The Independence Collective
Change is brewing for Kapiti’s Independence Collective. Four differently abled Kāpiti Coasters have gone from discussing the frustrations of living on a benefit, to running a small craft brewery poised to take on the world.
- Kate Burney
Taking on the world
The Independence Collective formed last year when members found themselves continually struggling to find fulfilling work, something collective founding member Janie Martin says isn’t unusual amongst those with varying abilities. She said her and her friends were often overlooked by employers because they think "a little bit differently."
Martin once handed out 30 resumes in a day, and received only one response back from a business owner.
"I got one email back saying; 'good luck for the future.' I went to 30 places and only one person got back to me. It was disheartening."
The group realised that to gain financial independence they would have to create a product that everybody would love, and after much debate - and help from advisor Gordon Cumming - the group settled on brewing their own beer.
Learning to craft beer
Collective members set to work learning about brewing processes with boots on the ground preparation. A variety of beers were analysed, taste tested, and debated, leading to a collaboration with local award-winning brewer George Duncan who helped create a unique pale ale, ‘Neville.’
They have been overwhelmed by support from the community, especially the hospitality scene which has taken the group under its wing.
“We are now pretty much in every bar and café in Kāpiti,” Martin said.
A step forward at Beervana
After a successful year long run of ‘Neville,’ the group launched their new beer brand ‘Change Maker’ at this year’s Beervana, Wellington's annual celebration of craft beer.
The response from the beer drinking public at Beervana was overwhelmingly positive, and the collective sold far more beer than they anticipated, which Cumming attributes to the groups newly found sales skills and ability to ‘talk themselves raw.’
Looking to the future, the collective is now ticking off goals from a long-term game plan. The group is collaborating with three more breweries to produce an IPA, APA, and a pilsner to join Change Maker on the national stage, and a distribution deal is on the cards that will see their beer on supermarket shelves nationwide in early 2020.
The group says it's important for the community to remember they aren’t a charity, they are a business.
"We're not our disabilities. We're a collective. And we're here to give New Zealand a taste of our beer," said Martin.
But brewing and selling beer could just be the beginning, with plans to develop the business model further to include other products and services and expand their collective network across the country.
“No-one else in New Zealand is doing this, yet this kind of financial independence is so important for so many people,” Cumming said. “The name Change Maker says it all. Four individuals being the change they want to see in the world – not just for themselves, but for as many others as they can.”
We're not our disabilities. We're a collective. And we're here to give New Zealand a taste of our beer
Janie Martin, The Independence Collective