We recently spoke to Sean Looney, owner of Micro Beers in East Sheen about his experiences of being a business owner and any advice he could offer to other independent retailers. Micro Beers is a fantastic bottle shop and tap room stocking some of the finest craft beers from the UK, Europe and beyond. They have a specially curated selection of over 250 bottled and canned beers as well as four constantly rotating draught lines for drinking in or taking home.
When opening up Micro Beers, what made you decide to move to East Sheen?
I moved from Norway in 2015 and had been quite inspired by my experience of working with and producing craft beer there. In Scandinavia they have a great eye for aesthetic and elevating beer beyond the sort of mass produced commodity that you find in many places around the world. My framework for my shop was that it would be a space that specialised in supporting local breweries as well as showcasing some of what we consider to be the best breweries from the UK and Europe. On top of that, I wanted the space to feel open, inclusive and spacious with a huge emphasis on materials (wood, galvanised steel, tiles) and clean lines. Sheen wasn’t the obvious choice for a shop at first, in fact I didn’t even know Sheen existed! At first I started looking at properties around Wimbledon and Wandsworth as well as exploring options in Streatham and Vauxhall. None of them ticked the box for me of what I wanted which was a neighbourhood bottle shop that catered to a local community, where we could be a sort of friendly face amongst the community and build a hub for a product we love and believe in. When we came to look at the property in Sheen I think I only needed about 10 minutes to decide it was perfect. We are in a fantastic community, surrounded by other independent businesses and thankfully people have taken to us and the product we sell.
What’s your favourite part about being an independent business owner?
I suppose the element of personal freedom I have to make choices and decisions that can affect the success of my business. Many aspects of running a business like this can obviously be stressful, from balancing cash flow to dealing with unexpected issues on the fly but, on balance, it is extremely rewarding to watch your hard work and ideas morph into something people love and appreciate.
What is the best bit of advice you could give to someone who is looking to start their first independent business?
Be passionate, be brave, but also be cautious. It can be tempting to think you are doing amazingly well at the start when you (hopefully) see money coming in but if you don’t stay on top of your cash flow and pick up trends in terms of busy/quiet times and what people are buying you can be left over exposed and over stocked and it can quickly burn away any cash reserves you have. Having a good idea of the area that you are in as well as the habits of your potential customers is a good place to start.
When has a customer surprised you in a positive way and how did they do it?
I think I’m constantly surprised by customers in so far as how over time the relationship with certain ones becomes more than a simple business transaction. We know a lot of our regulars and their families (including dogs) on a personal level and visa versa. When I started Micro Beers I never even thought or contemplated that a lot of the customers we’d make would go on to become friends and people I enjoy conversing with and spending time with outside of these four walls so that has been a pleasurable eye opener for me.
Have you found collaborating with other businesses to be a useful marketing strategy?
I’m not sure if I’ve seen it work in a huge way as a marketing strategy but it’s a great thing to do in terms of sharing ideas and helping each other out when we need help. It’s always great to work with businesses that share your passion for making the local area a more vibrant, interesting place.
If you could learn one new skill to help you improve your business, what would it be?
To maybe be a bit more ruthless? Although, I’m not entirely sure that’s a personality trait I find to be very redeeming so that might not be happening any time soon!
Where can we find out more about Micro Beers?
You can find us on all the usual social media channels Instagram, Twitter, Facebook as well as visit our website at micro-beers.co.uk. We often run events (we have one next Friday) and we are always making sure that we keep everyone up to date with our events, promotions and new stock we get in.