Crafting success: startup experience gives taste of future
Starting out as the work experience guy, UTS’ Albert Boukarim soon found himself overseeing the mechanical engineering and marketing aspects of Tailor Brews, a startup seeking to revolutionise the world of craft brewing.
Albert, who’s studying a Bachelor of Business (Marketing)/Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical), experienced firsthand the inner-workings of a rapidly-growing startup, and is now looking to continue his entrepreneurial journey.
UTS: Tell us about Tailor Brews.
Albert Boukarim (AB): Tailor Brews was five guys that came together, aiming to bring customised beer brewing online. Beer brewing is a lengthy process and expensive in terms of equipment. We envisioned a micro-brewery where you could order a case of your own fully-customised beer online by going through an online builder, picking the ingredients and making it your own. And then you could get it delivered to your door.
UTS: How did you get involved with Tailor Brews, and what did your work experience involve day-to-day?
AB: My engineering degree requires that I do work experience, and I met up with one of the chemical engineers building this beer company. He was still getting it off the ground, and he said: “I’m going to need a mechanical engineer to build a factory, would you be interested?”. I was really excited, but, with a startup this young, I was unsure whether or not it would be accepted. I spoke to UTS and they said to go for it.
While I was signing up, the startup had received $50 000 from Slingshot, and they were going through the Lion Unleashed accelerator program. So that was the start of my work experience, which involved designing a beer brewery within a very small space.
My day-to-day activities were understanding the machinery that’s going to be involved and designing a process that fits within the space. Because of economies of scale you can’t really brew small batches of beer cost-effectively. Towards the end of the program I had to develop a prototype to change that process and present it to investors.
UTS: What did going through an accelerator program like Lion Unleashed mean for Tailor Brews?
AB: It was very fast paced - we were flat out for the 12 weeks and had to deliver outcomes every week. We had a Demo Day, where we had to present to hundreds of people. It was a flat-out process, but I loved it. You get a lot of guidance and support at these things, and you just learn an insane amount.
UTS: Were you able to apply your knowledge from your marketing and engineering studies during your time at Tailor Brews?
AB: A hundred percent. So, in engineering, they didn’t teach you about beer brewing at all, but you can break it down like any other engineering task. But also, because it’s such a small team, you’re sitting right next to the marketing guy. You’re designing the product, and he’s trying to sell it. Because I had that experience and knowledge from the degree, I would think: “How can I design my product so it’s marketable?”.
UTS: A lot of people do internships at big companies. How is being at a startup different?
AB: You get a very diverse experience, depending on the size and age of the startup. The difference with big companies is the small things. Usually older companies have been doing things a certain way for ages. So even though you should be encouraged to point out inefficient processes, it’s going to be harder for you to imprint your personality on that business. Whereas most startups are still finding their feet, and your opinion is heard.
UTS: Can these sorts of internships, with co-operation between universities and the startup ecosystem, help people become more adaptable and future-proof?
AB: It definitely provides a massive value, to understand what options are out there. Many students go into internships with the mindset that they have to start at the bottom, but a lot have the potential to do way more than that.
UTS: What’s next for you? Do you see yourself becoming an entrepreneur or applying entrepreneurial skills to another company?
AB: Yes to both. I’m currently working in an operations supervisor role, as a direct result of my startup experience, but I do see that as just a stepping stone to me continuing my entrepreneurial path. I’m always looking for a project, and I’m currently working on a few ideas with a friend. And, to keep to my engineer roots, I’m working in freelance design and development. I’d love to see all those things come together, and to make my own thing down the road.