Allan Rice started up Atom Beers back in 2013 with the production of four core beers, all of which paid homage to his love of science.
His desire to launch the business stemmed from his time spent working as a general manager for a small brewery in the Scottish borders.
In only six months Rice helped the brewery expand from its small in-house brewery bar to a brand supplying over 200 bars across the country.
Having spent his time commuting between his Beverley home and Kelso every weekend, Allan decided to return home and use his experience to setup his own business.
“Tempest were basically just selling at their own bar, so my brief was to get it out to other places and we went from one bar to 200 in six months,” Allan said.
“After a while, Sarah (his partner) and I came to the realisation that we could do our own thing and that Tempest possibly wasn’t going in the direction we would like to be going.
“We thought the beers were a bit bland. We thought ‘we could do this – so why don’t we’ – and Atom was born.”
As confident as he was that his experience would serve him well when going it alone, even he couldn’t foresee how successful the brand would quickly become.
“We started exporting after just six months in business when we shipped our first overseas order to Finland,” he added.
“Since then, we’ve exported to Estonia, Hungary, Serbia, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Australia and New Zealand and we’re just about to confirm a deal for France.
“We’ve made 54 different types of beer in two and a half years! We brew three to four times a week which equals around 12,000 pints.”
The deal to supply beer to Finland proved a good stepping stone for Atom but it was also a learning curve at the same time for Allan and his small team of brewers.
As an SME and a first time exporter, Allan decided to seek professional advice to advise him on future dealings with interest from other markets gathering pace.
With this in mind, he turned to the Department for International Trade (formerly UKTI) and was offered the chance to work with a dedicated export consultant.
“We were given the chance to take part in a UKTI project which provided us with a dedicated consultant for 10 weeks to focus solely on exporting.
“He conducted a lot of research and did a lot of the leg work that we wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do and put in different processes and implementations to help us achieve our goals.
“As well as that we’ve also worked with our local advisors who have since advised us on different markets and supported us throughout our export journey, they’ve been a huge help.”
Since this support, the company has grown into a £320,000 turnover business exporting its products to 10 different markets across Europe and Australasia.
Going forward, he has ambitious plans for the business which could see Allan and his team break into the rest of Europe and beyond.
“We’re now looking to consolidate the European Union markets before it all goes a little bit weird post-Brexit.
“The key aspect is really focusing on that so we have an easy channel to sell into. The one primary market we would love to sell to is Belgium.”
The company also has its eyes on the American market and is looking to capitalise on Hull’s City of Culture campaign which takes place next year.
“We haven’t yet cracked the US market however we are making in roads through Raleigh, North Carolina, which is the sister city of Hull.
“We’ve been in talks with one of the best breweries in Raleigh about a potential collaboration which will see us brew and distribute each other’s beers.
“It will tie in perfectly with Hull’s City of Culture campaign and we’ll also be looking to create a collaboration beer to coincide with the celebrations.”
Atom is a perfect example of how small businesses can capitalise on the growing demand for British produce overseas and Allan has a few helpful tips for any small businesses looking to emulate his success.
He concluded: “The biggest thing I can say is be wise and research the countries you’re looking to break into.
“If you’re manufacturing beer, look at what people drink, if you’re a baker, look at what they eat and when they eat.
“A thorough background check will help you get to know your customer base before you start selling and work out the best way to interact with them.
“It can also help you decide which markets are right for your products and will help prevent you wasting any time looking at markets which may not work out.”