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Co-founders: Quinn Leatherbarrow-Stokes (Business Management with Industrial Experience, 2020) and his friend Niki Porsch

 

Santander Universities UK support entrepreneurial talent

Alumnus Quinn Leatherbarrow-Stokes (Business Management with Industrial Experience, 2020) spent lockdown launching his own business QWERTY Beer Box, bringing together craft beers from local brewers in regional ‘best of’ collections to provide regionally focused independent craft beer experiences. The SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Team have provided advice and mentorship to Quinn, and he secured funding for his business through the generous support of Santander Universities UK.

QWERTY Beer Box curate regional selections of the best tasting local independent beer, choose their favourite eight, put together tasting notes and information about the brewers and then pack them into their 100% recyclable hamper that can be sent to beer lovers across the country.  As well as offering their hampers as gifts and craft beer tasting kits alone, they also host online tasting sessions where the brewers themselves, beer lovers and the QWERTY Beer Box team get together virtually, taste a regions finest independent craft beer, and learn more about the beers and the people who brew them.

Co-founder Quinn, originally from Gloucestershire, started off with the ‘Best of the Cotswolds’ collection and has now expanded to have eight collections of craft beers from regions and cities across the UK. He has also enlisted the help of his friend Niki Porsch as a co-founder.

Since launching in April 2020, they’ve sold over 15,000 independent beers, worked with over 50 awesome local breweries and delivered bespoke craft beer collections to customers all over the UK, from the likes of the Shetland Islands and Birmingham, to Dublin, London, Cornwall and even into Europe.

Whilst studying at Exeter, Quinn’s course at the Business School included a placement year, which he spent with the likes of Amazon developing expertise in e-commerce. He then found success through Amazon Campus Challenge, a student competition in which teams seek out new businesses and introduce them to the world of e-commerce.

In 2020, during the pandemic, Quinn provided his hometown craft brewery with the ability to sell directly to customers online rather than just through pubs, and helped prevent the small firm from going bust once the COVID-19 lockdown hit. It gave him the confidence to start his own venture, which he launched while staying in his family home during lockdown and started by packaging up the orders and delivering them himself via bicycle – cycling 350km in the first two-and-a-half weeks!

Once demand rose above what he had anticipated Quinn realised he needed some help – and a better distribution method than pedal power. 

In May 2020, he contacted the SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Team, who provided advice and mentorship as well as facilitating opportunities for him to pitch for seed funding and develop his professional network. Quinn pitched for an initial Student Startup Market Validation Grant of £500 and then a further £3,500 to grow and develop the business – funding that came through the support of Santander Universities UK. He also secured a place to pitch alongside startups from Exeter's wider business community at SETsquared Exeter’s Demo Lounge online, gaining feedback and connections.

He’s now joined the SETsquared Exeter Entrepreneurs’ Programme, a fast-track online programme designed for the founders of startup businesses, and is also taking part in SETsquared Exeter’s Business Foundations Programme, a structured support programme focussing on founder ambition and business longevity enabling organisations to create resilient foundations, grow and thrive.

This year Quinn also showcased QWERTY Beer Box and pitched for investor support at SETsquared’s GradInvest 2021 Finals which took place on Wednesday 26 May and featured  13 promising startups including Zama Digital, also founded by an alumnus: James Tetlow (Mechanical Engineering with Industrial Placement, 2020).

Reflecting on the event Quinn says: “The GradInvest event and process was a great opportunity to present QWERTY Beer Box to a wider network and gain insightful feedback. Working alongside several other inspiring graduate startups was valuable in itself and the session provided several new leads in our search to find a strategic growth partner to help scale our fulfilment and logistics capability.”

Looking forward to the future Quinn says: “It’s been an amazing 14 months’ journey so far and we’re excited to keep growing and discovering.  We’re looking to move into a warehouse, take on our first employee and focusing on the gifting aspect of our business with pubs reopening.

“The support from SETsquared, the Exeter Student Startup team, Santander Universities UK and the University has been remarkable. It has helped us develop no end, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. It has allowed QWERTY Beer Box to position itself effectively for growth and then provided crucial support to assist us in reaching our goals. With the help these groups are providing it is truly exciting to be a South West startup at this time. So, I’d love to say a big thank you to everybody and encourage anyone with a business or innovation idea to contact them and see how they can help you!”

The University of Exeter has had a great year this year for the Student Startups programme with 300+ participants, 34 Grant Awards made, though the philanthropic support of Santander and the launch of a wider range of new ventures including their support for graduate start-ups with the COVID-19 Startup Support Fund . You can take a look at some of the projects on the Student Startups LinkedIn Showcase page – including most recently two grads who have launched the world’s first carbon negative loo roll!

 

Some examples of the Qwerty Beer Box:


Date: 15 June 2021

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