When Jonny Parker and Matt Yeabsley enjoyed a pint together during their university freshers’ week, they never imagined that they would one day create their own brand of beer. YABBA is a low calorie beer, sold online and at independent restaurants and shops across London.
Jonny (pictured above, left) and Matt (pictured above, right) launched the business in May 2021. Both founders are 26 and run YABBA alongside their full-time jobs. They use Starling to manage their business finances.
“After university in the UK, Matt and I lived for a while in Australia, where there are a lot of lower calorie beers,” says Jonny. “The reduced calorie content is a big winner. When we came back to the UK, we couldn’t find low calorie beers that we felt matched the quality, variety and taste of those in Australia.”
Last year, during lockdown, the friends began to wonder whether they could fill that gap in the British market. Less than 18 months on, business is booming. “We thought that we’d organised enough product to last the year but six weeks after launch, we’d sold 65% of our stock.”
Market research and testing
Jonny and Matt are first time founders. “We basically took everything one step at a time,” says Jonny. “We established the demand through market research, then looked at how we would fill it.”
“We worked with beer specialist BrewLab to develop our recipe and when one of the beers came back really popular in the blind tasting, we looked at how we would make a company. We just kept testing and moving forward.” YABBA packaging is plastic free and leftover hops are donated to farms as animal feed
A key decision the co-founders made along the way was around their business name. “In Sydney’s cricket ground, there was an infamous heckler who was notorious for reminding the Brits of their shortcomings. His nickname was YABBA. There’s now a statue of him in the seat he used to sit in,” says Jonny.
“When Matt suggested ‘YABBA’ as a name, we both thought it had a ring to it, and that it suited the Australian and sports connection of the brand.” YABBA’s marketing now includes partnerships with South West London sports clubs, including cricket clubs.
Matt now works as an analyst for an insurance technology company. Jonny is a lawyer, a background that has come in handy when navigating the regulations around selling alcohol.
Their advice for fellow budding entrepreneurs is to know where you don’t have experience and then find the people that do. YABBA beer is brewed in Wales and distributed across London. The co-founders are now aiming to work with wholesalers to increase their market reach.
Choosing stress free business banking
“When we asked around on entrepreneur community groups, Starling always came up as a top recommendation,” says Jonny. YABBA became a Starling customer in March 2021. “Not having monthly fees is massively helpful for us as a start-up.”
The co-founders have funded YABBA themselves, using the savings they built up from not commuting or going out during lockdown. All their earnings from YABBA go back into the business. Jonny adds: “Starling takes the stress out of banking.”