4-July-2022 | By Nadia Porter
Our guest this month is Braden Beggs, a local business owner. Born at William Angliss Hospital in 1982, to a carpenter father and a secretary mother, Braden lived all his life in Knox, moving around Rowville three times as the family of five grew.
What do you remember?
Growing up we had a pretty big playground. There were farms, animals, trees and creeks all providing us with endless amusement. The area expanded through my childhood, roads changed from dirt to bitumen, the farms and creeks slowly disappeared and new estates opened up. My family moved a few times but always within a km or two of the previous houses, and always within Rowville. Looking back, it was such a great area to grow up, something we wish was still available today for our kids to experience. I can still remember many of the now main roads as dirt roads and farms all around us, it was a great place to grow up.
When my studies were complete, my now wife Caitlin and I purchased a house in nearby Scoresby. Now with 5 children, we are in the process of making the move back to Rowville, the neighbourhood where we grew up.
Tell a bit about your education?
Rowville was developing, it meant moving around a lot. I started Prep at Rowville Primary, then moved closer to Park Ridge when it opened in 1990 for grades 1 to 6. I began my secondary schooling at Rowville Secondary College Western Campus for year 7, then I moved to the new and closer Eastern Campus in 1996 for years 8 to 10. Back then the Eastern Campus stopped at year 10, so I was back to the Western Campus to complete the VCE for years 11 and 12.
Growing up I never knew what I wanted to be. I did work experience as a chiropractor which taught me that I didn’t want to work in the same room every day, and then as a manufacturing engineer which I found very appealing being able to design and make something from raw materials. From early on in high school I knew I wanted to go to university, I just didn’t know what to study. Being technically minded and always working on cars, motorbikes and generally anything that moved, I chose to study mechanical engineering at Monash University in Clayton to eventually design cars for Holden or Ford. Monash gave me the opportunity for involvement in the Formula SAE program where students were able to design and build a race car each year and compete against other universities, this was a real highlight being able to get hands-on and apply what we were learning to a real-world application. As I neared the end of my degree it was clear the automotive industry in Australia was in decline so a new plan was needed.
After working 10 years as a professional engineer, I had a desire to run a business so I started part- time studies for Masters of Business Administration at Deakin University. It became apparent as an older student, that I would learn more by “doing” than by sitting in a classroom or reading from a textbook so I gave up these studies halfway through and decided to start my own business.
I had many jobs, everything from paper rounds, to KFC and then Woolworths distribution warehouse while studying at university. After graduation, I worked as a project engineer in a wide range of industries, spending 5 years working out which industries I liked best. I settled on food and beverage and I got a job as a process engineer and a project manager. Still working for the same company as a technical engineering manager, we assist food and beverage companies to build, growing and expanding their operations through capital works projects.
Why did you become a brewer?
I have always enjoyed taking raw ingredients and processing them into a finished retail product which is why, when about 5 years ago, my wife Caitlin and I decided to have a go at starting our business, we turned to brewing and distilling. This was an area we were passionate about and something we could happily put time and effort into, without much reward as you might expect early on in a new business. As a home brewer for nearly 10 years and with a strong process engineering background, it wasn’t a big leap to start our brewing operation. Growing up in the area and recognising its deficiency in craft venues, after years of planning and building, in June 2019 we opened the Project Brewing Company on Laser Drive. I am the Operations Manager, while still working as an engineer.
An engineer uncle influenced my decision and my love for all things mechanical. My desire to run a business producing an enjoyable product was the real motivator in becoming a brewery owner.
What do you like best and least about your jobs?
The best part of engineering is helping people design solutions and solve problems that assist them to create new products more efficiently, also the diversity of projects.
The least appealing aspect is that it often involves a lot of travel in regional Victoria where the bulk of manufacturing plants are. This can require long periods away from home which has been difficult while raising a young family.
The best part about owning and running your own brewery is surprisingly not the endless supply of beer! It’s the satisfaction of creating a product from raw ingredients and seeing it enjoyed by others. It’s also great to educate people on the product, the process and the ingredients used to create what they are enjoying.
The least enjoyable part so far has been dealing with the emotional ups and downs of owning a hospitality business through the COVID-19 pandemic. We managed to open the doors to our brewery for approximately 9 months before being forced to close up, with no idea if we had just wasted years of work and countless dollars setting up. With the everchanging restrictions, opening and closing doors became the new normal.
In the current climate, we are facing skyrocketing ingredients and materials costs, staff shortages and lower patronage than before all the lockdowns. This has taken a lot of the enjoyment away over recent times and has easily been the worst part of not only ours but the thousands of other small mum and dad businesses trying to make a go of it.
Always trying to find a “reason” or a “positive” in bad situations, one shining light for us was having the time through lockdowns to collaborate with other local breweries and distilleries leading to us building our very own distillery 3 years ahead of schedule. The demand for hand sanitisers at the start of the pandemic meant we were able to fast-track the required permits to build our distillery, so we did! Today we operate two stills under our Nocturnal Spirit Distillery brand alongside our recently upgraded brewery all thanks to the extra time we found ourselves with through various lockdowns. We can now produce beer, vodka, gin, brandy and whisky all in-house as we were determined to turn a bad situation into a positive.
I was never good at school sports, I played football on and off, but not much to write home about. My parents tell me I was always the cleanest kid to come off the field which indicated I never really got close to the ball!
Do you or have you played sport? Are you a football fan? Which team?
Never any good at “ball” sports, my recreational activities centred around anything with wheels and/or an engine. Cars, motorbikes, model cars and helicopters were as close to sport as I ever get.
I am a Richmond supporter from birth.
What pastimes do you have now? A cutout of Braden with his bicycle without background with text around it.
Spare time these days is hard to come by. When it presents, I can usually be found camping, fishing, driving or mountain biking around the Victorian high country.
What activities (clubs, organisations etc) do you get involved with?
We sponsor and get involved with a lot of local charities and groups via Project Brewing when we can.
Have you travelled much? Countries?
As children, my parents took us to the UK where we stayed with relatives for a while and also travelled to Wales, Ireland and France for short trips. I still remember the surreal feeling of being in a different country for the first time, it was pretty exciting just to walk around a city different to Melbourne. University presented great opportunities for travel having access to a student visa. After my third year of study, I went to California to work in the snowfields for a season before taking time out to travel up and down the eastern states of the USA.
If you weren’t doing what you do now what would you like to do?
I think my first job application would be to Parks Victoria to work in forest management of sorts. I love the outdoors and the forest, but don’t get out there as much as I would like. It would be great to work outside every day, driving around the bush, clearing tracks and just generally doing whatever they are doing whenever I see them out in the forest.
What advice would you give youngsters aspiring to work in engineering or own a business?
Engineering – Follow the engineering stream that interests you most and talk to as many engineers as you can and volunteer in as many businesses, until you find a field that resonates with you. It took me a few years as a professional engineer before one day I walked into the Mars factory in Ballarat and I knew I wanted to focus on food and beverage manufacturing.
Starting your own business – Back yourself, unfortunately already trademarked yet I found myself saying it. Just do it! There are many risks in life, however, when starting your own business, you are betting on yourself. If you have a vision and a good work ethic, jump in and have a crack!
I thank Braden for sharing his story with us, and some of the difficulties facing the hospitality industry. It is evident local businesses are the lifeblood of the local community; and as such, they need our support to stay viable. In most cases, they are run by locals, employing locals and most importantly the money stimulates the nation’s economy and helps in its recovery.
Please consider local!