IN THE COMPANY OF: James Tosh, a career-change brewer aiming to make his Bosun Brewing brand a national name
James Tosh, co-founder of Bosun’s Brewing Co Ltd, speaks to the Harrogate Advertiser about his business
Q: In a nutshell, what does your business do and how did it start?
A: Bosun Brewery was founded in 2012 in Huddersfield. The name was chosen by the founder of the business who was a former Navy serviceman. A ‘bosun’ is one of the oldest ranks on a ship, and is responsible for the ship’s maintenance and upkeep. As a group of friends who love talking about and drinking beer, we heard it was up for sale in 2019, but it sold very quickly. However, the sale fell through and in January 2020 we made the bold step to join forces and buy it. We were ready to go, and having completed in February, were up and running, but then four weeks later lockdown happened, and everything ground to a halt. As things have opened up, and with us all being based in North Leeds, it made sense to move the brewery closer to home in Wetherby. We have kept on the original staff and are now looking to grow the business and make it part of the local community.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing about it?
A: I think the local interest we have received since moving the brewery to Wetherby. We have kept the existing customer base, but now have the opportunity to open it up to new markets.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m co-owner, director, general manager and lots more! With us being a small team at the moment, it is a very hands-on business, but we have a great atmosphere here and huge potential moving forwards.
Q: How did you end up here?
A: Having enjoyed a relatively successful career in financial services I needed a break for the good of myself and my family. When one of the co-owners, Steven, saw the brewery up for sale, it just felt right, and the opportunity to work with friends, making and selling craft beer seemed like a good one. People are generally more interested in beer than insurance or a financial products!
A: Having done this as a complete career change, I think that answers this question. I wanted to do something that was more interesting and fun. We have pulled together as a group of friends, with other friends and contacts helping with all aspects of the business. It has been such a team effort, but one that has given me a new direction and focus.
Q: What motivates you?
A: It has been brilliant seeing our products launch – more importantly seeing people enjoying them. We have had brilliant feedback and such an enthusiastic reaction to the brand. Some days, the fact that we have carried the brewery through a pandemic and out the other side feels like a miracle. We can’t wait to officially open the new taproom early 2022, and the ‘pop-up tap room’ and local events we have done so far have inspired us to do more.
Q: What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?
A: Like many businesses, I would have loved a crystal ball for Covid-19 and the impact it had – all the uncertainty and the changing rules.
With pubs closing, we diversified quickly to online retail with glass bottles, only to discover these don’t travel well! We have recently adapted again and moved on to cans that we are delivering nationwide. We are also now back delivering cask and pins [smaller casks] to pubs, but not all pubs are back to the same level of business as before – customers in some areas are still being cautious and the pub trade needs more local support.
Q: What excites you about business?
A: Being my own boss and also working with like-minded friends supporting each other. We have had an extremely steep learning curve since our launch but have not only worked through it but worked with others. We hooked up with a butcher in my own village, RP Setchfields, and we are supporting one of our local pubs, The Duke of Wellington in East Keswick, at its Christmas market. The scope of what we can get involved in is boundless. Having run the East Keswick Beer Festival for years, we recently helped Collingham with their event. There are so many opportunities for us locally.
READERS' PICTURES: Autumn colours just keep on coming around HarrogateQ: What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?
A: You have to listen and learn, work with people you do and don’t like and learn from it. Create your own opportunities as they won’t always be handed to you. Lastly, always evolve – if something doesn’t work, move on to the next idea.
Q: Who in business do you most admire and why?
A: I don’t have a specific person; I have learned from everyone I have worked with. I always try and take the best from people and respect any self-made business.
Q: What moments of your career so far stand out?
A: Definitely the decision to move the entire brewery over to Wetherby. It was a huge step but has given us the chance to expand and grow, and hopefully create a brewery and a space that the whole local community can enjoy.
Q: What sets your company apart from the competition?
A: We make good-quality ales that people can enjoy, and that is the feedback we are getting. We have our own unique branding and design and definitely stand out in the marketplace.
Q: What is the most difficult challenge your business has faced?
A: The pandemic - losing every customer and shutting down four weeks after taking over the brewery due to lockdown. It has been a tough ride for the whole hospitality industry.
A: Overcoming the impacts of lockdown and moving forwards. We need to establish ourselves fully in our new location and get the new tap room licensed and rolling. Even a change in water supply had to be factored into the taste of the beer, and the rising costs of ingredients.
Q: Have you got a five-year plan for the business?
A: We would love to get Wetherby on the map as a craft ale location. We see the tap room as a community hub and want to develop this to be open as many nights as possible. Getting our brand out nationwide is a big target.
Q: Why is it good to do business in Wetherby?
A: This is our home; it is where all our family and friends are based. We want to engage with everyone locally and use local suppliers as much as possible. Why not join us at our pop-up tap room at our brewery in Wetherby on Saturday, December 11 to find out for yourselves!