When Jimmy Hatherley and his wife Liz were looking to buy a house and start their own business, they were drawn back to their home city of Southampton.
Having worked for other breweries, Jimmy was keen to make his own beer and create a stand-alone brewery.
“There is a huge interest in beer right now and young people are really into it because of the branding and flavours,” he said.
When it came to finding premises, Jimmy contacted Southampton City Council and was delighted to find a unit on an industrial estate in Portswood that fitted his requirements for Unity Brewing Co. As well as the gleaming, metallic vessels where the beer is brewed, there is an off-sales and small bar area.
“I’m from Southampton originally but I had been living in London for seven years. We wanted to buy a house and we talked about starting a business but doing that in London was just impossible.
“Old family friends at Bitter Virtue, a craft beer shop in Alma Road suggested I should contact the Leader of the Council, Simon Letts.
“He put me in touch with the Economic Development team and they were able to point me in the direction of their website where I could see what commercial property was available,” he said.
Setting up the brewery has cost just under £100,000 and the venture has been financed by seven shareholders including Jimmy.
“I thought we would get most of the money from the bank but I was asked by a number of people if they could see the business plan and they said they were willing to back me.
“Private shareholders are more interested in the business growing and not just a return on their money,” he said.
A trip to Belgium with his father proved to be an important milestone for Jimmy.
He discovered new beers and they have shaped the way he now brews.
“Belgian style beer is what ignited my interest and that is what we are now brewing.
I am interested in expanding our ‘Saison style’ beers next year (traditional beers brewed at the end of the season by workers using what was left from the harvest), along with other one-off brews.
“We get our malt from Warminster and would like to be able to source more of our ingredients locally,” he said.
Looking to the future, Jimmy hopes to steadily grow the business and in time take on more staff.
“We are called Unity because we want to be a conscientious company.
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“By mid-2017 we would hope to have two full-time members of staff – it would be nice to have a team eventually,” said Jimmy.