Shenzhen brewpub owner shares secrets to success

Updated: 2017-06-09 07:42

(HK Edition)

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Daniel Dumbrill opened one of China's best breweries through dedication and a steep learning curve

Walking into Daniel Dumbrill's brewpub - Taps located in Coco Park in Futian district, Shenzhen - beer fans might be dazzled by 46 beer taps lining the wall, providing a continuous supply of 30 different styles of self-brewed craft beer.

According to Dumbrill, co-founder of Taps, all of the ingredients in his beer are imported, with malts from New Zealand, yeast from the United States and hops from multiple countries. An article published in Fortune magazine on March 16 selected Taps as one of China's five best craft breweries.

When Dumbrill decided to open Taps' first location in Nanshan district in 2014, he understood that introducing craft beer to Shenzhen, a market where craft beer was relatively unknown, seemed like quite a daunting task.

"But the idea that I could potentially be involved in creating something so many people would remember for the rest of their lives was a meaningful and rewarding target," said the 35-year-old brewpub owner.

Dumbrill moved to Shenzhen from Canada in late 2008. His first business in China was manufacturing and exporting reusable shopping bags, but once the business got to a point where it more or less ran itself, he had enough time to do something else that he really loves - brewing craft beer.

Shenzhen brewpub owner shares secrets to success

Like other entrepreneurs who have built their businesses from nothing, Dumbrill gained little help in setting up his first brewpub. He had to learn to navigate the entire system, from getting all of the required licenses and certificates. "This ended up having me sit on my location and pay rent for 10 months before I opened our doors to the public," he said. However, he also attributed the success of Taps to the long and difficult 10 months that left him with valuable experiences.

Rapid expansion

Dumbrill's philosophy of creating something he is proud of has attracted many like-minded people to his upper management team, which fueled the rapid expansion of his business.

Taps' second location opened in Chongqing in October last year and the third opened two months later in Coco Park.

A beer fan himself, Dumbrill has a feeling that the drinking culture in China is changing as people are becoming more interested in quality over quantity.

"I feel this is a big reason for Taps' success. It's not so much that we are here teaching consumers about what is good," he said. "We're coming to the market at the right moment with a quality product when consumers happen to already be looking for more meaningful experiences."

Dumbrill has also invested in two restaurants in Shenzhen. He feels that the city has created a lot of great opportunities for its residents.

"The fact that the city is made up of so many people from various parts of China makes it perhaps even easier to feel at home here," he said. "I feel this creates a kind of common understanding and an even playing field to a certain degree."

Secrets of success

Dumbrill has a few pieces of advice for expats who intend to start a business in Shenzhen. The first one is that they should be excited by the unknown.

"When things don't go according to your prescribed plan, it's an opportunity to expand your horizons, learn something new and perhaps even learn a new way of doing things," he said.

He said that business owners should be flexible and take a few steps back when required to adjust as they move forward. "Don't abandon the experience you've gained from your home country, but also don't be surprised when you find that the exact same formula might not necessarily work here," he said.

Another suggestion for people looking to get into business is to prioritize something that they can do well instead of prioritizing what they love.

"If that happens to be something you love, then great. That's going to be the cherry on top. If not, build that business up to the best of your ability," he said.

Aside from the financial benefit, Dumbrill said that the learning opportunities that come from building an initial opportunity-based business will inevitably benefit people's passion-based business when they are ready, but it is essential that they be in love with learning.

"Excitement for learning will become your substitute to replace your passion for a product. If you can't find this or any other substitute to keep you interested, it considerably reduces your chances of success," he said.

Shenzhen Daily provided the story.

Shenzhen brewpub owner shares secrets to success

(HK Edition 06/09/2017 page1)