing deliveries and doing other manual stuff, and it’ll end with meetings and I’ll wear a dress. It makes me feel feminine as well - I’ve started a beer brand, so wearing a dress helps me feel myself.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

Flexible working - I think the reality of running your own business is all hours. Obviously there’s a lovely social side to the drinks industry that goes onto into the evening.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE OFFICE?

I’m based at Jensen’s Gin’s distillery - they’ve kindly let me base the Hiver office there, and it’s lovely having their company and support as another small business. If there’s a really bad day there’s always a beer or Gin and Tonic around, which is not a bad thing.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

It has to be Twitter, which I can’t believe I’m saying. I didn’t feel the need for it in my personal life, but it’s essential in the growth of the business. There are Hiver stockists all over the country - it’s a really lovely, cheap way of saying hello and finding out what they’re up to. The idea of having a voice for the brand is really important to me.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

Emma Bridgewater. She created a really incredible business from scratch, became an active voice for what was a dying industry as well as actively taking employment to Stoke-on-Trent. She seems to have done it all with zero ego and fuss, and really stand for something.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINSTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

I’m quite disheartened with politics, because I think politicians do what the majority ask them to do, rather than doing what’s in the bests interests of people. I’d start by cutting ties with the media - they should report on facts when it comes to politics rather than sensationalising.

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