Richard Williams (Executive MBA, 2016) and three of his MBA cohort Paul Gudonis, George Foster and Lawrence Jewkes, have created Revenant Cider alongside their day jobs. We spoke to Richard to find out more:
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I actively looked for a new job when I decided to do an MBA and as it turned out, I started my EMBA and this job that I am currently in at the same time. My life changed rapidly in many ways and having multiple fresh starts at the same time was good for me. I was in a really fresh headspace and was really open to everything going on. We all do the MBA at a time of life where we’re trying to climb the career ladder, but you still have lots of drudge work to do, and you’re trying to buy a house or have babies. I actually had a baby shortly after handing in my BMP (MBA thesis).
Overall my time at Cass was very positive. The School itself has a different feel to it to other business schools. It was a lot more relaxed and less competitive and I really enjoyed that. There are world class professors teaching there, lecturers like Gianvito Lanzolla and Peter Fleming, those guys are world-renowned and it was exciting to sit and listen to them. It was a real honour to be part of a University with that calibre of staff.
A lot of people say you learn more from your cohort than your coursework and that’s very true. I looked at different Universities where the cohort size is 7-10 people but I’m incredibly glad I didn’t choose one like that. You get so much from the people you learn with, especially the soft skills. In the lectures you learn the theory and formula, and then with your cohort you learn how to implement those in a way that makes sense. With a large cohort of 30-40 people I worked with a number of different people through the year and that was very valuable.
You met your Revenant co-founders at Cass?
Yes, we were put together for our first group and we connected instantly and were inseparable from that moment on. We got quite a bad reputation for being too inseparable! With the four of us behind Revenant the friendship from day one was something I had not expected. It truly changed my life in terms of experience, direction and possibilities.
How did Revenant happen?
We are all really in to craft beer and I do a lot of brewing at home. I’m a coffee guy so I’m into flavours and tasting. One day we sat at the back of one of our lectures discussing the rest of our lives. Once we started talking brewing it snowballed and we realised the beer market opportunities were still there but it was getting harder and harder. Cider seemed like it had interesting opportunities and possibilities to do something cool.
All four of us still have full-time jobs. I’m a coffee trader at the moment with Falcon Coffee. We have a weekly call and use WhatsApp to discuss the day-to-day. We also meet once a month to talk things through but really it’s a lot of weekends, and a lot of stock in my garage. Everything else is outsourced so the launch was done with as little overhead as possible. We found a cider maker and we’re using their equipment and producing it on their premises. We spoke to a number of different cider makers and we had a clear idea of what we wanted so it was a case of ensuring that they could source the raw ingredients and process them in the way that we wanted it done.
When did Revenant launch?
We finished the EMBA in March 2016 and then we launched Revenant in December 2016. It was a very soft rollout. Once we had the first batch of stock for sale we started speaking to people we knew and would quietly sell cases to people who were interested. That’s still our approach; we haven’t had a big party or big media. The reason is to make sure the brand is properly represented in the right way and in the right places. We need to make sure that early adopters interact in the right spaces and come across the right way, so we’re going to continue to expand like this – slow and steady and managed.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Finances! We’re all still reeling from the MBA debt and managing the cash flow has been the hardest. It’s really tricky. It also took a while to get the look and feel of our brand sorted out but everything else we’ve come across so far has been really positive. There have been a few issues with getting payments in, but that’s just regular business stuff. Finance is definitely the hardest.
Do you have any advice to pass on?
Something I did notice during my MBA was around the people who really thrived versus people who didn’t. The four of us went in to the MBA looking at is as an opportunity to do as many different things and to learn as much as possible. But in contrast, the people who came in with specific end goal such as a promotion, they seemed to struggle more. There seemed to be a difference in their approach and in their motivation that made the day-to-day drudge much harder for them. I found these people to be more stressed, not get as good marks and were more specific about what they wanted to learn.
With an open mind, you flourish. If you’re going to do an MBA you have to want to do it, you can’t just turn up and coast through it. Those people get weeded out and don’t finish. You also need a good support mechanism; my wife ran my life for me throughout, so the whole household has to be on board, and you all give up something to get through it. Once you’re through it it’s amazing, definitely a life changing experience for the better.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Victoria Park
Favourite holiday destination: Morocco
Must check every-day website: The Economist
Dream travel destination: So many! I’d say Peru
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate
You can find out more about Revenant Cider on the website and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.